Hot & Fast Smoked Baby Back Ribs
Short on time but find yourself craving some tender, juicy pork ribs? No stress we’ve got you covered with these sticky glazed, simple hot n’ fast smoked ribs on a pellet grill.
I used baby back ribs for this cook. They have to be one of my favorite cuts for bbq, they’re sweet, meaty, cook faster than spare ribs, and when paired with a good Carolina vinegar-based bbq sauce, you just can’t go wrong.
Not quite sure what to look for when selecting your ribs, not a problem, just read on to learn the whole process from beginning to end.
What are baby back ribs?
The word “baby” is used to indicate the smaller size of the ribs and the word “back” explains the position from where the meat is taken from.
Back ribs are cut from where the rib meets the spine after the loin is removed. The upper ribs are called baby back ribs, but not because they come from a baby pig. They’re only called baby because they are shorter in relation to the bigger spareribs you commonly see.
Baby back ribs will reach around six inches long and can be as small as three inches depending on the size of the pig they are taken from.
What to look for when buying your pork ribs
When selecting your ribs, the first thing I like to look for is nice marbling throughout and as minimal loin meat as possible
The loin is located on both sides of the backbone of the pig, starting at the shoulder and continuing back to the hind leg.
It is the largest, most tender, and leanest cut from the pig which also means that if you overcook the loin it will become quite dry and unappealing, which is why I like to have minimal loin on my ribs.
I then check that the cryovaced bags of the ones I selected aren’t blown.
What I mean by ‘blown’ is that sometimes with many people handling the pork racks they can sometimes unintentionally break the seal allowing air into the cryovaced bags which then significantly reduces the shelf life of the pork ribs so it’s a great idea to make sure you check each one.
Tools to get the job done
- Smoker big enough for 2-3 racks of baby back ribs
- Smoking wood (I’m cooking on my pellet grill with wood pellets)
- Large chopping board
- Boning knife
- Paper Towels
- Heavy duty aluminum foil
- Basting brush
- Heat proof gloves
How to smoke baby back ribs hot and fast
1. Smoker setup
I used my GMG Daniel Boone Prime pellet smoker for these ribs and decided to go with B&B’s applewood pellets as it pairs so well with pork.
I also recommend using a mixture of applewood and cherry wood for pork cooks so if you only have cherry wood laying around then that’s just as good.
Because we’re cooking hot n’ fast set your smoker to 300°F.
While your smoker is coming up to temp it’s time to prepare your ribs.
2. Prepping the ribs
For this cook, I used two racks of baby back ribs.
Grab your chopping board, boning knife, paper towels, and a teaspoon.
Remove the ribs from the packaging and give them a light wash under cold water to remove any excess liquid then pat dry using some paper towel and place them bone-side up on the chopping board.
Grab your teaspoon and a piece of paper towel then carefully slide the end of the teaspoon between the meat and the membrane between two bones roughly in the middle of the rack.
Once your teaspoon is under the membrane enough, start to gently lift the teaspoon which will help pull the membrane away from the back of the bones.
Once the membrane is high enough you will be able to slide your fingers under, making it much easier to remove in one piece, however, if it does tear, no stress, just grab some more paper towel and lift the torn sections away.
Flip the racks over and trim away any excess fat leaving a small amount behind to render down.
Do you have to remove the membrane from the back of baby back ribs?
Yes, it’s quite tough and cannot easily be chewed once cooked, an added bonus is that by removing the membrane you will allow more flavor into the meat.
3. Seasoning the ribs
For me, my favorite pork rib profile starts with a good hit of sweet followed closely by some pepper and a hint of savory notes finished with a lingering back-end spicy heat.
For this cook, I used Birds & Bones chicken and rib rub combined with Kosmos’s Dirty Bird rub, or if you don’t have these on hand you could try our BBQ pork rub which will give you a nice mix of sweet and spice.
Some like to use mustard to help bind the rub to the pork, however, I find the surface to have enough moisture to apply directly.
I start with the bones up and evenly apply the Birds & Bones to the back of the ribs as well as the edges then follow with the Kosmos’s Dirty Bird rub.
Flip the racks over so the meat side is up and evenly apply both rubs as you did for the back and sides.
Now let them sit for 15 minutes to let the rubs settle and slightly absorb into the surface.
4. The cook
Once your smoker is at 300°F, place your prepped ribs on the pellet smoker rack.
Check after an hour to see how the bark is forming, if it is looking a little dry in spots you can give it a light spritz with some apple juice in a spray bottle, however, I find that most of the time I don’t need to spritz.
