TCP Cooks: Smoky Baby Back Ribs

Of all the things The Complete Package cooks, his smoked meats are among my favorites. Pork ribs, brisket, pork tenderloin, chicken breasts – it’s all good. One of my personal favorites is the pork ribs. They’re not only delicious as a meal – with baked beans and potato salad, they are fabulous as leftovers. Once the meat falls off the bone (literally), it can be used in posole, pulled pork sandwiches, and one of my favorite light summer meals – smoky pork lettuce wraps. Today, I’m sharing TCP’s secret formula for fall-off-the-bone smoky pork ribs and those easy, flavorful wraps.

Here’s what you’ll need for the ribs:
1 rack of pork baby back ribs
2-3 teaspoons of garlic salt
2-3 tablespoons of Salt Lick Dry BBQ Rub
aluminum foil and oak smoking chips

First, remove the pork ribs from the package and rinse them thoroughly. Pat dry with paper towels. Using a sharp knife, remove the silver skin from the back side of the ribs and leave the fat on the top side. Sprinkle liberally with garlic salt, then apply a light coat of the dry rub mix, rubbing it in until the entire rack is coated. If you can’t find Salt Lick rub, you can order it online or simply substitute your favorite brand. If you’re in Texas, you’ll find it in HEB stores.

TCP uses a gas grill, but you could do this with charcoal, too. Heat the grill to high heat and sear the ribs on both sides, until they are browned and crispy. Remove the ribs from the grill so you can adjust your grill temperatures as follows. Remember: the key to tender smoked ribs is “slow and low” which means a longer cooking time at low heat. The result is smoky perfection.

If you are using a gas grill, turn off the heat on ½ of the grill, and turn the heat on the other ½ of the grill down to medium heat. This divides your grill into a “warm” side and a “cool” side for smoking your ribs. Place your ribs back on the cool side, and a wood chip packet on the warm side (see below).

If you are using a charcoal grill, remove the grill from your cooker and push your charcoal briquettes to one side of the grill. If you still have quite a few hot coals, use a pair of tongs to remove some of them. You want half of your grill to be free of coals, and half your grill to have just enough hot coals to cause your wood chip packets to smoke. Use extreme caution when moving hot coals!!

Rip off 2 sheets of aluminum foil about 12-14” long. Place 1 ½ cups of oak smoking chips in the center of each sheet and fold them into a sealed packet. Using a sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 slits in the top of the foil packets to allow the smoke to escape. Place the ribs on the “cool” side of the grill and one of the oak chip packets on the “hot” side. Close the grill and allow the ribs to smoke for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the first wood chip packet and replace it with the second. Smoke for an additional 30 minutes, making sure the “cool” side of the grill doesn’t get too hot, overcooking or drying out your ribs.

After one hour of smoking on the grill, place the ribs into a baking pan, cover tightly with foil and place them in a warm oven (250F) for 3 hours. When you remove them from the oven, remove the foil and allow your ribs to rest for 10 minutes before cutting into them. When I say cutting them, I really mean using tongs to pull the rib bones out. It’s not really cutting if they fall apart when you touch them. As a bonus, your house is going to smell fabulous and your neighbors are going to be ringing doorbells trying to identify the source of this heavenly aroma. It’s up to you whether you share or not. I’m not saying a word.

Smokey pork, scallions & hoisin on crisp Boston lettuce? Win-win-win!

For the lettuce wraps, you’ll need:
one head of Boston lettuce
2 to 3 cups of leftover smoky pork rib meat
2 or 3 scallions, sliced lengthwise into 3-4” strips
your favorite hoisin sauce

Separate your head of lettuce into individual leaves, cut your scallions into thin julienned strips, and warm your smoky rib meat. To serve, hold one lettuce leaf in your hand. Place a spoonful of smoked pork in the lettuce leaf, add scallion shreds and top with hoisin sauce. Roll and consume. It’s that easy. If you’re a rice lover, you can add steamed rice to your lettuce wraps. If you like crunch, you can add those crispy chow mein noodles. I’m a purist. I like to keep it simple with pork, scallions and hoisin. But that’s the beauty of leftovers. You can be as creative or as straight forward as you like. I just wish I had the words to describe how incredible this tastes. Oh, TCP and smoky pork… I love you so!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a lettuce wrap.



