Smoked Mustard Crusted Spare Ribs

We’re in the dead of summer and with July 4th right around the corner, barbecue should be on many a mind. Countless different images might come to mind when you hear “barbecue”–burgers, wings, pulled pork, etc–but if you had to pick any single one dish to represent this delicious style of cooking, what would it be? For me, it would have to be a smoked rack of ribs.

I used to be of the saucy ribs camp, but given everything I’ve heard about dry rubbed ribs, I thought it was time to give this a fair shot. I could never fathom it before–I mean after all, its just meat! Wouldn’t it be dry (“dry rub”–sounds dry!)? Wouldn’t it be bland? And so on. Ribs simply needed sauce.

Well now that I’ve finally tried dry rub, this is definitely the way to go. I love a good sauce, but keep it off of my ribs! You start with a light coating of mustard followed by a generous coating of sugar and spice (and everything nice) and then you smoke these guys oh so slowly for several hours. This is just hot enough to gently, slowly melt the fat which bastes the meat as the outer spice rub transforms into this magnificent, crispy, explosively flavorful crust that would simply become soggy and muted in the presence of a wet sauce. If you’ve never tried ribs this way, give it a shot this summer–you’re in for a real treat.

  • 2 slabs of spare ribs (mine were ~4.5 lbs each). Baby back works, too!
  • yellow mustard (probably under 1/4 cup–enough to lightly coat)
  • Spice rub
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 3 tb paprika
    • 1 tb ground mustard
    • 1 tb onion powder
    • 1 tb garlic powder
    • 1 tb celery salt
    • 1 tb chili powder
    • 1 tb kosher salt
    • 1 tb black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 tsp ground thyme
    • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

Begin by soaking the wood you intend to smoke with in some water. You have many choices here–I went with mesquite because I love the flavor, but many would argue for a milder flavored wood, such as apple. If you’re not sure where you stand, experiment or mix a few!

Then, as with many things barbecue, there’s controversy over the small stuff (dry rub vs mop vs sauce? spareribs vs baby back? etc): to remove or not to remove the membrane (its a plasticky-feeling layer on the inside of the ribs)? One side says that if you cook the ribs right, the membrane takes care of itself and is a non-issue when you go to eat the ribs. The other side says that you’re impeding smoke penetration with the membrane and not taking on as much flavor as you possibly could. I really don’t have a damn clue, but removing its easy enough, so I removed it. If you want to, its really easy: simply separate it from the meat of ribs in a small corner on the rack, grip it with pliers (or a papertowel), and then just yank it off–it ought to peel right off in pretty much one piece. Discard this.

Warm your smoker up to somewhere between 215 and 225°F. While you wait, lightly coat the ribs with yellow mustard and rub it all over. Then, mix the sugar and spices in a bowl and coat the ribs with it. It might seem like a lot, but its really not. It ought to stick due to the mustard, but be sure to rub it on there–there’s a reason its called a rub. Some would say you should let the ribs sit for a few hours in the presence of the spices. I didn’t bother.

And now, the big thing: time! Lay the ribs on the smoker (bone-side up) and note the time. In roughly 5-6 hours, they ought to be done. Ensure the ribs are not on direct heat and that you maintain a low, steady temperature throughout this process. The smoke needs time to work its magic. Don’t spoil the surprise by peaking inside–all you gain is an extended cooking time for all the heat you let out! Just trust the meat and the smoke. Only check in later when you think the meat might be done to verify that its fall-apart tender (try to lift the rack–the center should give under the weight and begin to fall apart) and has reached a safe internal temperature (around 170°F).

When the ribs are done, get them off of the heat and give them about 10 minutes to rest. Once time is up and you can’t hold back any more, cut off a portion, grab a handful of napkins, and get to it.

I served these with sweet potato fries and a grilled peach (a cold beer is also an essential side, lol).

Enjoy!

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26 Responses to “Smoked Mustard Crusted Spare Ribs”

  1. Helen Says:

    I too am a total convert to dried ribs! I always used to get the saucy ones but now I agree dry is the way to go – they looks so mouthwatering!

  2. noble pig Says:

    I have to agree dry rubbed is my favorite. I like sauce on the side to dip into. These look perfect.