While most people rely on the 3-2-1 method I prefer to cook to color. What I mean by that is that I’m looking for the moment when the barbecue seasoning begins to caramelize with the meat proteins and fat to form a mahogany outer shell, at this point I know I’m ready to wrap.
What is the 3-2-1 method you ask, well the 3-2-1 method refers to time, 3 hours smoked, 2 hours wrapped then 1 hour unwrapped then usually sauced. This method is generally suited to larger pigs, I would alter the times to suit the size of the ribs but predominantly go purely by the look and feel.
Now lay down some thick sheets of aluminum foil large enough to wrap your ribs twice in. Turn the edges of the foil up slightly on all sides so that the ingredients stay in the foil.
Start by squeezing half of the honey in a zig-zag pattern along the length of the rack. Sprinkle half the brown sugar across the top of the honey, then pour half of the apple juice across the length of the honey.
Then place the rack, meat side down on the foil, and repeat the process to the back of the ribs.
Lay the 3 slices of butter evenly spaced across the rack.
In a clockwise pattern start to wrap the ribs, be careful not to pierce the foil with the bones.
Ensure there are no large air pockets in the wrap by squeezing the foil down all over. Return the ribs to the smoker.
While the ribs are cooking away it’s time to get the sauce ready.
Grab a small saucepan and put on low heat. Add your BBQ sauce, (you can use store brought or give our homemade BBQ sauce a go), 1 tablespoon of butter, and a good squeeze of honey. Stir constantly until the sauce warms through & you are happy with the flavor, then set aside. Tip: Do not overheat the sauce as it can go bitter
After one hour check the ribs, carefully open the foil, and pierce the meat between the bones with your an instant-read thermometer.
If you want the meat to be tender but ‘stay on the bone’ then you want the probe to slide in and out with a small amount of resistance. Another way to test this is the ‘bend-test’ where you carefully lift the rack upward from the center, it should stay together but have a nice long bend to it.
If you want the meat to ‘fall away from the bone’ the probe needs to slide in and out of the meat like a hot knife going through butter with no resistance. If you try the ‘bend-test’ on this it will just break away where you lifted the rack instead of holding a bend.
When the ribs are ready to your liking, open the foil and fold the edges back so that you can access the whole rack.
Using a basting brush, fully coat the back of the ribs with your BBQ sauce. Carefully flip the ribs over and repeat the process.
Return the ribs to the smoker for the sauce to set.
After 15 minutes, your ribs are ready, remove them from the smoker.
5. Serving your ribs
Place the ribs meat side down on your chopping board. Cut between each of the bones with a good slicing knife, use heat-proof gloves if required.
Apply a thin coating of your bbq sauce to the back of the ribs. Carefully flip each of the bones over, re-sauce the top of the ribs and in-between each of the cuts for added flavor.
Serve and enjoy.
Some more rib recipes you might like to try
Hot n’ Fast Pork Ribs on a Pellet Grill
- 2 racks Baby back ribs
- Pork rub
For each aluminum foil package
- ¼ cup Apple Juice
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2.5 oz unsalted butter cut into 3 pieces
For the sauce
- 20 oz BBQ Sauce homemade or store brought
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp honey or to taste
- Set up your smoker to be running at 300°F.
- Remove the racks from their packaging and rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs and trim any excess fat from the top.
- Apply an even coating of your chosen seasoning to both sides and leave to sit for around 15 minutes.
- Place the ribs into the smoker once it has come up to temperature
- After an hour check to see if they need a spritz and apply if required.
- When the ribs have a nice bark and a ‘mahogany’ color, take them out of the smoker and place meat side up on two large layers of aluminum foil, folding the sides up to create a bowl shape.
- Drizzle with half the honey, half the brown sugar and half the apple juice. Turn the rack over and apply the remaining ingredients to the other side. Top with 3 slices of butter.
- Wrap tightly and return the ribs to the smoker.
- After an hour check the ribs for your preferred doneness (see notes above).
- Remove from the smoker and fold the foil sides back.
- Apply your BBQ sauce all over using a basting brush.
- Return the open package to the smoker for 15 minutes to set.
- Remove the ribs from the smoker. Place meat side down and using a sharp slicing knife cut between each bone.
- Apply a thin coat of BBQ sauce to the back of the ribs, top and in-between each cut.
For the BBQ sauce
- Combine the BBQ sauce, butter and honey in a saucepan and warm gently till combined. Set aside.