I’ve always felt a bit intimidated when it comes to smoking meats. I think it comes from living in Kansas City, known as the barbecue capital of the world. Kansas City is famous for it’s bbq and you will find many restaurants serving up some of the finest barbecue around. And for the serious smokers there is the “American Royal” where hundreds of competitors come from all over the country to show off their best barbecue skills. I live just a few blocks from one of the most famous bbq joints in the country, “Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que” aka “Oklahoma Joe’s”. Yes, they changed their name a few years ago but they will always be “OK Joe’s” to me. Their burnt ends (my personal favorite) are to die for, the most tender and flavorful morsels I have ever tasted. Once I tasted “Joe’s” I’ve never found anything that compares. It’s just that good! We go at least twice a month and it never fails that there is a long line either to the door or out the door and around the building. The original “Joe’s” is located in KCK in a gas station where you can still buy gas and get your bbq to go. Our local “Joe’s” here in Olathe has the Kansas City BBQ store located a few doors down and you can find any and all bbq essentials from wood and smokers to sauce and rubs. Anything you need, they have it. Yes, I’ve always felt a little out of my element when it comes to barbecue but I did my research and felt ready to jump in and see if I could do it myself. I’m really happy with how it came out, maybe it’s not as good as “Joe’s” but pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. And just to make sure it wasn’t beginners luck, I smoked a second batch of ribs. . . Awesome!!
I found so much information on AmazingRibs.com. If you are like me and not experienced in smoking or bbq this is the place to go for the best tutorial with pictures. Underneath the ribs beneath the bone is a membrane that should be peeled off. Now sometimes that membrane is tough and hard to peel away. But these were a breeze, I just placed the tip of a knife underneath and pulled it up and away from the bone where I could grab it with my fingers and peel it away. The first rack of ribs did not go so easily and I only got part of it off. It didn’t make any difference in the taste however.
I found a recipe for Oklahoma Joe’s Rib Rub online at Midwest Living Magazine. I can’t find when it was posted but it is my go to rib rub. Sprinkle a generous amount of the rib rub over the back side of the ribs.
Wrap up the ribs in aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. Here is a look at the rib rub. It includes granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, white pepper, black pepper, paprika and crushed ancho chiles. I eliminated the cumin from the original recipe and also subbed out the chili powder with crushed ancho chiles.
I got out my chimney for the grill and started my charcoal. Now it’s time to set up my smoker box. I found this little triangle smoker box at the BBQ Store. Take your wood chips ( I used hickory) and soak for approximately 30 minutes. Place the wood chips on each end of the box. The insert is for your liquid. You can use water, juice, or beer. I am using apple juice for the ribs and will refill it each time I add more coals.
Because it’s an odd shape I need to set it in place before I add the hot coals. My apple juice is the last thing to pour before closing the lid. Place the smoke box and the coals on one side of the grill and the ribs will go on the other side.
The hardest part is keeping the temperature level. I want the temp to be around 225 degrees and no higher than 300 at any given time. That is key. My first attempt was on a hot day and it was hard keeping the temperature down. On this day it’s much cooler and I had a hard time keeping the temperature up to 225. There is a vent on the side of the grill that helps regulate the temp. The intake of oxygen helps keep the coals going but if it gets too hot then close the vent to a slit so not as much oxygen can come in. I’m learning as I go.
When the temp starts declining (don’t let it go below 200 degrees) it’s time to add a few more coals. To get them going, open the side vent a little to begin with. Also add more apple juice if needed.
Another thing I learned is to open the top vents when it starts to heat up. When the temp gets too hot you can open these up more but right now I just need them to be slightly open to keep the temp at that 225 degree range.
Now I know why the competitors work so hard, it’s like an art form and it takes time and patience.
I found the best information and advice on smoking ribs from AmazingRibs.com.
Also if you ever find yourself in Kansas City, lookup Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que and try any one of their famous dishes from ribs to pulled pork, brisket or their famous burnt ends. Joe’s now ships their treasured meats to anywhere in the USA so even if you don’t live here you can enjoy some of the best BBQ on earth!!
Smoked Baby Back Ribs
1 slab Baby Back Ribs
Joe’s Rib Rub, recipe follows
Joe’s KC Bar-B-Que Sauce, (or your favorite BBQ sauce)
Charcoal (approximately 6 – 8 pounds)
Juice, Water, Beer (your choice of liquid)
Wood Chips (I used Hickory)
The day before you smoke:
Rinse the ribs under cold water, then pat dry. Remove the membrane underneath the ribs by sliding a knife underneath to get it started then slowly peel it off. Generously sprinkle rub over both sides of the ribs. Wrap the ribs in aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Day of smoking:
Add enough wood chips to fill your smoke box in water to soak for approximately 30 minutes or so. Start the charcoal in a chimney. If making only 1 slab of ribs you will need about half of the chimney full of coal. Get the ribs out of the refrigerator and set out to room temperature.
When the coals are hot and ready, fill the smoke box with the soaked wood chips and add the liquid to the insert box. Place the box on the opposite side of where the meat smokes. Pour the hot coals near the smoke box and close the lid. Adjust your side vents and top vents to regulate the temperature to 225 degrees. Set the ribs on the opposite side of the coals and close the lid. Monitor the ribs every half hour to check the temperature and add more coals if the temp reduces to below 200 degrees. If the temperature raises to over 300 degrees adjust the side vents so that less air can fuel the coals. The ribs should smoke for 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours. Check the ribs by picking them up with tongs. If they begin to crack when bent they are ready. You can also use a meat thermometer to check as well.
The last half hour of cooking, mop the ribs on the top side with your favorite barbecue sauce.
Joe’s Rib Rub (adapted from Midwest Living Magazine)
2 tablespoons Granulated Sugar
1 tablespoon Packed Brown Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Ancho Chile, coarsly ground
1 1/2 teaspoons Paprika
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon White Pepper
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
In a small bowl combine all ingredients together and store in a covered container at room temperature.