Smoked Barbecue Pork Ribs

I know I’m straying again. But I happen to love good barbecue. My sons got me a Char-Broil Offset Smoker American Gourmet Deluxe Charcoal Grill for father’s day a number of years ago and I’ve been smoking ribs, salmon, brisket and chicken ever since.

The first summer I had the smoker my boys, who were both living with me at the time, couldn’t stand another barbecue rib. I was smoking every weekend, experimenting with different rubs, woods and smoking times and techniques. They were my lab rats. By the end of the summer, when they smelled the pungent aroma of hickory smoke, they both took off and disappeared for the day.

I’ll never forget the time I put out smoked barbecue ribs for my family one weekend during a party. In addition to the ribs I had baked ziti, sausage and peppers, chicken with lemon and garlic, so the barbecue ribs were a change of pace for my family. Thought I’d give them something they never had before.

I might as well have put out sushi for them.

Those of you who know good barbecue realize that the red ring on the meat is an indication that it was smoked properly. Pork tends to turn red when it’s smoked for a long time. It’s thoroughly cooked, but the chemical reaction from the smoke turns the meat red. I should have realized that giving my Italian family anything that resembles a little pink in their pork is like asking them to swallow a cyanide capsule.

It didn’t dawn on me, even after seeing everyone’s rib on their plate with only one bite in it. Of course everyone was too polite to actually tell  me that they thought my spare ribs were raw. My sister-in-law Lillian was sitting next to my mother and leaned over and whispered in her ear, “don’t eat the spare ribs, they’re raw”.

I”m going to be kind here….but…they really should get out more and try new things.

After years of experimenting I came up with this recipe for barbecue pork ribs. The only special equipment you will need is a smoker. Smokers come in all sizes, depending on your needs. My smoker looks like a 50 gallon barrel on its side with a chimney on top. On its side is a smaller chamber which is the fire-box. That way the meat you are smoking gets indirect heat and plenty of smoke. I smoke my ribs for about 4 hours. I use the smoke like an ingredient. For me, 4 hours of smoke is enough. I then finish my ribs wrapped in foil in a 200 degree oven for another 2 hours till they are fall off the bone tender.

 Smoked Barbecue Pork Ribs

Dry Rub

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon oregano

Combine all the above ingredients in a medium bowl. For a smoother rub you can puree the ingredients in a spice grinder or coffee grinder until well combined and all the spices are uniform. The rub will be very fine and tan in color. This is an optional step.

This rub can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months if you have any left over.

  • 2 racks of pork ribs
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup barbecue rub

The night before you plan on smoking your ribs, remove the silver skin from the back of the ribs.

Cut the lemon in half and rub the half over one rack of ribs on both sides, squeezing the juice of the lemon over the ribs. Do the same with the other lemon half on the second rack of ribs.

Rub the ribs on both sides liberally with the spice rub. Place about 2 tablespoons of the spice rub on each side of the ribs and rub it in good.

Cut each rack in half and place the two halves in a large zip lock bag. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

When you’re ready to smoke the ribs build a charcoal fire in your fire-box or on one side of your barbecue grill.

When the coals are white-hot take the ribs out of the zip lock bags and place them bone side down on your cooking grate at the opposite end from where your fire is. You want to cook them with indirect heat.

Place a good couple of hand fulls of your water-soaked wood chips on top of the white-hot coals and close the lid on the grill. In addition to hickory wood chips I use branches I saved from my fruit tree pruning. I use apple wood, pear wood, peach and plum wood as well. Whatever I have at the time.

Do not open the grill to check the ribs. Add more wood chips as needed to keep the smoke up. The temperature inside the grill should hold at 200 degrees. Adjust the damper and chimney flue to keep the fire at that temperature  Allow the ribs to smoke for at least 3 hours, up to 4 hours.

After the smoking time, lift the cover of your smoker and take out the ribs.

Place in a large piece of heavy-duty or double lined regular foil and seal it tightly. Place the foil packets in a 200 degree oven for at least another 2 hours.

You will know your ribs are done when the meat pulls away from the end of the rack exposing about 1/2 to 1 inch of the bone. You can serve the ribs just as is, the dry rub adds tons of flavor. Or you can mop up the ribs with your favorite barbecue sauce and grill them till the sauce carmelizes.

When you finish your ribs in the foil you can cool them down from that point , unopened, and place them in the refrigerator to use within the next couple of days. When you’re ready to eat the ribs just take them out of the foil and grill as they are or with your favorite barbecue sauce.

About Peter Bocchieri

Peter was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and is a second generation Italian-American. He has a degree in Journalism from Long Island University and is an avid photographer, gardener and pet owner. Now that Peter is retired, he is relaxing at his home in North East Pennsylvania and cooking for his sons, Michael and Joseph, family and friends. Peter's passion for food was inspired by his Mother's and Grandmother's cooking, but at the age of 10 Peter felt he could do it better himself, so he did.
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5 Responses to Smoked Barbecue Pork Ribs

  1. Chef Emanuel says:

    Italian Comfort Food. Really? Since when are Barbeque Ribs Italian Food? That’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. BBQ Ribs is ‘Soul Food’ /’African American Food’ AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT….

    • Wow, I never thought writing a food blog would create such controversy. It certainly wasn’t my intent. I never claimed that BBQ ribs were Italian food. Growing up in Brooklyn exposed me to a great variety of ethnic foods. Unfortunately at the time, good BBQ wasn’t one of them. I picked up the taste for BBQ later on in life. If you look through my blog you will find that home cooked, unpretentious, Italian food make up a major portion of my recipes. Almost all of them are family recipes. But every now and then I strayed from the usual Italian fare I grew up eating (as I noted in the BBQ Rib posting) and post dishes that I learned to make over the years and chose to share with my readers. Although they are not Italian recipes, each of them have a special meaning to me in relation to my family and life. I not only share family recipes but also my life growing up in Brooklyn . If you thought posting BBQ ribs on an Italian food blog was funny you should find my recipes for Pecan Pie, Peach Cobbler, Corn Muffins, Potato Salad, Split Pea Soup, Crumb Cake, Gravlax (hope the Scandinavians don’t mind), Baked Smoked Ham, Apple Pie, Ham Salad, Roast Turkey w/Stuffing, and Southern Fried Chicken hysterical. So, Chef Emanuel, you should take pride in knowing that good “Soul Food/African American Food” has crossed over to the general population the same way good Italian food and many other ethnic foods have. And the fact that we are all Americans gives us a long history of taking other peoples foods and making them our own. After all, we are a melting pot.

      • Danielle says:

        Thank you so much for such an assortment of beautiful recipes! I will be making these ribs today! I also want to say that the above comment as a response to the other above comment was so well said and I’m glad we as Americans are able to share and enjoy such an incredible array of different ethic foods in this “melting pot”. 🙂

  2. Teresa says:

    I found your post after Searching for “smoked ribs finished in oven” to correct the ribs my husband smoked that taste raw to me. Yep, I was chuckling while reading your post, because my Italian American palate agrees with your family. I was thinking they could be corrected in the oven, and your method was exactly what I had in mind, just wasn’t sure about the oven temp. Looking forward to poking around your other posts for inspiration on traditional Italian cooking as well.

    Mille grazie,

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