July 4th: Baby Back Ribs & Tri-Tip


We celebrated this past 4th of July with family, good friends, and lots of smoke.  We fired up our Mini WSM and took a swing at some baby back ribs.  We had never tried them before, so we hedged our bet with our favorite barbecue meat of all, tai-tip, and some skirt steak.

One of the pitfalls of researching any food is ending up with recipe overload.  Starting this endeavor there were so many rib and rub recipes online and in print it was hard to choose which to start with!  We narrowed our list of choices by looking at the recipes available from the book sources we had on hand.  We settled on the Apple City Championship Ribs from Steven Raichlen’s book BBQ USA.  We couldn’t resist taking some cues from Meathead’s Memphis Dust recipe on Amazing Ribs, however.

We started by marinating the ribs with Martinelli’s Apple Cider (non sparkling).  We double bagged it and let it sit in the refrigerator for about 11 hours.

After drying the ribs off we coated them with a layer of salt first, taking a cue from Amazing Ribs, and then the rub.  The rub didn’t have any additional salt except for celery salt.  The rub was coated on a moderate amount for the first try.  The ribs then sat in the refrigerator overnight.


We couldn’t help but deviate from the sauce recipe in the book.  Our grandfather is a big fan of the Philthy Phil’s sauce made by MO’s Smokehouse BBQ in San Luis Obispo, CA, so a mustard sauce seemed appropriate.   We would do half the ribs no-sauce and the other half sauced.

We found this recipe, a copy of Salt Lick’s Spicy Recipe Bar-B-Que sauce, posted by user h00kemh0rns on the Broil King Keg Forum.  It came out well and we’re going to try it on lots of other meats in the future.  We’re still going to buy a jug of Philthy Phil’s next time we’re in SLO, though (Yes, it’s that good).


The ribs were cut in half and placed on a Weber rib rack.  At 13.2″x8″ the stand fit in our smoker with plenty of space.


We sprayed the ribs with apple cider every 30 minutes.  For this cook we used cherry wood chunks on top of charcoal.  As you can see from the photos, we’d added a second grate and another set of vents to our smoker before this cook, but we’ll post on that later.

We kept the temperature in the smoker between 225 and 250, which held steady for a couple of hours.  We’re still working on the right amount of coals to use vs. unlit charcoal when we start, and will hopefully not need to replenish on the next cook.  Next time, if we do need to add more, we’ll first fire the charcoal up in the chimney before adding.

At 3 hours we sauced one of the half-racks of ribs.  We let the ribs stay on for 30 minutes more, then pulled them.

The result: the ribs were overdone.  They had a crust more than they had a bark.  We needed to pull them earlier and will do so next time.  What did go right was the smoke ring and flavor.  Aside from the crust everyone seemed to like the ribs.

Thankfully we had tri-tip, which was gone in no time.



MO’s Smokehouse BBQ

Amazing Ribs


Broil King Keg Forum


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