Nothing takes me back to childhood more than when I sink my teeth into a tasty rib. When I was a kid, having dinner at the local BBQ joint was a real treat! From wearing that funny bib to taking a doggy bag of beef ribs home to the family pooch, eating messy ribs with my folks was always a good time.
Nowadays, I do a lot of backyard grilling and hope the fun cookouts instill similar positive memories in my son. Perfectly smoked ribs are a family favorite but also something I haven’t quite mastered – until I made them in the Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC), that is.
What is the Pit Barrel Cooker and how does it work?
The Pit Barrel Cooker is a 30-gallon upright drum cooker that uses charcoal, is easy-to-use, and delivers tender smoked meat in a shorter amount of time compared to traditional smokers.
Unlike a regular grill or smoker, where meat is placed on a hot grate and cooked on one side, the PBC uses a unique “hook n’ hang” method to cook food evenly on all sides. To hang ribs, for example, you put a hook through the thickest part of the rack and then suspend it in the PBC so the ribs hang down into the center of the barrel. The heat from the burning charcoal at the bottom flows up and around the barrel’s cylinder, rotating around the ribs. Juices from the hanging meat also fall into the charcoal, which travels with the smoke back up into the food for an incredible smoke flavor.
Smoking ribs for the first time may seem intimidating, but it’s easy to do when using the PBC. Not only is it extremely easy to get finger-licking good results with the PBC, but it is also an affordable outdoor cooker at $299. It’s the perfect smoker-grill combo for beginner smokers. When you get one, it is ready to use, right out of the box. Plus, once you get the hang of your PBC and master using it, you can set it up and then leave it alone while the meat cooks. The temperature stays constant throughout the barrel during cooking, so there’s no need to monitor the temp with a thermometer.
Are you ready to make some of the best ribs you’ve ever made?
Follow the Award-Winning Ribs Recipe from Pit Barrel Cooker below, and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed! It doesn’t matter whether you are a novice griller or a seasoned pitmaster. When you use a PBC to cook this recipe, you’ll get tender and delicious ribs, every time.
Pit Barrel Cooker’s Award-Winning Ribs Recipe
Yield: 1-8 racks pork ribs (yes, you can fit 8 racks of ribs in the PBC!)
Total time: 2 ½ - 4 hours (cooking times may vary)
- 1-8 whole slabs pork ribs, St. Louis-style spareribs or baby back
- PBC Beef & Game Pit Rub
- Your favorite barbecue sauce, to taste
- Adjust the air vent on your PBC according to your elevation: ¼ open if less than 2,000 feet, ½ open if between 2,000-5,000 feet, ¾ open if between 5,000-8,000 feet, or open completely if above 8,000 feet.
- Remove the coal basket from the bottom of the Pit Barrel and fill it completely level with charcoal briquets. Remove ¼ of the briquets (approximately 40 briquets) and place them in your chimney starter. Place coal basket with remaining ¾ briquets in the bottom of the Pit Barrel.
- Set the grill grate in the Pit Barrel. Place a piece of newspaper or starter cube on the grate and light it. If using paper, drizzle some cooking oil on it so it burns slower.
- Immediately place chimney starter full of briquets on top of the flame. Allow coals to burn for about 12 minutes. If you are over 2,000 feet above sea level, let burn for 20 minutes.
- Carefully remove the grate and pour the hot coals evenly over the unlit coals in the charcoal basket. Place lid on Pit Barrel.
Now, let’s get those ribs ready!
- Rinse each rack of ribs gently with cold water; pat dry with paper towels.
- Place ribs back side up on a cutting board (you will be able to see the bones). Trim the skirt (if present) and remove the membrane. To remove the skirt, use a sharp knife to trim it so it is even with the bones. Leaving the skirt on will increase cooking time. To remove the thin white membrane, use a butter knife to lift up the corner of it. Grab the membrane with a paper towel and carefully pull up, removing it from the ribs. Repeat for each rack of ribs.
- Rub Beef and Game Pit Rub liberally on both sides of all ribs.
- Place one stainless-steel meat hook into each rack of ribs. Hook it a couple of bones down into the center of the thicker end (often the end with the narrower width) of each rack until it’s secure.
- Hang the ribs on the rods in your PBC, leaving space between each slab, and then place the lid on the Pit Barrel.
- Cook St. Louis style ribs for approximately 3-4 hours and baby back ribs for 2-3 hours. The amount of time needed to cook the ribs may vary depending on your elevation.
PBC Pro Tip #1: Use two thermometers (one for the ribs and one for the inside of the Pit Barrel) until you are familiar with the PBC and how it works. The wireless Smoke 2-Channel Alarm thermometer from ThermoWorks pairs well with Pit Barrel cooking.
PBC Pro Tip #2: Check the ribs every hour until you have mastered using your Pit Barrel.
- If you prefer Memphis-style dry ribs (without sauce), skip this step: Remove ribs from the cooker, keeping all hooks in place, and slather each side with your favorite barbecue sauce. (Pit Barrel Cooker recommends using KC Masterpiece Classic.) Hang the ribs back in the Pit Barrel and cook an additional 30 minutes or so, allowing the barbecue sauce to caramelize.
- Remove ribs and verify they are done. The meat will begin to pull away from the bone. Minimum internal temperature should be 160 degrees.
- Slice racks into individual ribs and serve. Enjoy!
Editor’s Note: If you have any leftover ribs, pull the rib meat off the bones and mix the meat into baked mac n’ cheese. You won’t regret it!