One who operates a barbecue pit. Sometimes a term of respect for someone who is skilled at barbecuing.
Jim is usually our rib pitmaster…..I tried once and they didn’t come out the same, even though I did exactly as he told me. But, as we’ve recently learned….. even Jim’s “recipe” isn’t always failproof. This last time, even after smoking the ribs for 9 hours, they weren’t as tender as they’ve been previously.
This time, I’m going to see if I can earn the pitmaster title when it comes to ribs- trying the popular 3-2-1 rib technique.
Here’s how it works (using a Traeger):
3: Smoke the ribs, meat-side up, for 2-3 hours.
2: Increase the temperature to 225 degrees and wrap the ribs tightly in foil. Cook for 2 hours.
1: Remove from foil, brush ribs with BBQ sauce, then grill for an additional hour to “tighten” the sauce.
In summary: (3) hours smoking – (2) hours in foil – (1) hour glazing
I had read that the 3-2-1 guideline really isn’t THAT critical- you can smoke for 1-3 hours, wrap in foil for 2-3 hours, and glaze the last hour.
Anyway, here’s how my 3-2-1 worked out:
We were expecting dinner guests at 6:30, which meant I needed to put them on at 12:30 for their 3 hour smoke. First I prepped the ribs by sprinkling them with a sweet BBQ rub. I leave the silverskin on our ribs because I actually LIKE it. I set the Traeger to “smoke” (which cooks at 150-180 degrees) and put the ribs on the grill grate and started their 3 hour smoke. At 2:15 I checked on them and decided to increase the temperature to 225. (This was per one of Jim’s coworkers who is a literal PITMASTER and he says he cooks his ribs at 225 for the whole time). Anyway, I turned the temp up. At 3:30 I wrapped them in foil.
Here’s a trick for that….. take a large cookie sheet with edges, lay a large piece of foil over it (well, one piece for each rack). Pull the rack off the grill and place it on the foil. Drizzle with about 1 T of warmed honey, sprinkle with 2 T brown sugar, then pour 1/4 cup of apple juice over the top). If the foil is large enough you can wrap it tightly. If you need a second piece of foil, go ahead and do that.
The wrapped ribs were returned to the grill, and continued cooking at 225 for 2 more hours.
And at 5:30 we unwrapped them to glaze with BBQ sauce. Uh oh. They were DONE! (See doneness tests below). As I was trying to remove them from the foil they were falling apart. It was a ginger process to remove them, but I got them all off the foil with little damage. The problem was there was still an hour before our guests were arriving and I was supposed to keep cooking them for an hour to tighten the glaze!
So my lesson here is….
Keep the smoke setting for the full 3 hours. For the foil part either do it for just an hour, or turn down the temperature to 180 instead of 220.
Personally, I think they were perfect- falling off the bone and super tender and they weren’t dried out or anything- no toughness. But I wished the BBQ sauce could have dried out a bit more (I don’t like my ribs to be too saucy).
That’s my official Baby Back Rib Recipe/Technique for the Traeger. If you do it, post a comment here and let me know how they worked out- or post your technique to share!
Note: There are several ways to gauge doneness:
1) the ribs should flex and tear in the middle when lifted on one end with tongs (um, mine were falling apart!)
2) an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the meat between bones should read 190 degrees F (never tried this)
3) the meat will have shrunk away from the ends of the bones by 1/4- to 1/2-inch (yep! or more!)