While worthy competitive barbecue cooks have been honing their low n’ slow fat-rendering craft for years to bring you tender, moist and sweet spare ribs, it’s more than possible to achieve these at home. All one needs is an indirect heat, a rack of ribs, a hunk of wood, and a handful of flavour-enhancers from the cupboard to practise. What separates the amateurs from the masters is the methodology, which we at lowsmok’n hold dear. The secret is the simple 3-2-1 method. This means three hours of unwrapped smoking, two hours of wrapped smoking, and a final hour unwrapped.
To begin, take your cut of spare ribs and remove any membrane or loose sections of fat if your butcher hasn’t already. Spare ribs, or side ribs, are meatier and juicier than the ever-popular baby back ribs. This cut is already fatty enough to easily last a long smoke. Spare ribs can be cut to the St. Louis style, removing the breastplate for a rectangular slab of pork. Competitions usually call for a St. Louis style cut because the ribs come out looking perfectly cooked from end-to-end evenly.
Next, prepare a sweet rub. Brown sugar, garlic powder, chilli and salt are staples of any pork rub. Competition-style spare rib leans on a side of sweet, so the brown sugar caramelizes over the course of the smoke leaving a hardy bark. A spice like chilli or paprika balances the sweetness and imparts a classic amber color on ribs that leaves onlookers salivating. At lowsmok’n, we recommend a rub from Three Little Pigs for first-timers to learn the traditional barbecue flavour. Sparingly dust the ribs with the rub, spare ribs are already quite delicious and over the course of the cook, you will have plenty more chances to add even more flavour.
Set your smoker to 135 degrees Celcius and spread cherry wood onto your charcoals. Cherrywood is a mild and sweet which compliments the pork, but also leaves a darkish brown and red hue on the ribs, which judges look for. For the first three hours of the 3-2-1, place the ribs on smoker rack and leave it for an hour. After, spray the pork every half hour with a mixture of equal parts water and apple cider vinegar. The spritz keep the meat moist and allows the smoke to cling to these beautiful bones. After three hours, the pork should be absolutely sweating and its juices escaping, so wrap the ribs in foil with a butter and sweetener: agave, honey or more brown sugar. The wrapping seals in the moisture and cooks the meat to a tender tear-off-the-bone bite. Two hours is plenty. The final hour is where creativity is given opportunity. Unwrap the meat and apply a rub or sauce, this is the final chance to add sweetness. A barbecue sauce and its sugars over an hour will soften and candy the bark.
Six hours in all is more than enough for spare ribs. The bones should be visible and its meat should break apart when flexed. Rescue it from the smoker, cut evenly to separate the bones from one another do not serve the ribs with sauce. This insulin-spiking savory dessert has enough sugar, fat and spice to be eaten on its glorious lonesome.