Can You Over Smoke Ribs? Everything You Should Know

What do summers call for? Lots of swimming, ice pops, and weekend barbeques. The last one is our favorite. Eating freshly cooked ribs straight off the hot grill is a pleasure no one can say no to. But is there something you can do to make them even more delicious? 

There is, and it’s called smoking! Smoking meat gives it a nutty and earthy flavor. If you do it right, it can turn simple ribs into something exotic. But often, people fail to do it right.  

Over smoking is real, and it happens all the time. But what happens if you smoke them too much? If you do that, can you overcook ribs? Keep reading to know all this and more!

What Happens if You Smoke Ribs Too Long?

The biggest giveaway for over smoked ribs is their taste. Over smoked ribs taste bitter, and the actual flavor of the meat and the rub get lost in the intense smoke flavor. Sometimes, it may also taste dry. 

can you oversmoke ribs?

That doesn’t mean your meat shouldn’t taste slightly smokey. However, the moment the smell of wood hits you so strongly that the spice and tenderness don’t come through, you’ll know you have over smoked the ribs. 

Why Does Meat Get Over Smoked?

There could be several reasons behind your over smoked ribs. Here are some of the most common:

Using the Wrong Smoking Wood

Using a suitable variety of wood is crucial if you want tender, perfect smoked ribs. If you use the wrong kind of wood, you’ll end up having that bitter taste in the meat even after cooking it for the right duration. 

Some of the best woods for smoking ribs are:

  • Hickory
  • Alder
  • Oak
  • Mesquite
  • Pecan

Other woods like apple and cherry also work well if you want a slightly fruity smoke flavor. 

On the other hand, the above woods aren’t good for smoking more delicate meats like poultry and fish.

PEOPLE ALSO READ: Best Wood for Smoking Baby Back Ribs

Not Using a Foil Wrap While Smoking

This is one of the main reasons why ribs gain excess smoke flavor. When you’re smoking ribs, it’s advisable to wrap them in foil after they’ve been cooked for a specific duration. 

The foil prevents the meat from absorbing excess smoke and turning bitter. It also preserves the juices of the meat and helps it tenderize better. 

Using Too Much Wood

Too much wood in the smoker or grill can quickly overpower the meat’s taste. Usually, two ounces of wood in the grill should be fine, whether you’re using logs or chips. 

At the beginning of the process, keep the quantity less. You can increase it later as you see the smoke lessening. 

You should be able to see a thin layer of blue smoke coming from the grill.

Anything more could be an indicator of too much smoking. Close your grill’s inlet valve entirely and keep the exhaust valve only slightly open to ensure the smoke doesn’t all escape. 

Not Using an External Meat Thermometer

Most smokers and grills come with built-in thermometers. While these tell you the inner temperature of the grill, they aren’t located inside or near the meat, so they can’t tell you the actual temperature of the meat. 

Use an external meat thermometer to check the cooking of your meat periodically. When the internal meat temperature reaches 175-180, your meat should be done. Doing this will go a long way in preventing your baby back ribs from becoming overcooked. 

Using Lighter Fluid to Start the Fire

Starting a fire in a grill can sometimes be challenging. And you might be tempted to use lighter fluid to do that. But that’s a terrible idea. 

Lighter fluid produces rapid-fire and too much smoke. This can lead to over smoked or even burnt ribs. 

How Long Can You Smoke Ribs?

If you’re cooking your ribs in a smoker, it will take you 5 hours to get it perfectly done. Follow the 2-2-1 rule when cooking:

  • Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit and let the meat cook for 2 hours with heavy smoke.  
  • After 2 hours, wrap the ribs in foil, place them back on the smoker and let them cook for another two hours. Make sure the lid of the smoker is closed. 
  • Finally, take off the foil. Brush on some barbeque sauce and place the ribs on the grate for 1 hour. Keep adding barbeque sauce to the ribs every few minutes to make them more juicy and flavorsome. 

Although this 2-2-1 rule holds good in most cases, some home cooks find it better to smoke the ribs for 3 hours, then cook it covered for 2, and sauce it for 1. 

If you’re using a charcoal grill, here are the steps you need to follow:

  • You will need 3 hours to cook ribs properly on a charcoal grill. Heat the grill to 300 F and scatter wood chips on it. 
  • Place your meat in the center of the drip tray and close the lid, cooking it for about 2 hours and 15 minutes. 
  • Add more wood chips every 45 minutes if necessary. 
  • Open the lid after 2 hours and 15 minutes, then keep brushing on barbeque sauce every 10 minutes for about 30-45 minutes as the ribs cook. 

When you’re cooking ribs, it’s best to check what works for you. Everything from the rubs to the cooking time comes down to your personal preferences and the equipment you’re using. Once you land on the right recipe, you’ll be your family’s grillmaster. And make sure you don’t forget to store and share it with your loved ones.


Why Did My Smoked Ribs Come Out Tough?

Were you excited to eat tender ribs but ended up with a slice of tough and chewy meat that you just hate? It was probably because you didn’t spend enough time cooking it. 

Smoked ribs come out tough when you quickly cook them on high heat. Since ribs are naturally tough meat, they require slow cooking and lots of prepping to become tender. That’s why you should always start the cooking process at a low temperature and make sure the ribs sit on the smoker for hours. 

Also, never skip out on covering the ribs with foil. This step is critical to preserving the meat’s moisture. 

What to Do If You Have Over Smoked Ribs?

Are you doomed if you’ve over smoked your ribs? Not necessarily! A few sneaky tricks can save your over smoked meat and make it at least, well, edible.

Remove the Burnt Parts

This hack is like rubbing burnt toast together to remove the top black layer. If you have ended up with over smoked ribs and there’s no going back, just cut off the blackest parts with a carving knife. 

If your meat has already absorbed too much smoke, this hack won’t do you much good. But it’s still going to make the smokiness a little mellow and tolerable. 

Add More Spices

Powerful spices can mask the flavor of the smoke pretty well. You can make a delicious rub with some of your favorite herbs and season your ribs with it. 

Paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, or premade seasonings are good options. You can even use a rich sauce to coat the ribs if you’re looking to make the smokiness a little less. 

Wrap Up

Slow-cooking ribs over a smoker is an art you will master only as you do it repeatedly. The key is to be patient and start cooking the meat on low heat. Huge temperature fluctuations don’t let the protein char properly and cause a bitter taste. 

Moreover, you also need to know which kind of wood to use, which should be easier with our recommendations above. If you follow the do’s and don’ts mentioned in this article, your ribs will be a fam-favorite pretty soon. 

Have any more questions about smoking meat? Comment them down below, and we’ll try to answer them ASAP!