There’s hardly a meat-eater out there who doesn’t enjoy fall-off-the-bone tender, juicy BBQ ribs. And with summers around the corner, you might have to cook these every other weekend. But if you’re new to grilling, when smoking ribs do you flip them? Let’s find out!
When Smoking Ribs Do You Flip Them?
Whether or not you flip ribs when smoking them depends on if you’re using a rib rack. When using a rib rack, you don’t need to worry about flipping your ribs during the cooking process.
But if you’re not using a rib rack, you should flip ribs every 30 minutes or so after they’ve cooked for the first hour initially. This can be a bit difficult if you are busy, but then again why are you making ribs if you’re busy… it’s the weekend (hopefully). Investing in a good rib rack is a great idea to save time stress.
This is our favorite rib rack since it holds up to 3 full racks of ribs easily and can fit most grills.
If you’re using the 3-2-1 method to cook your ribs (more on that later), you won’t need to flip your ribs every 30 minutes.
How to Make Sure My Ribs Don’t Become Tough?
We know how heartbreaking it is to dream of succulent ribs only to see them tough and chewy when you take them off the grill. To make sure your ribs don’t become tough, cook them slowly, for a long duration. ie. why it’s a good idea to get a rib rack so you don’t need to constantly be thinking about flipping them.
If you cook your ribs on high heat quickly, you’ll almost always end up with chewy, tough meat. So be patient and keep the heat medium to low, even if it takes hours to cook the meat right.
What is the Right Way to Smoke Ribs?
If you want to make sure you don’t oversmoke pork spare ribs and have tender, perfectly cooked meat to savor, follow the 3-2-1 cooking method. This method works well on most smokers and is a popular cooking style by renowned chefs and amateurs alike.
Here’s how it works:
- Prep your ribs by trimming off the excess fat and polishing the bone. Then, apply the rubs and spices you like to your ribs. Make sure that these rubs won’t make your ribs stick to the grill.
- Place the ribs bone-side-down on the grill and let them sit there for 3 hours. Make sure the temperature is set at 225 degrees F for the whole 3 hours.
- Remove the ribs from the smoker after 3 hours. Wrap them tightly in foil. Make sure you don’t leave any end of the foil open.
- Place the ribs back on the smoker for 2 hours. This time, make sure the bone side is facing up.
- After cooking inside the foil for 2 hours, take the ribs off the smoker and remove the foil. Then, place them back on the smoker for 1 additional hour and slightly turn up the heat.
- In the last 30-40 minutes of smoking, you can brush on your barbeque sauce and flip the ribs once or twice. This step is optional. If you don’t like sauced ribs, you can skip the sauce or try some bbq alternatives.
Note: The 3-2-1 method suits pork spare ribs the best. If you’re cooking baby back ribs, you’ll want to follow the 2-2-1 method. In this method, put your baby back ribs on the grill for 2 hours in the initial stage at 225 degrees F before removing them and wrapping them in foil. The rest of the steps will remain the same.
Which Side Up When Smoking Ribs?
When smoking ribs, it’s essential to put them bone-side-down on the grill for the initial 2 or 3 hours (depending on whether you’re cooking baby backs or spare ribs). You want to tenderize the meat on low heat, and putting it directly over the flame will do the opposite. The bone acts as a guard for the meat when it’s on the smoker.
Then, once you wrap them in foil, put them bone-side-up for those 2 hours. When you’re covering the ribs in foil, you’re essentially trying to melt the fat and add its flavor to the meat. As the collagen in the fat breaks down, it should get pooled on the meat and not on the bone. That’s why, when you keep it meat side down, the ribs absorb the flavor of the fat better.
Again, once you transfer them back to the grill for the final hour of cooking, put them bone side down.
What Kind of Woods Should I Use to Smoke Ribs?
For pork ribs, many different varieties of wood work well. Ultimately, the one you choose will depend on the flavor you’re looking for.
You can go for fruitwoods like apple and cherry wood for milder notes. These will still add smokiness to the meat but won’t overpower its taste. For a more robust flavor, however, using hardwoods like hickory and mesquite is a great idea.
You can always explore some other kinds of woods for smoking ribs or mix two or more different types to achieve flavor complexity.
Do You Smoke Ribs on Both Sides?
If you follow the 3-2-1 or the 2-2-1 method for smoking ribs, you’ll have to start by smoking ribs bone-side down and end with the same. But in the middle 2 hours, when you wrap them in foil, they’ll be bone-side-up.
So technically, you do smoke ribs on both sides. But you leave them open on the smoker with only the bone-side down.
If you’re not using a rack and flipping your ribs while smoking them, you’ll naturally smoke them on both sides. But you have to be super careful while doing this to avoid overcooking your ribs or charring them too much.
How Can I Enhance the Flavour of My Smoked Ribs?
There are numerous ways you can make your ribs taste delicious:
- Use a spice rub before you put the ribs on the grill. Usually, salt and pepper are all people put on their ribs. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, adding spices takes the taste up by several notches. You can prepare a tasty dry rub using salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and other spices.
- Don’t skip out on the sauce when you’re smoking ribs this summer. Adding sauces adds a ton of flavor to your ribs that just can’t come from anything else. If you’re not a big fan of BBQ sauce, you can always use alternatives. Moreover, you can even prepare a dipping sauce and serve it alongside the ribs.
Grill Away The Best Ribs in Town!
So it’s pretty clear at this point when smoking ribs do you flip them? Yes, if you don’t have a rib rack, and no if you do. If you followed this article step by step you should have no trouble impressing family and friends with your grilling skills. Be patient while cooking and never overdo anything. As long as you follow our other tips above, you should have a delicious result and many friends praising you for months to come.
Ian Hoyt is a co-founder of Morsel – a family recipe cookbook software. When he isn’t working on building the best recipe app for your family Ian can be found hiking in the mountains of North Carolina, flying airplanes, or of course in the kitchen perfecting his beloved scone recipe.