Le Chef's Kitchen

I cook. I eat. I tell you all about it.

Smoked Pork Rib Dinner

with 2 comments

Le Chef has been busy.  Busy traveling, busy sailing, and busy eating food that for the most part doesn’t belong on this blog.  So now, after a solid month of not posting anything, I am returning to post a meal that I cooked for my family at the Cape this summer.  This is not a quick meal, by any means.  It involves a homemade smoker and about 8 hours of cooking time.  But the results are worth the wait, and I will show you how to make a $50 smoker that works as well as the $300 model from Home Depot.

My smoker is made from a galvanized steel trashcan.  Yes, a trashcan.  I first made one of these a few years ago in order to make my own bacon, and it worked wonderfully.

In order to make your own trashcan smoker, you will need:

  • 1 galvanized steel trashcan
  • Four bolts, 4 inches long, with matching nuts (4) and washers (8)
  • 1 electric hotplate
  • 1 round grill grate (I used the one from our Weber grill)
  • 1 metal pan for wood chips (called a “smoking box”…I used a 6×10 aluminum cake pan)

A smoker is a very simple apparatus.  A heating element in the bottom of the smoker ignites wet woodchips so that they produce smoke.  Meat sits on a grate inside the smoker, and a lid contains the smoke, which flavors the meat.  The internal temperature of the smoker can be regulated by cracking the lid of the smoker to allow more heat to escape.  Simple.

Here is a picture of a trashcan smoker.  My brother made this one, but it is very similar to mine.  The swinging door at the base of the smoker is an optional feature.  I simply cut a hole in the side that was large enough to run the cord for the hotplate out, but Mike added this door to make reloading the smoker with wood chips easier.  You will also note that there are two sets of bolts on this smoker; this is because Mike got fancy again and added a second smoking rack so it could handle more meat.  This is a good idea if you have different types of meat that need to cook at different temperatures, but be careful cooking on the lower rack.  It will get much more intense heat from the wood chips than the top rack.

The basic steps are as follows:

  1. Test fit your grill grate in your smoker to determine where it wants to sit, depth-wise, in the smoker.  You should leave at least 6 inches between the grate and the top of the trash can to accommodate your meat.
  2. Mark that level, and drill holes every 90 degrees (4 holes for those of you not good at math…note the bolts on the picture above) around the trashcan.  Insert the bolts, with a washer on either side of the can, and the nut on the inside of the can, and tighten.  These 4 bolts will hold the grill grate in place.
  3. Cut a hole at the base of the trashcan (I used the same drill, and drilled a few holes next to each other and then used tin snips to cut a small square out) big enough to accommodate the plug for the hotplate.  Place the hot plate at the bottom of the trashcan and feed the cord out of the hole you made.  Place your smoking box (or tin plate) on top of the hotplate.  Fill with wet woodchips and plug in your hotplate.
  4. You have a trashcan smoker.

If you are going to be using your smoker with any frequency you will want to spend $10 on an oven thermometer so that you can monitor the temperature at which your meat is cooking.  It’s worth it, trust me.

Basic Smoking Instructions:

There are many types of wood that you can use for smoking.  The most common are hickory, mesquite, apple and cherry.  You can usually find hardwood chips at your local hardware store.  I have been using apple, and I really like the flavor it gives.  You will want to soak your woodchips in water for at least 30 minutes before using them.  This is so that they will “smoke” and not “catch on fire”.  You want a slow smolder, not a flame.

The next step is to select your meat.  I usually smoke ribs, but you can smoke just about anything.  Smoked chicken or duck breast, any type of beef (typically brisket or tri-tip), pork loins, fish…almost anything can be enhanced by adding a touch of smoke.

For this recipe I smoked 3 racks of baby back ribs using a dry rub.  The rub is subject to change based on what I have lying around, but the basic recipe is:

  • 1 part salt
  • 1 part black pepper
  • 1 part paprika (usually hot Hungarian)
  • 1 part chili powder

Prep the ribs by removing the tough membrane on the underside of the ribs.  It can be tricky to remove sometimes, but once you get under there it should come off in one piece.

Once the membrane is removed, apply the dry rub to the ribs.

Once the ribs are nicely rubbed down, they will go into the smoker for about 4 hours, fatty side up.  You will want to keep the temperature in the smoker below 225 to avoid overcooking the ribs.  Around 200 is ideal, since we are going to finish cooking the ribs in the oven to make them super tender.

Smoking is a slow process.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Have a beer, take your time, and enjoy being outside, cooking meats, and smelling the delicious aroma of smoked ribs.  You don’t have to sit and monitor it all the time, but keep an eye on the amount of chips in the smoking box, and replenish them as need be.  If the smoker is getting too hot you can either turn the burner down a bit or open the lid.  Opening the lid a crack will let out some heat and smoke.  Empty any ashes that build up in your smoking box to keep the chips burning.  After about 4 hours the meat will have taken on all the smoke flavor it can handle, and you’re ready to move to the oven.

Preheat your oven to 225 degrees, and have a baking dish large enough to hold the ribs ready.  Transfer the ribs to the baking dish and stand them up on their sides.  Fill the bottom of the baking dish with 1 inch of water, and add about 1/2 cup of vinegar.  Tent aluminum foil over the top of the ribs and bake for 2-3 hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.

Check the water level every hour or so, and add more water as it evaporates.  The water and vinegar mixture will steam the ribs and you will wind up with super tender, fall-off-the-bone deliciousness.

Serve with your favorite BBQ sides, and enjoy!

Written by Drew

August 18th, 2010 at 11:14 am

Posted in Dinner

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses to 'Smoked Pork Rib Dinner'

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  1. Impressive and comprehensive. We fanned on removing the membrane last week, but still pulled off decent results. Next time we’re going trash-can smoker all the way.


    1 Sep 10 at 10:24 am

  2. [...] pork shoulders is a lot like cooking pork ribs:  low and slow is the way to go.  The general rule of thumb is to cook it at 325 degrees for 1 [...]

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