How to Smoke Ribs in an Offset Smoker

Barbecue ribs in flaming background

Smoked ribs are a dish that can either go terribly wrong or terribly right. When you use an offset smoker, you risk the ribs coming out so tough that you can barely chew the meat. There is a risk that the ribs may come out under-cooked, too.

Knowing how to use an offset smoker will help you create rich and tender meat that literally falls off the bone. Whether you use pork or beef ribs, you’ll become a pit master with the right tips.

Trimming and Prepping the Ribs

ribs cut into pieces

No matter what type of ribs you choose, you need to clean, trim and prep the meat ahead of time. Check for any excess fat on the edges of the meat. While a small amount of fat adds some extra flavor, too much fat will leave the meat chewy.

Use a sharp knife or a pair of kitchen shears to remove the fat. You’ll also want to turn the meat over and remove the membrane located on the back. When you insert the edge of a knife underneath this membrane, it should come right off.

If you want to use a barbecue rub, now is the time to add it. Though you can use a store bought rub, using one you make yourself lets you select the amount of salt that you use. You can make your own rub from some basic spices like garlic and cayenne with a little brown sugar added for sweetness.

Apply a liberal amount of the rub to each rack of ribs. Rub the mixture into the meat with your hands.

Make the Most of Your Smoker

Depending on the size of your smoker, you may have enough room to place two or more rib racks flat on the grates inside. If you have limited space available, consider rolling the ribs.

Turn the rack over so that the ends of the bones sit flat on your workstation. Slowly pull one end of the rack towards the other to form a rounded piece that looks like a rib roast. Use twine or kitchen string to tie the rack together and to keep it from coming undone as it cooks.

Using this tip helps you smoke multiple racks of ribs at the same time.

Prepping the Smoker

It doesn’t take a lot of time to prep your smoker. Place a charcoal chimney flat on the grates in the smoker. Add briquettes to the chimney before lighting those on the very top. Wait until the briquettes are all hot before you pour the chimney into the hopper.

You can use wood in place of the charcoal. Some home chefs like using a mixture of both wood and charcoal, too.
Set the temperature on your offset smoker to between 200 and 225 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the best temperature for cooking ribs that are tender and juicy. When the smoker comes up to temperature, place the racks inside on the grates.

Home chefs sometimes swear by the addition of apple juice or orange juice. If you want to use juice to flavor your ribs, pour one cup of the juice into the water pan, which is near the bottom of the smoker. The heat inside will use the juice to produce humidity and spread the flavor around the ribs.

For Even Juicier Ribs

meat grilled with aluminum foil

To make ribs that are even juicier and more flavorful, wrap the meat in aluminum foil. Cook the meat inside the smoker uncovered for at least two hours. While wearing gloves or using oven mitts to protect your hands, transfer the meat from the grates into an aluminum pan or baking dish.

Wrap the top of the dish with aluminum foil. You can also place the ribs directly on a sheet of foil and fold the sides up to create packets. Cook the ribs for another two hours at the same temperature.

Using Sauce

Many people like the taste of smoked ribs that have a light coating of barbecue sauce. Whether you make or buy a sauce, you’ll want to add that liquid during the last hour of cooking. Remove the try or packets from the smoker and place off to the side.

Use a brush to apply an even coating of sauce to the top of the ribs. You can add more to the bottom, too. Place the ribs back inside the dish or packet and cook for another hour.

When you follow these instructions, you can make the perfect smoked ribs in an offset smoker so tender that the meat falls right off the bone.