Homemade is Better—Smoked Side Ribs

Ever since my Dad and I bought a smoker together, I keep wanting to cook as much stuff on it as I can.  A few weeks ago, I put on an eye of round and smoked it for a few hours, and it tasted too good!  Today I was inspired to smoke some ribs I had bought at my local grocery store.  I picked up some side ribs while shopping for back to school, thinking it would make a great Sunday meal.

When looking for ribs, how many times have you looked at them as asked yourself what the difference is?  I know I’ve been guilty of this!  Spareribs, side ribs, back ribs, Country-style ribs, really, what is the difference?  The answer is simple.  Think about the ribs in your chest, the ribs that are in front that protect your lungs would be considered spareribs, it would go from about your armpit towards your chest.  Spareribs would be the largest, but the toughest because of the work they do to when your lungs fill with air.  Then the back ribs would be considered the most tender as they don’t move as much as the others.  Side ribs and spare sides are the same things.

The ribs I’ve chosen are spareribs removed from the St. Louis Style.  St. Louis Style is a straight set of ribs that are longer rib bones than back ribs.  Country style is taken from the loin and are the last four ribs with some of the loin meat left on them; they are part of the back ribs.  Baby back ribs are the back ribs, sometimes cut into smaller pieces.

Ribs benefit from a long slow cooking process because they contain connective tissue, which requires heat and time to break down.  When you cook them for extended times, they will soften and become “fall off the bone” tender.  As with many of the muscle groups that are “worked,” they start getting stronger as the animal moves and breathes.   This toughness can vary depending on what animal we are talking about, and where on the animal it is.  With ribs, we are looking for tenderness that allows us to pull the bones away from each other, and to do this we have to extract collagen through the cooking process.  Collagen is the Jell-O looking substance that you see when you cool the pork in the fridge; it’s that translucent jiggly stuff.  It seems a lot like Jell-O because that’s what it is.  Gelatin is collagen, and while it’s processed, it is still from animals.

Back to the ribs, though.  If you don’t own a smoker, you can still cook these ribs in your oven.  Follow the directions but use a sheet pan or roasting pan for cooking the ribs.  Once you get to the part where you wrap them, you can just cover the container they are cooking in.  You will still follow the directions as stated on the bottom.  Low and slow, that’s the best way to cook meat like ribs.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, and next week we’ll talk about lunch.  I know this is an unusual time for back to school, and those of us with school-aged kids are going to get tired of making sandwiches by November.  I’ll come up with some alternatives that are easy to make and enjoy!

Smoked Side ribs


Big Daddy’s meat rub (see recipe in my Pulled Pork article)
¾ cup Apple juice
¼ cup Crown Royal (or other whiskeys)
¼ packed brown sugar
¼ BBQ sauce
6 – 10 lbs Ribs

  • Sprinkle ribs with meat rub and massage it in, leave for 30 minutes to 2hrs.
  • Heat smoker or oven to 250F.
  • Mix apple juice, whiskey, brown sugar, and bbq sauce.
  • Place ribs in smoker or oven once it has finished preheating.
  • Split the sauce in half and reserve one half
  • Cook for 1 hour, then brush on one half of the sauce every 30 minutes for 2 more hours.
  • After 3 hours of total cook time, removed the ribs and wrap them with tin foil before closing the foil, pour the remainder of the sauce in and wrap tightly.
  • Place back in smoker or oven for an additional 2 hours.
  • Carefully remove the ribs making sure not to spill out any juice that might still be in the foil packets.
  • Let rest for 20 minutes.
  • Cut up into serving portions and enjoy!
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