My summer project is to learn how to smoke meats, poultry and seafood on a charcoal and wood smoker. So far, I've successfully smoked spatchcocked chicken, baby back ribs, Ahi tuna and salmon. Pork butt and brisket are up next! I've had so much fun experimenting with my Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker, and it truly is a smoker that you can set and forget because it maintains its temperature extremely well, even during light rain.
When I was researching smokers, I turned to The Chopping Block's resident smoking expert Executive Chef Lisa Counts who outlines different types of smokers and wood choices in this post.
Smoking ribs is not a quick process, so plan on smoking them for about six hours, not including resting time. There's also the time required to let the rub set into the meat.
Then you smoke the ribs for four hours before coating in sauce and wrapping in foil. Back on the smoker they go for another hour.
Then you take them out of the foil, add more sauce, and they go back on the smoker for another hour before resting. What results is some fall off the bone tender, delicious smoky meat.
There's still a lot for me to learn and test such as spritzing the ribs with a mixture of apple juice and apple cider vinegar, using honey as a finisher, even using squeeze Parkay. I was mortified when I saw this on many YouTube videos from pitmasters and even my barbecue cookbook, but my friend who competes in barbecue competitions swears by it. I didn't even know they still made that stuff!
While smoking ribs is an all-day affair, sometimes you have a craving for barbecued ribs, and you just don't have the time to wait. That's where the Instant Pot comes in.
Before I got my smoker, my go-to rib recipe was ribs cooked in the Instant Pot then finished on the grill. Before you roll your eyes at me, hear me out. The Instant Pot is the perfect vehicle to cook tender, fall off the bone meat in a short amount of time. Because you pressure cook the ribs, they are super tender, but they do need another quick cook either in the oven or on the grill to finish them off and give them a nice crust.
First, you start off with a rub just as if you were going to smoke them.
Create a "rack" using aluminum foil at the bottom of the Instant Pot to keep them out of the cooking liquid and just roll them up in a circle. One rack of baby back ribs fits easily in a 6-quart Instant Pot, and you can also do two racks at the same time though I've never needed to cook that many ribs at once. Just put another rack on the inside of the outer one.
You can also use spare ribs if you like, and you'll place them in the Instant Pot in the same way, but you'll need to cook them for a longer period of time.
The cooking liquid is a mixture of water, apple cider vinegar and liquid smoke, which is important to add to the smokiness of the ribs so don't skip it.
Once the ribs come out of the Instant Pot, you may be wary because they will be lacking in color.
But don't worry! This is where your trusty favorite homemade or store-bought barbecue sauce comes into play. Slather it on the ribs and either finish under the broiler of your oven or on the grill for a few minutes. This will crisp up the outside of the ribs and thicken the sauce a bit.
I've done it both ways, and I prefer using the grill. If you want to add to the smokiness, you can have some wood chips on the gas grill in a disposable pie pan. Just sear the ribs on the hot grill and then transfer them to a sheet tray.
These ribs are delicious, tender, juicy and finger licking good. I will have to do a taste test of smoked ribs versus Instant Pot ribs at the same time to really put them to the test, but for ribs done in less than ? hours, these Instant Pot ribs can't be beat.
Need some side dish ideas for these ribs? Try this perfectly cooked pasta in the Instant Pot, and I would highly recommend this Salted Caramel Cheesecake which is also made in the Instant Pot for dessert, though you'll want to make it the day before you want to serve it.
Make your own rub and sauce for these ribs with these recipes from The Chopping Block, or swap with your store-bought favorites for an even easier experience!
Instant Pot Ribs
For the rub:
Yield: about 1 cup
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoky paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon onion flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
Note: If you like heat, add 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper to the mix.
For the barbecue sauce:
Yield: 2 cups
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 1 onion, small dice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 5 tablespoons molasses
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
For the ribs:
- 1 rack baby back ribs or spare ribs about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds
- 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
- 1/2 cup homemade barbecue sauce or your favorite store-bought sauce
1. Remove the thin, shiny membrane on the back of the ribs. To do this, flip the ribs over, meat-side down. Wedge a butter knife between the membrane and the ribs to loosen it. Grip the membrane and pull it away from the ribs then discard. You can use a paper towel to give you a better grip on the membrane if necessary.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the rub ingredients. Rub the rub all over the ribs, generously coating all of the sides. Let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.
3. Make a long tube of aluminum foil (or use a trivet if you have one) to prop up the ribs and place in the bottom of a 6-quart or larger Instant Pot. Pour in the water, apple cider vinegar, and liquid smoke. Place the ribs inside the pot, standing them on the foil on their side and wrapping the rack around the inside of the pot like a circle.
4. Cover and seal the Instant Pot. For baby back ribs: Cook on high pressure for 23 minutes (if you are making multiple racks, increase to 25 minutes). Allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes, then vent to release the remaining pressure. For spare ribs: Cook on high for 35 minutes. Allow the pressure to naturally release completely (about 15 minutes). You will know it is released when the pin drops.
5. While the ribs are in the Instant Pot, make the BBQ sauce.
- Heat a saucepan over medium heat, and add the olive oil. Sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder and cayenne pepper, and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Combine the ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, molasses, Tabasco, black pepper and liquid smoke. Whisk in the ketchup mixture and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until flavors meld and sauce has thickened, about 25 minutes.
- Allow the sauce to cool a bit before using.
6. Transfer the cooked ribs to a pan, slather with sauce and either broil in the oven on high for 2-4 minutes or on your grill for the same amount of time. Be sure to keep an eye on them so that the ribs don't burn. You want to give them a little bit of crust and thicken up the sauce.
If you want to learn how to make weeknight ribs in your oven, which is also a totally acceptable solution when you don't have six hours to smoke, join us for our virtual Weeknight BBQ Ribs class on Friday, August 20 at 6pm CST. You'll cook along with our chef and enjoy a delicious dinner after class of:
- Weeknight BBQ Ribs
- Skillet Mac-n-Cheese
- Creamy Cabbage Slaw
If using your Instant Pot more intrigues you, you can't miss our virtual Intro to the Instant Pot class this Saturday, July 14 at 10am CST. Instant Pot cookbook author Emily Paster will demystify the multi-cooker so that you feel comfortable using it in many different ways in your kitchen. We'll focus on how pressure cooking works, what makes an Instant Pot different from other pressure cookers, and how the Instant Pot can make cooking easier and more convenient. Plus, you'll learn how to make three dishes in the Instant Pot:
- Cod with Tomatoes, Olives and Capers
- Rice with Vermicelli
- Hard-boiled Eggs
These dishes are full of techniques that you can use in many other recipes to broaden your use of your Instant Pot!
Using your Instant Pot is this week's challenge for our private Facebook group. Make a dish in yours and share it in the group to inspire other home cooks.