  3. Peter Says:

    Mike, that’s a good rub and I remove the membrane too. I like treating my ribs to a dry rub and I brush a good BBQ sauce right at the end…why not both?

  4. Sandie Says:

    Mike, these ribs look fantastic! It’s lunchtime here and I’m wishing I had a plateful of these in front of me to dive into right now!

    As a resident of (one of) the BBQ capital(s) of the U.S. (St. Louis, Memphis and Dallas rank right up there with Kansas City as far as delicious BBQ), I’ve tried many different styles of ribs and enjoy them all. That said, dry rubs are my favorite way to cook them, but I agree with Peter on this one—dry rub with a brush of good sauce right at the end and mmm… definitely the best of both worlds!

  5. Alexis Says:

    Damn Mike, that looks sooooo good. Can’t wait to visit you guys this weekend 😀

  6. Raquel Says:

    Oh, I am so with you on this one. Ribs are my fave and the dry rub is the way to go! Those ribs look spectacular!

  7. Kevin Says:

    That spice rub sounds tasty. I like the cardamom in it.

  8. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) Says:

    Those photos look so good that I almost wish I ate ribs…. happy July 4 weekend!

  9. dp Says:

    I’ve always been a dry rub kind of person myself. Your ribs look awesome!

  10. grace Says:

    i’m a saucy gal, but the ingredients in that rub make it sound mighty enticing. you may convert me yet (but i’ll always be saucy). :)

  11. pam Says:

    I’m a dry rub rib person too! And these look mighty fine!

  12. Helene Says:

    Can we all come for dinner on the 4th? I can bring dessert.

  13. Laurie Constantino Says:

    Yep, count me as another vote for dry rub and removing the membrane. Your spice mix looks exactly right – although the use of cardamom for ribs is new to me.

  14. amanda Says:

    Love dry rubs. ribs look great~

  15. kate Says:

    i dont know why but i think that somehow making the perfect stakes or ribs is a guy thing ! Men know just how exactly they like their beef !
    And this my dear friend, is just an example of that. I would never be able to prepare just a gorgeous piece of bbq-ed meat. Hats off !
    And i’m bookmarking this for the next time i’m up against my hubby for a bbq session :p

  16. Nate Says:

    Great post and nice ribs! What kind of smoker do you use? I use a Weber Smokey Mountain.

    I’m with you on the no sauce and removing the membranes. Mesquite can be too bitter for ribs – apple is good, or any other stone fruit wood.

  17. Ivy Says:

    Your dry rub sounds great. Have a nice time.

  18. the caked crusader Says:

    These look good – you had me at “mustard”!
    I always find sticky, saucy ribs off putting to eat – these look perfect!

  19. Mustard Crusted « FP Daily Says:

    […] Tags aww nuts! baked blogger-love breakin’ the fast BURGERS! cake cheesy cherry chocolate chocolate-love cookies! delicious dessert eat your vegetables eco-eating eggy fishy food gods fruity gettin’ hot in here gotta pea happy meat herbacious how-to imbibe meaty New York Times pasta photogin’ pretty things salad savory seafood sexy sexy-nutritious shopping with care shroomin’ soup soup soup! spicy strawberries summa’ sweet tasty verdant whole grains are so hot right now Mustard Crusted July 3, 2008, 6:00 am Filed under: Mike’s Table | Tags: 4th of July, happy meat, ribs, smoked maked everything better, U S of A Okay, we’re one day away from the 4th: It’s time to get serious.  Let’s start off the recipes with Mike’s Table’s smoked mustard crusted spare ribs. […]

  20. katie Says:

    We finally got the smoker out the other night…
    If I can find the ribs this is next. I’m more of a smoked/rub woman than all the sauce. Why bother smoking if you’re going to mask it with sauce? Put sauce on the baked ones in winter…
    How about some smoked pasta with these? Hmmmm?

  21. kittie Says:

    Mmmm – I really like the sound of these!

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  24. Mark Walters Says:

    Can’t wait to try this mouthwatering recipe this coming Sunday. Thank you so much for posting. I’ll tell you if it worked!

  25. Tamara Says:

    Yummy! I grew up with saucy ribs, because like you, my father could not fathom them without the sauce!

    But I think I may convert him yet!

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