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Updated: Sep 29, 2021

When we talk barbecue, one of the first things that come to mind are pork RIBS! When cooked just right, Baby Back Ribs are so satisfying! There is nothing quite like digging into a fresh slab of baby back ribs with that smokey, sweet, tender bite off the bone goodness!

What’s the difference between spares and babies?

You have your “spareribs” which are larger and meatier. They have more bone and fat marbled throughout the slab which make them the preferred ribs to use in BBQ competitions.

Then you have “baby back ribs,” also known as “back ribs,” or “loin back ribs.” Baby backs come from the back loin section on the upper rib cage while the spareribs are located under the babies.

These back ribs are leaner and more tender which make them the most popular rib to cook and eat.

Let’s make Baby backs!

Lay that slab of ribs on a cutting board and flip it so the bone side is up. Confirm that there is a silver skin/membrane still attached. (I’ve noticed that sometimes, the membrane has been taken off by the butcher) If this thin membrane is still there, you can rip it off by taking a paper towel, grabbing the edge and tearing it off. People make a big deal out of this sometimes and quite honestly, you can just run the edge of your blade across that membrane few times doing a cross hatch, and that silver skin will just shrivel up into nothing during the cook.

Now flip it over to the meat side. Trim off any excess fat and cartilage that you see. Trim off any uneven edges so it all looks pretty for your social media pics. 😉

Let’s build flavor

There are some really good BBQ rubs on the market. You can use what you want but we highly recommend MeatBoneZ BBQ Rub. Of course, you can always go straight up salt and pepper! Nothing wrong with that.


A binder is used to hold the rub onto the meat. Some people use olive oil or cooking spray, but most people seem to be using plain old yellow mustard. These products alone don’t really add to the flavor. Since I’m all about flavor, I started using a thin layer of MeatBoneZ Carolina Mustard Sauce as a binder. I mean, why use plain mustard when you can use something that will add to the flavor profile of your ribs and bind your seasonings?

Rub a dub dub

Starting with the bone side, apply the binder and then an even coat of rub. Get it real good and don’t forget the sides! Now flip it over and repeat the process.

Now, lots of people just go right to the smoker with the ribs but I don’t. I start this process the day before so the meat can absorb all those flavors right to the bone. Do this extra step and you will be very happy with the results.

So now that the ribs are rubbed down, wrap them in plastic wrap and throw them in the fridge.

Let’s roll some smoke!

Start your pit! I recommend a pit temp between 225℉ - 235℉. If you’re unsure about what wood to use, just go with applewood. Applewood is a great wood for all cuts of pork.

Once you have your pit temp under control, go and grab that slab of ribs and toss them on the smoker cold (bone side down). Some will tell you to leave them out until room temperature, but the meat will take on more smoke when it’s cold.

Should I wrap? Should I Spritz?

Since we are doing the beginner’s version of this, let’s save the wrapping for another blog.

The plan is to cook uncovered, spritzing every 30 minutes after the first two hours. This whole cook should take 4.5-5 hours depending on how your pit is maintaining temp.

Using a food safe sprayer, I recommend a simple spritz of three equal parts of apple juice, white vinegar and water. That will keep the ribs moist and tangy with a touch of sweet.

How do I know when they’re done?

Every time you open that smoker to spritz, you should be taking a quick look at the progress. When the ribs are approaching doneness, the meat will start pulling back from the bones. The best way to test for doneness is to pick up the rack of ribs (with your heat resistant gloves) and do the “Bend Test.” So, you grab the slab and start to slowly bend it. If they bend easy and the bark starts to crack, you’re pretty much done (you can do this with tongs too). Of course, you can put an instant read thermometer between the bones and look for a temp around 195-201℉ just to make sure.

To sauce or not to sauce?

Saucing is a personal preference. I, personally, like to sauce my ribs.

Now that you’ve been spritzing and checking those ribs and you feel that they’re just about done…it’s time to sauce.

I like a BBQ sauce that’s got the perfect blend of spicy and sweet without the artificial smoke flavor. I mean, why do I need smoke flavor in my sauce if I’m going through the trouble of smoking my ribs low and slow?

I recommend MeatBoneZ Master Blend BBQ Sauce, but you can use whatever you like.

Warm up the sauce and brush it on! Don’t go too thick all at once. You can always do a second coat or however many coats you want! I put on a thin coat and close the lid for about 5 minutes and then do the bone side for another 5 minutes and flip them over for a final coat on the meat side.

Now, take them off, rest them for a few minutes and enjoy!

Parting thoughts

The method I go by gives me Bite through ribs that will pull cleanly off the bone. If you are one of the many people that love “fall off the bone” ribs, add another 30 minutes to the cook and aim for around 205℉ internal temp for your finished product. If it feels like you can easily twist a rib from the center of the slab, then you have “fall off the bone” ribs.

Well, I hope this blog helps you cook the best ribs possible for you and your family. Thanks for reading and please subscribe so you don’t miss out on future blogs! More good stuff to come!


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