Cactus Tom's Smoked Spare Ribs
The down-home BBQ super food by which all others are measured.
- water (for drip pan)
- 6 to 8 racks of pork spare ribs
- chilli powder
- coarse ground black pepper
- garlic powder
- aromatic wood chips (optional)
- 5 Kilos charcoal briquettes (not lump wood)
- favorite BBQ sauce (on the side)
Preparing the Ribs: Because of the time and effort invested in this method of barbecuing, we normally cook 6 to 8 full slabs of pork ribs. 1 rack should serve two people, but they taste so good it is best to allow for extra demand.
Remove (or ask your butcher to remove) the membrane from the back of the racks.
Liberally sprinkle ground black pepper, garlic powder and chilli powder (to taste) on front and back of each rack.
This is a dry (not cooked in sauce) method of smoking the ribs. Simmer and serve your favourite barbecue sauce as a condiment on the side.
Grill set-up: Our method of preparing the barbecue grill for indirect cooking requires a BBQ grill with a lid, adjustable vents and enough surface area to allow the meat to be positioned mainly over a drip pan, and, as the method implies not sitting directly over the hot coals. Larger cuts of meat, for instance large roasting joints may hang slightly over the coals as the meat will shrink during cooking. A key to this method is to start with plenty of charcoal and keep coals at a slow burn by using the top and side vents.
I remove the fire tray and line the bottom of the grill with foil, placing the charcoal directly on the foil 2-3 coals deep on the left and right sides of the drip pan. This does two things - It keeps the charcoal away from the meat, and air flow is reduced which helps to slow down the burn rate of the charcoal. Note: Grill preparation takes about an hour, but that is part of the fun!
Cooking: When the coals are ready (white ash on the edges) close the top and side vents down to approx. half position (or less), stack the ribs (one on top of the other) over the drip pan and close the lid. Water soaked aromatic wood chips can be added, if you wish.
Plan to slow cook the meat for 5 to 6 hours and normally add some more coals after about 3 hours. (If you need to add coals sooner they are probably too hot) Keep in mind that it can take up to 30 minutes for heat adjustments to take affect.
Turn and shuffle the racks of ribs every half hour keeping an eye on how the coals are holding out. Shuffling the racks allows them to baste their neighbors.
It will take some time before the ribs start to look like they are really cooking, but eventually the magic will happen, and they will take on a mouth watering aroma and appearance. (my mouth is watering as I write)
Cook until tender enough to pull the ribs apart easily with your finger tips. We have found that ribs smoked this way can remain on the grill for up to 8 hours as long as the fire is kept at a slow burn.
Here is a print friendly version of this recipe.