‘Aussie Rib King’ and ‘The Smoke Ring King’ are a just a couple of nicknames this man has deservedly acquired since smashing the BBQ Low’n’Slow Pork Rib Category (so far) in this year’s nationally sanctioned BBQ Competitions.
Lukas Armstrong is from team Rollin Smoke BBQ and we invited him to give us his BBQ master-Jedi tips on recreating the best BBQ Pork Ribs at home.
We are told it can be done on any old BBQ (woo-hoo) but it’s got to be Charcoal fuel, all the way! Music to our ears…
So here it is people, straight form the #RibKing’s Smoker… The How To’s and Hot Tips on creating great Low’n’Slow BBQ Pork Ribs at your place!
Q: Lukas, when buying ribs, what should we ask for? How can you spot a good rib? And how many should we get?
A: Generally you can ask for a Spare Rib or Baby Back Ribs. (Pork) Myself I tend to use the Baby Backs a lot for comps. The biggest issue we have in Australia when it comes to pork ribs is most of that part of the pig is used for bacon so its cut very close to bone (we call these shiners, where you can see bone showing on top of your ribs) In most cases this isn’t perfect as you don’t get a lot of meat for you money.
Look for 1cm to 1.5cm of meat on top of the bones as a guide. In terms of how many to get? Depends how hungry you are…. ribs can be very addictive. Some people might only eat 2 or 3. But 10+ ribs isn’t a problem if you’re hungry.
(We hope he means individual ribs and not 10+ racks!)
Q: Prepping the Ribs – What’s a classic easy rub or sauce combo to use? How long should you leave it on?
A: The #1 rule when prepping your ribs is to remove the membrane on the back side of the rib first! Using a butter knife, just slid it under the membrane on one of the outer bones and use a piece of paper towel to grab it and pull it off. Don’t stress if it doesn’t come off in one go, so don’t be too worried, just make sure your get it all as it won’t break down when your cooking. It also won’t allow your rubs and marinades to penetrate the meat on the ribs.
I normally rub my ribs at least 2 hours before cooking and then wrap them in plastic wrap and leave them in the fridge until ready to cook.
When it comes to cooking ribs it’s a bit of a guessing game there isn’t really a set time you cook them for, generally it’s to do with the feel , you will know they are cooked when you can pick them up from one end and they bend nice and easy almost to the point where they bend in half.
When doing you ribs low and slow over charcoal or in a wood fire / smoker you don’t want to over smoke them so give them 2 or 3 hours unwrapped in the cooker then wrap them up in foil with a little liquid / sauce and butter, don’t be shy to use butter it helps keep your ribs moist plus adds another level of flavour and gives them a great shine.
Q: Prepping the BBQ – What type of BBQ can you use? What Charcoal works best? Do I need special woodchips to add smoky flavour?
A: You can cook ribs in just about any type of Charcoal BBQ and it really depends on how big the rack of ribs is. If you do find them too big for your BBQ don’t be scared to cut them in half. Normally if I’m just cooking for the family I use my UDS (ugly drum smoker) similar to your kettle BBQ just a little bit bigger.
When it comes to charcoal I mostly use the Firebrand Hardwood Lump charcoal mixed with just a few of the Firebrand classic briquettes and mix in a small amount of cherry wood for flavour. Or if I’m out of that, apple is also great with pork. But, you don’t need to add the fruit woods if you don’t have them. The Hardwood lump will give off enough smoke by itself to flavour your meats nicely.
I use my Firebrand chimney with 2 Firebrand fire lighters under it to get my charcoal going. In no time at all you will be ready to cook. Every BBQ is different so knowing exactly how much charcoal you need to use comes with a bit of trial and error but to be safe it’s always better to start with too much than not enough. So fill that Chimney right up!
Pile the charcoal up on one side of the BBQ and place your ribs on the frill on the opposite side of the BBQ for an indirect cooking method. Before you put in the ribs, check the temperature of the BBQ . If you are just starting out I would try and keep the temps a bit lower then what we would do with our competition ribs. Aim for around the 225F – 240F range (110C). When you are feeling more confident with your cook you can start to cook at higher temps around the 300F (150C) mark. Most kettle style BBQ’s have a temperature gauge in the lid. They aren’t exactly accurate but it’s a good guide. And if you find the BBQ gets too hot, then use your Firebrand chimney as a resting place for lit charcoal in case you need it later on.
Q: How long should you cook the ribs for? How about resting time?
A: The cook time on your ribs varies a lot from cooker to cooker and rib to rib. You can cook them in as little as 2 hours or as long as 6. Once my ribs are cooked to the point I’m happy with I wrap them with some butter and sauce and then cook till they have the nice feel – a lot of BBQ has to do with the feel of the meat this only comes from trial and error . Then I rest them as long as I can, I try for at least 1 hour but if you go longer that won’t matter
Q: Any other ‘secret tips’ along the way to help us regular Backyard BBQ’ers?
A: don’t over complicate things for yourself. Keep your rubs and sauce simple. You can get just about everything you need to cook a decent rib from your local supermarket, BBQ Supply store or order online from Firebrand. If you think your ribs will take 4 hours to cook , allow yourself 5 just in case , best to give yourself more time and have a better finished product then rush them and have a tough rib.
You can drool over more of Lukas’s BBQ creations on his Instagram account @rollinsmokebbq_lukas