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Spareribs - Sugarless Texas Sprinkle

Originally posted: 07/01/2000
Last updated: 09/26/2014

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Summary

  • Buy 4 slabs of whole spareribs and trim to St. Louis style.
  • Prepare the rub and apply to the ribs right before they go into the cooker.
  • Cook at 225-250°F for 2 hours and baste with apple juice.
  • Cook for another 2 hours, then begin checking for tenderness using the "tear test".
  • Continue cooking until tender, then apply barbecue sauce just before serving.
Pork spareribs rubbed and ready for the Weber Bullet
Pork spareribs rubbed and ready for the Weber Bullet
 

Pork spareribs with coleslaw and baked beans
 

Spareribs are preferred by many people because of their meatiness and great pork flavor. They can be barbecued whole and untrimmed, or trimmed St. Louis style to resemble pork loin back ribs.

For these ribs, I trimmed them St. Louis style and used the "Sugarless Texas Sprinkle Barbecue Rub" from Paul Kirk's Championship Barbecue Sauces, a wonderful book filled with tons of information and recipes for sauces, mops, marinades, and rubs.

Here are some pictures I took on May 20, 2007 when I prepared 4 slabs of spareribs using this rub.

As always...click on any of the pictures to view a larger image.


Select And Prep The Spareribs

Spareribs in Cryovac
Photo 1
Spareribs trimmed St. Louis style
Photo 2
     

Don't Boil SpareribsPurchase 4 slabs of whole spareribs averaging 3-1/2 to 4 pounds per slab. Trim them into St. Louis style spareribs yourself or have your butcher do it for you.

You'll find information about selecting ribs in the Pork Rib Selection article. Detailed instructions, photos, and a video on trimming spareribs St. Louis style are found in the Pork Sparerib Preparation article.

I purchased 4 slabs of whole spareribs in Cryovac packaging, 2 slabs per package, from a wholesale foodservice store. The packages weighed 7.10 pounds and 7.65 pounds. Each slab weighed about 2-1/2 pounds after trimming St. Louis style, as shown in this photo. Part of the trimming process included removing the membrane from the back of each slab.

Prepare And Apply The Rub

Rub applied to spareribs
Photo 3
       

Prepare a batch of Sugarless Texas Sprinkle Barbecue Rub. This will produce enough rub for 4 slabs of ribs with a lot left over.

If you're sensitive to heat, you may want to cut down on the cayenne.

Sugarless Texas Sprinkle Barbecue Rub
1/3 cup table salt
1/4 cup paprika
3 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic powder
1 Tablespoon cayenne
Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Makes about 1 cup.

Apply a heavy sprinkling of rub to both sides of the ribs just before putting them into the cooker, as shown in Photo 3.

Select The Smoke Wood

Apple and cherry smoke wood chunks
Photo 4
       

Use 4 chunks of apple smoke wood. Each chunk should be small, for example 3" x 2" x 2" or similar. Cherry, oak, or another mild fruit wood can be used if apple is not available.

There is no need to soak the wood or remove the bark before use.

I used 3 chunks of apple and 1 chunk of cherry, as shown in Photo 4.

Fire-Up The WSM

Fire-up the cooker using the Minion Method. Fill the charcoal chamber 3/4 full with unlit Kingsford charcoal briquettes, then place 20-40 lit coals on top of the unlit ones. Add the smoke wood on top of the lit coals.

Put the water pan in the cooker and fill it with cold tap water to help with temperature control.

Barbecue The Ribs

Spareribs go into the Weber Bullet
Photo 5
Spareribs halfway through cooking
Photo 6
     

Assemble the cooker and put 2 slabs bone-side down on each cooking grate, as shown in Photo 5. Set the 3 bottom vents to 100% open. Open the top vent fully and leave it that way throughout the entire cook.

When the cooker reaches about 225°F, set the 3 bottom vents to 25% open so the cooker settles in at 225-250°F measured at the lid. Adjust the 3 bottom vents as necessary to maintain this temperature range throughout the cooking session.

Cook for 2 hours, then baste the meat side with apple juice using a spray bottle.

Cook for another 2 hours, baste again with apple juice, then begin to check for tenderness by using the "tear test". Take hold of two adjacent bones toward the middle of the slab and give them a pull. If the meat offers a bit of resistance but then tears easily, you know the ribs are done just right.

If the ribs don't pass the test at 4 hours—and they probably won't—baste again with apple juice and cook for another 30 minutes, then test again. Repeat until the ribs are tender. Total cooking time for St. Louis style spareribs should be 4-6 hours, depending on the size of the ribs, number of slabs cooked, cooker temperature, and other variables. Let the "tear test" be your guide.

Note that some slabs may cook faster than others. If this happens, remove the done ribs from the cooker, wrap in aluminum foil, and place them in an empty cooler wrapped in towels to keep warm until the others are done.

There should be no need to add water to the pan during the cooking session.

Once all the slabs are tender, brush the meat side with your favorite barbecue sauce and cook 5 minutes, then sauce again and cook another 5 minutes.

Here's how the cooker temperatures and vent settings went during my cook:

Time Lid Temp Vent 1 % Vent 2 % Vent 3 %
11:45am - 100 100 100
12:00pm 208 100 100 100
12:20pm 255 25 25 25
12:30pm 248 25 25 25
1:00pm 248 25 25 25
1:30pm 246 25 25 25
2:00pm (b) 239 25 25 25
2:30pm 235 50 50 50
2:45pm 245 50 50 50
3:15pm 273 25 25 25
3:30pm 262 10 10 10
3:45pm (b) 256 10 10 10
4:00pm 247 10 10 10
4:15pm 240 10 10 10

(b) basted with apple juice

Note that the vent percentages represent the way I set the vents at the time indicated.

Good Eatin'!

Finished slabs of spareribs
Photo 7
Close-up of sparerib bones
Photo 8
Spareribs with cole slaw and baked beans
Photo 9
   

Once the ribs pass the "tear test" and have been sauced, remove them from the cooker and enjoy immediately with your favorite side dishes.

Photo 7 shows the finished ribs as they looked coming right out of the Weber Bullet. Photo 8 shows a close-up view of how the meat pulled down along the bones. Photo 9 shows the ribs served with coleslaw and baked beans.

More Pork Rib Links On TVWB

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