Filed under Food & Recipes

14 responses to “TCP Cooks: Smoky Baby Back Ribs

  1. Amy

    Good. God.

    • I love that reaction, Amy. If you think they look good, you should SMELL them! Our house smells like smokey meat for hours. It’s intoxicating. I always joke that TCP is wearing his “meat cologne” when he comes in smelling like ribs and oak smoke. And let me tell you, it’s dead sexy!

  2. I swear I almost do smell them. Yummy! Plus they bring me back to a great fajita recipe I used to make when I lived in TX and had a smoker/grill combo. I need to find that recipe! BTW: Thanks for the memory trip by mentioning HEB stores–it has been a long time since I was in TX.

    • Once you’ve soaked up the smell of grilled meat over post oak wood chips, you never forget it. It’s imprinted on your DNA. I’m glad you got to take a walk down memory lane. Remember what they say… you can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the girl!

  3. Kat

    Okay, I owe you and TCP big time because I had no idea of how you smoked things like that on a gas grill, which is what you have. The only word I have to describe the rest of what’s going on in this post is Unholy!

    p.s. Thank you SO much for voting, lady!

    • Glad we could help a couple of almost newlyweds out! You’ll have to let us know if you try to smoke ribs this summer. Same technique works for brisket, by the way. And I was more than happy to vote for your friend’s music project. I hope she gets a big fat check from the good folks at Pepsi. For those wondering what that’s about, go to Kat’s blog to see how her friend Megan is trying to bring music to her community. If you’re a Pepsi drinker, save those bottle caps. The codes inside will allow you to submit “power votes” worth 100 regular votes. You can learn more at

      • TCP

        The only difference for brisket is to leave it in the oven for an additional hour (4 hours in the oven total). Then your brisket will come out “fork tender” like the ribs. Remember to leave the “fat cap” on the birsket and bake it fat side up so that the juices that render from the fat will baste the brisket, keeping it juicy.

      • Thanks for fine-tuning the brisket tips, honey. I forgot that you have to leave it in the oven another hour. Frankly, all I can focus on is how awesome it is!

  4. Oh. My. Smoked ribs are my of my favorite grilled meats. I never knew how to smoke them on a grill, just those fancy smoker thingies that they sell at Home Depot. Now riddle me this: I am surrounded by oak trees from which we forever burning brush. Think I make my own smoker chips? Just curious.

    • I don’t know why you couldn’t make your own smoke chips. Oak is oak, right? If you could chip them up to quarter size pieces or smaller, I don’t know why you couldn’t use them. But seriously…. how much more of this do you think I can take? Michigan has lakes, beaches, apple & cherry orchards, oak chip trees and Petosky stones. What’s next? Cupcake bushes? Every new resident gets a cute puppy? Neighbors are required to bring a casserole when you’re sick? Northern Michigan sounds like Utopia!

  5. Another great post NanaBread! I’ve never come across Salt Lick and it has me completely intrigued. Your directives on using various BBQ’s were spot on. I think TCP and I would get along splendidly.

    • Bonding over smokey meat and strawberry cake? Sounds like a plan! Any man who adores smoked meat and grilling is a friend of TCP’s. Thanks, Brooks.

  6. Terry

    I have an electric smoker that works great…which is sort of a sacrilege to true “smokers”, but it gets the job done. The last reaally big batch of ribs turned out great – your friend (my daughter) Mads and Jonathan will take a rack or two for a test drive next week.

    During the smoking process, I spray baby back ribs with apple juice, spray butter, baste with honey and finally a brush on a light coat of a medium spicy sauce at the very end. Nothing better.

    • Hello, Terry! Thanks so much for dropping in to visit. I just love your daughter, Mads, and your grand-dog Josie (what a cutie). I’m sure you are a proud Momma. Your ribs sound SO wonderful. The apple juice, butter and honey baste sounds unbelievably good. I’m going to have to pass that tip along to TCP. Thanks for sharing!

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