Simple Citrus Baby Back Ribs

Baby back ribs are good. They just are. And for a long time, I was afraid to make them myself, until I owned a Saffire.

Since then I’ve smoked them directly and indirectly, glazed and dry rubbed, at low temperatures (200-250) and at moderate temperatures (275-300).

I’ve learned two important tricks along the way. First, use a good meat thermometer that doesn’t require you to open the dome very often. And second, don’t open the dome very often.

I decided it was time to smoke the 3 racks of baby backs I had in my freezer. There wasn’t any apple juice or vinegar on hand, but I did have root beer and orange juice. An idea was born. I took some chili powder, Korean BBQ Rub from Weber, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, kosher salt and dark brown sugar and sifted it thoroughly in a large Tupperware container. Then I mixed equal parts orange juice and root beer and poured it into a drip pan, leaving a bottle of root beer filled with equal parts orange juice and root beer to use as a mop for the ribs.

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  • 3 racks Baby Back Ribs
  • BBQ Rub
  • BBQ Mop sauce
  • Fire up the grill. I used Saffire’s All Natural North American Hardwood Lump Charcoal (see here), filled the firebox and used two starter squares to get it going quickly.
  • Rub the ribs. I took the time to rub the ribs while the fire was going, working the rub in from all sides.
  • When the fire is going, set the heat deflector and adjust the temperature. I was cooking lunch for the Saffire office and decided to run the temperature between 275 and 300 degrees.
  • When the temperature is steady, add your drip pan with any juice or water you choose. I used orange juice and root beer because it was handy.
  • Place your ribs on the primary rack. I used a Maverick meat thermometer.  Insert te probe measuring the ribs’ temperature into the middle rack of ribs and placed the probe measuring the temperature at grid level off to the side.
  • Add smoke flavor using the wood chips of your choice with the Smokin’ Chip Feeder. I added about 4 handfuls of apple chips using the chip feeder.
  • Mop both sides of the ribs and turn every hour. I didn’t use a spray bottle this time. Instead I just sprinkled mop sauce on each side every time I turned them.
  • Monitor your meat and grill temperatures. The ribs will be fall off the bone tender between 190 and 195 degrees internal temperature. I pulled them off at 193, wrapped them in aluminum foil, and “hot-boxed” them in a separate demo Saffire that was nearby because I didn’t have an empty cooler handy. For ribs cooked on the Saffire, hot boxing is a little trick that keeps the meat tender while preparing the rest of the meal.

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Overall, the ribs were pretty tasty. The orange juice wasn’t overpowering, and the ribs would still fall off the bone tender even when cooked at the higher temp. Hot boxing the ribs gave the office time to grab some sides from the grocery store and prep a serving area before lunch time.


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