Smoked Boneless Pork Ribs
Tender, juicy, flavorful, delicious to the eye. A perfectly smoked piece of pork. I have to say, the best I have ever done. I usually finish off my smoked meat in a slow cooker since I don’t have a real smoker. Because I would have to refuel the fire periodically for a larger piece of meat, that means lifting the lid off the grill and releasing the heat. It would take much longer and one could end up with dry, tough meat. Generally, I build up a fire large enough to last about one hour for a good, smoked flavor. If I am going to serve the same day, it goes into the slow cooker to make it fall off the bone tender. On this day, however, I had a small amount of meat and I did something right with my fire. It lasted a good couple of hours and resulted in the above.
A smoker has a firebox separate from the cooking area. There are smokers with the firebox to the side and the vent or chimney on the opposite end (here is this style: http://www.grillsdirect.com/charcoal-grills/grills-with-carts/chargrillersmokinprocharcoalsmokergrill.cfm) Another smoker style layers the fire, liquid and cooking area in that order with the fire on the bottom (here is this style: http://www.weber.com/explore/grills/smokers-series/smokey-mountain-cooker-18 ) Both styles allow for access to the fire to replenish without losing heat. The links do not indicate an endorsement by me. My dream smoker is custom-made, insulated and has heatproof paint. And it is in Texas and hasn’t even been started yet, because I haven’t ordered it. The shipping alone will be 1/4 the cost of the smoker! Someday!
At least a charcoal grill is an acceptable substitute for the real thing. One may get excellent results smoking meat on a regular grill. It just hasn’t happened for me every time. I’ll find out next time if this time was a fluke. Weather will play a role when smoking on a grill. Outdoor temperature and humidity are a factor. So maybe all factors were ideal on this day. The only variable I changed was the amount of charcoal. I started with a larger pile than usual and had a smaller pile (6 to 8 briquets) next to it for adding right before I covered the grill (I did not light the smaller pile. The heat from the larger pile took care of that). I used briquets and hardwood charcoal. The hardwood burns hotter, but not longer, making it ideal for searing the meat prior to the rest of the cooking time. The briquets burn longer, ideal for slow cooking.
This recipe begins the day before with a dry rub on the pork. I will give you all but one of the spices I used; I am leaving out my secret ingredient. I am not going to give you measurements on this one either. This is one you can experiment with on your own. It all depends on what you like. If you like it hot, you will add more cayenne pepper. Or perhaps you don’t like garlic, so you wouldn’t add it at all. Whatever you like will work.
Start with plastic wrap on your counter, two long sheets, perpendicular to each other. Place the meat on top. You will be wrapping the meat tightly when finished with the rub. I sprinkle the spice directly on the meat as I go, either sparingly or liberally. Another option is to use a bowl (measure out and keep track for next time) and then put it on the meat. Here are the spices I used: Garlic powder and chili powder (sparingly), onion powder, mustard powder, ginger powder, basil, coriander (all liberally). For some heat, I recommend cayenne pepper. In addition, I add a pinch of salt (I rarely use salt on anything, but as the meat will be covered for a long period of time, salt is actually an aid in keeping the meat juicy and fresh). The meat is seasoned on both sides. You will rub in the seasonings as you go. Below left is the meat seasoned and rubbed on both sides.
Wrap the meat tightly and place in the refrigerator. I left the meat for about 24 hours. As with all of the meat recipes found on this blog, I removed the meat from the refrigerator about 1/2 hour prior to cooking.
Soak the wood you will be using. I have oak and wild cherry on my property and use pieces that splinter off when my husband splits wood. I also purchase wood chips when I want a different flavor. Start soaking the wood before you start your fire. Otherwise the wood will burn and not really smoke.
Prepare your charcoal fire on one side of the grate. Be sure the vents on the underside of the grill are fully open. Spread out the coals when gray and ashy. Before placing the cooking grate, add something to hold your liquid ( I use disposable foil pie or cake pans. I stock up when they are on sale). This time, I used apple juice for my liquid. It complemented the applewood chips I used for the smoke.
The pork will be seared over direct high heat (see Method Cooking post for determining high heat. High heat is pretty much as soon as the coals are ashy). Sear both sides. Each side should take about 3 minutes. Move to the opposite side, placing directly over the liquid. Now you are ready to add the wood chips. I added a handful and a half.
The coals that started off to the side of the main fire can now be distributed over the main fire. They should already be on the way to getting ashy. Put the lid on the grill and the smoke will start pouring out. Make sure the vent in the lid is directly over the meat. This way, you don’t vent the heat right out of the grill and lose the heat and smoke you want for the meat. The smoke will lessen as the moisture is dried out of the wood chips.
Check your temperature occasionally. Ideally, you want a slow cooking temperature if you are going to keep the meat on the grill for quite some time. 250F to 300F is the temperature to shoot for. This can be accomplished by partially closing the underside vents, cutting off some of the oxygen fueling the fire. I use a probe thermometer stuck in through the top vent. If the temperature drops too far, just open the vents back up. I failed to remember to check the temperature until the pork had been on a good 45 minutes or so. When I did, it was nearly 400 degrees! I had a really hot oven (I’m going to test that again sometime-maybe that’s why the pork turned out so well)! I did adjust the vents and brought the temperature down to below 350F. Because the heat lasted, I left the pork on for close to 2 hours.
Properly smoked meat will have a pink ring on the outer edges. You can achieve more smoke flavor by adding more wood. But, if you are smoking on your grill, remember that every time you open your grill, you are releasing the heat. I recommend doing what you need to do before you put the lid on the grill and just leave it until you are ready to take the meat off. So if you want more smoke, add more wood at the beginning. Good luck and enjoy!
Until next time, Grill, Baby, Grill!