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RIBS Mason's "Trifecta" Rib Technique
While technically not the correct use of the word "trifecta" the idea here is the combination of 3 cooking methods to achieve perfect fall apart ribs.
  • 3 hours of smoking
  • 30 minutes of pressure
  • 3 minutes under broiler (twice)
To follow this method you'll need a number of tools. While some of these tools are sort of optional, at a minimum you'll need a few of major items.
  • Smoker
  • Pressure Cooker
  • Broiler
I try to be as comprehensive as possible, so you'll find many details which are typical for cooking ribs. The idea of this method is to combine various techniques to get the best possible result with the least amount of work.

First of course, you'll need some sort of smoker. I don't have a smoker per se, but lots of people use a regular grill to smoke. In my case I use a (natural) gas grill. But you could use a charcoal grill. The important part is to be able to smoke ribs at around 200 for 3 hours. Controlling temperature is very important.

Next, you'll need a pressure cooker. You could smoke the ribs the entire time but it would take all day and the ribs would come out a bit dry. Some people use a pressure cooker for an hour and skip the smoking altogether, but what fun is that?

Lastly, it's handy to have a broiler. You can substitute for a broiler by completing this last step with a grill. When the weather is right, that is probably the way to go anyways. I've been using this technique during the winter so the broiler works pretty well. But I imagine that will change this summer.

We start with a couple of full racks of baby back ribs. At my local Cub they're 2.5 to 3 pounds per rack and are generally $7 to $10 each depending on sales.

These ribs come sealed in plastic, which is actually pretty handy. You can buy these racks on sale and stick them in the freezer. They should thaw in these bags without spilling pork juices all up in your fridge. What I do is cut open each end of the rack. Then I hold it over the sink and let most of the raw pork juices down the drain.

Once most of the pork juices have been drained I cut the plastic all the way down the side of the ribs and open it up to protect my counter.
You'll need to remove the membrane from the under side of the ribs. This takes a bit of practice but is generally pretty easy. For this step you'll need a piece of paper towel and probably a butter knife. Don't skip this step, if you cook the ribs with the membrane on the ribs will have a gross texture on the back.

First look for small pieces of membrane sticking up. If you can't find any then you'll need to slide the butter knife under the membrane to break a little bit loose. Once you have a loose piece of membrane take the paper towel and use it to grab the membrane. Peel the membrane up as much as possible. Don't worry if a little bit breaks off. Once you get some membrane up the rest will be easy, just keep grabbing it with the paper towel. The peeled up membrane will be gross and should be disposed of.
Next take some scissors and trip off any loose fat and connective tissue. Don't worry too much about it but pieces hanging off the ribs will just get ugly as time goes on.

The photo on the left shows what the back of the ribs should look like once the membrane has been peeled off.

For my smoking technique I need to cut the racks in half. Your smoking setup might be large enough for a full rack, but you'll still need to cut them in half in order to fit the pieces into the pressure cooker. Take a sharp knife and cut along one of the bones in the middle of the rack. Sometimes I'll bend the rack in half to find the middle point. Every rack is a little different so do your best and don't worry about a little variance.
Now it's time to season the ribs. For nearly all the meat I cook I use freshly ground pink himalayan salt and a peppercorn blend. You could use regular salt and pepper. I apply the salt and pepper to both sides.

Next I cover the ribs in yellow mustard. A friend of mine told me that it helps the ribs absorb the smoke. I've read that it helps get the rub to stick. I don't use a rub so maybe this is a waste of time. For now though I'm sticking with it, gotta do some more research. I apply the mustard to both sides of the ribs.
Another nice thing about cutting the racks in half is that you can fit two full racks of baby back ribs into a one gallon freezer bag. This makes it easy to handle on the way to the smoker without making a mess.

Once you've got the ribs in the bag it's time to clean up. Generally speaking you should always dedicate one of your counter surfaces to raw meat. Raw meat contains foodborne pathogens. By dedicating a counter surface to raw meat it will prevent cross-contamination with other food items and greatly simplify cleanup.

Now that your ribs are bagged up and ready to go it's time to clean your raw meat counter.
I don't have a smoker but I have access to a number of (natural) gas grills. In order to smoke ribs, I rig up some indirect heat. The ribs go on the left side and the heat is on the right side.

On upper rack (cold side) I arrange the 4 half racks of ribs. On the lower rack (hot side) I put an old pan filled with water. The water dampens the heat, and (I believe) provides moisture inside the grill. I remove the lower rack from the cold side so I can place wood chips on the briquettes on the hot side. I put the wood chips in a foil bowl so that I can move them around and to prevent them from catching fire.

It's worth mentioning that whatever pan you use in the grill will likely be damaged, so don't use anything fancy.
Once the wood chips heat up they should start smoking and you'll see that smoke pour out of the grill.
Keep an eye on the grill and when the smoke stops you'll want to check the wood chips. It's possible that you'll need to add more, it's also possible that you need to adjust the position of the chips. You want them to smoke, but not burn.

While you're checking the chips it's a good idea to top off the water. You don't want to run out or you'll lose the heat dampening effect and moisture.
Each time that you're checking the wood chips and water you should rotate the half racks. That rotation is important to avoid over exposing the meat to a hot spot. This is especially important when the heat is coming from one side.

If you have an infrared thermometer, it's a good idea to check the temperature on the cold side, it should be around 200.

I usually add wood chips, water, and check the temperature about once an hour. If the smoke stops more often then I check it more often. But it's generally a good idea to keep the grill closed. Resist the temptation if you can.
I smoke the ribs for about 3 hours and then take them to the kitchen.
Put the metal rack in the bottom of the pressure cooker to keep the ribs out of the liquid.

Dump a beer over the ribs as evenly as possible, no rib left behind.
Cook the ribs for 30 minutes on high pressure. Once the 30 minutes is up pre-heat your broiler.

Allow the pressure to vent naturally for 10 minutes, or if you're impatient you can cover the vent with a towel and let it rip. Your place will get a beer and ribs smell, which is not unpleasant.

At this point the internal temperature of the ribs should be around 200.
Now it's time to sauce the ribs. First place the ribs in a roasting pan, preferably with a rack. Be careful pulling the ribs out of the pressure cooker, they'll likely fall apart.

I use a combination of Sriracha and Devil's Spit BBQ Sauce. Apply the Sriracha and use a brush to evenly coat the ribs. Next apply the BBQ Sauce and use the brush to spread it around the ribs.

Once the ribs are coated put them under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes. Sauce them a second time and then put them back under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes. They'll probably get a little bit of char if you go 3 minutes under the broiler.
Now the ribs are done. If you did everything right these ribs should be amazing.
People say you should let the meat settle, but good luck with that, they're hard to resist.
danmason@danmason.net