One thing is certain about ribs and pork: If you overcook them, they do become dry and tough. There is something very important to learn with the “low and slow” cooking method employed here. Food is ready when it’s ready. Not to be evasive, but for the most part, you cannot judge simply by cooking time. The real measure that is meaningful is internal temperature. Typically, you need to cook ribs until they reach an internal temperature of somewhere around 185 F (85 C).
Get a Good Thermometer
So what does this mean? First of all, many people swear by their thermometers, and many favor the Bradley Digital Thermometer . Our thermometer only has one probe. So you’d measure the cabinet or the food at the same time.
The Bradley Digital Smoker Thermometer is the perfect add-on to any of our Bradley Smokers, and takes the guesswork out of roasting and smoking, getting it perfect every time. The compact battery (1 AA) powered programmable unit allows you to select the type of meat – pork, veal, beef, lamb, chicken, or turkey – your roasting preference (rare, medium, or well done), as well as the accurate meat temperature, timed to perfection.
If you don’t have a good thermometer, that might be the first thing to get on your wish list. Some people do equally well without it, but that typically requires a lot more practice. Second, 200 F (93 C) is a good target temperature for the cabinet.
Always Keep the Door Closed
Third, if after 5 to 6 hours, your ribs are still fatty looking, there are two possible causes. For whatever reason, they are not as cooked as they should be, and two: you peeked! Seriously, one thing you have to learn with the Bradley is to keep the door closed and let the smoker do its thing. If you have opened the door more than once, then expect to have to add 15-30 minutes for each time to compensate for lost heat. People new to this smoker, who don’t trust their thermometer or instincts, tend to open the door a lot, and their cooking times go way up.
Fourth, check the condition of the smoker and the meat when you start. We typically recommend a one-hour preheat for the smoker, before putting in the meat. As we get ready to start the preheat, we usually pull the meat out of the fridge to let it sit out for one hour. This lets it warm up slightly. When you put it in the cabinet, you need to be fairly quick. Little or no preheat, fresh out-of-the-fridge meat, and a lot of fiddling around to start off will result in a very long startup time, before things get cooking.
If, after you take all these measures, you are still worried about them drying out, you can place cheap, fatty bacon in a layer on the topmost rack, and it will “baste” the ribs while they cook. Don’t forget to check out the Bradley Smoker Blog for more refreshing food smoking tips & tricks year-round for aspiring pit masters!