Episode 101: Smoking 101

Smoked Baby Back Ribs with Prickly Pear Barbecue Sauce

Smoked Baby Back Ribs with Prickly Pear Barbecue Sauce

Smoked baby back ribs seasoned with an easy 5-4-3-2-1 rub.

Baby backs are ribs that are incredibly well-marbled. They’re intrinsically tender, relatively quick to cook, and if you’re new to the game of smoking this is the rib you want to do because it almost always comes out tender. It’s very hard to overcook.

Baby back ribs are served with a prickly pear barbecue sauce. Prickly pears are also known as cactus pears. Prickly pear adds a sweet flavor to the barbecue sauce, that almost tastes like watermelon. If you don’t have prickly pear, you can substitute with diced watermelon.


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Smoked Baby Back Ribs with Prickly Pear Barbecue Sauce

Recipe Notes

  • Yield: Serves 6 to 8
  • Method: Hot smoking
  • Equipment: Pit Barrel Cooker; pecan chips


  • 4 racks of baby back ribs (8 to 10 pounds)

For the rub:

  • 5 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard

Recipe Steps

Step 1: Wash the ribs and blot dry. Remove the papery skin on the back of each rack of ribs. (Pull it off in a sheet with your fingers, using the corner of a dishtowel to gain a secure grip.)

Step 2: Make the rub: Place the ingredients in a bowl and mix, breaking up any lumps with the sugar with your fingers. Rub the mixture into the ribs on both sides.

Step 3: Set up your smoker following the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 225 to 250 degrees. Add the wood as specified by the manufacturer.

Step 4: Cook the ribs until very tender and the meat has shrunk back from the ends of the bones, 4 to 5 hours. Replenish the charcoal and wood as necessary. Starting after 1 hour and every hour thereafter, spray the ribs with apple cider.

Step 5: The last 30 minutes, brush the ribs on both sides with the barbecue sauce. If you have a grill handy, direct grill the ribs to sizzle the sauce into the meat.

Step 6: Serve the ribs with the remaining barbecue sauce on the side.

Recipe Tips

Use a rib rack to fit more ribs on your grill or smoker.

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Steven Raichlen, a national barbecue treasure and author of The Barbecue! Bible, How to Grill, and other books in the …

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