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Baby Backs - To Fall Off the Bone, or Not to Fall Off the Bone? That is the Question...

PapalikesPapalikes Posts: 25
edited December 2011 in Pork
Ok EggHeads, I know that many would argue that pork ribs cooked, to the point of falling off the bone, are actually over cooked. While I am not one to challenge the opinions of the BBQ Gods, I have yet to find my own personal preference. I have smoked some baby backs (that were dynamite), but that were not "fall off the bone." Now that I want to try them over cooked, as some would say, does anyone have a good combination of time and temp?
I have ready through the pork forums, but haven't found what I am looking for. I know the trick is "low and slow," but also know that that sometimes goes hand in hand with "dry."
Anyone have a simple strategy?


  • It's all about the "bend test". There is no magic combination of time and temp because each slab is a unique chunk of meat and bones. At 250° dome, a slab of babyback can take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours you reach "fall off the bone" tenderness.

    Cook the racks whole, as opposed to half slabs. Don't even think about opening the cooker for 3 and a half hours. Start checking at around 4 hours. Pick up a slab using tongs grabbing the slab lengthwise with the tong about halfway down the length of the slab. If the other half of the slab hangs 90 degrees under gravity alone when you lift the slab up, they're done. When the slab breaks in half at the end of the tongs, they should fall off the bone.

    It's more about feel. Experiment until you find the level of tenderness you like.


    Captain Spaulding
  • billyraybillyray Posts: 1,173
    You're probably looking to at least 5 hours, maybe more @ 225-250. Start pulling on the bones around th 4-1/2 mark, they'll pull out as you reach your falling off the bone stage. It's fun to try different cook times, but IMO falling off the bone is a waste of good ribs.
    Felton, Ca. 2-LBGE, 1-Small and waiting on a mini
  • billyraybillyray Posts: 1,173
    Here's a way we like, these aren't falling of the bone, but are very good. Use your favorite rub and prepare the ribs. Cook @ 250 for 2 hours bone side down, then flip for 1 hour and cook meat side down. Remove from the grill and cut in half, lightly sprinkle both sides with cayenne pepper and coat with light brown sugar. Double foil and put back on for another hour, bone side down. Check to make sure the sugar has melted, if not cook a little longer.
    Felton, Ca. 2-LBGE, 1-Small and waiting on a mini
  • lousubcaplousubcap Posts: 16,786
    I use the toothpick test to determine "doneness" and for me it's a bit better than the bend test.  Just stick a toothpick in the meat and measure resistance-when there's none left, they are "fall off the bone".  The times above are good estimates-and if time does become a crunch you can foil to finish.
    Louisville;  L & S BGEs, PBC, Lang 36; Burnin' wood in the neighbourhood. # 38 for the win.  Life is too short for light/lite beer.  
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    they would fall off the bone before they ever got dry.  a dry tough rib is undercooked. 
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • BOWHUNRBOWHUNR Posts: 1,483
    they would fall off the bone before they ever got dry.  a dry tough rib is undercooked. 
    I agree 100%

    Omaha, NE

    I'm ashamed what I did for a Klondike Bar!!

    Omaha, NE
  • gerhardkgerhardk Posts: 938
    I like 'em fall off the bone, I know the experts don't like them cooked that long.

  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 5,946
    If ribs are par-boiled, as busy restaurants often do, or wrapped in foil for too long, the added steam/hot water causes the meat protein to "de-nature" faster. That is, as they cook, lots of water comes out of the protein, and the remaining protein strands turn into a formless mush. Up to a certain point, the meat remains O.K. It can just be sucked off the bone, it has so little form left. But a little farther than that, the meat becomes unpleasant to chew. It is just sort of a gummy dry mass. Some flavor, and a sponge for sauce, but little to enjoy biting.
  • cook at 250 for 3 hours, then foil them and put them back on for 2 hours, then unwrap and finish them direct for an hour. That should produce a fall off the bone rib (overcooked in my book). i use the above method but only foil for 45 minutes. Makes the rib tender, but requires my teeth to do what they were intended for (tearing and shredding). Actually there not much tearing the damn rib is so tender, but my method allows me to remove the meat from the bone (vs gravity).



  • DavekatzDavekatz Posts: 763
    I understand the "bite 'em, not fight 'em" school of thought, but I like my ribs a little closer to falling off the bone. 

    One of the best ways (there are lots of ways) I've found to get them that way is cooking them at 250°F dome temp,  2-1-1,  where the first number is how long the ribs are smoked unwrapped. The second number is how long they are cooked after being wrapped in foil. The final number is how long they are finished unwrapped. 

    Food & Fire - The carnivorous ramblings of a gluten-free grill geek.
  • onedbguruonedbguru Posts: 1,552
    par-boil -NEVER.
    fall-off-the-bone  YUUUMMMMMMM!!!
    3-1-1 method (3hrs uncovered  1hr wrapped in AF and finally 1hr uncovered and slathered with my favorite sauce)  Although, the sauce is optional depending on my mood...
  • CaptainSpauldingCaptainSpaulding Posts: 368
    edited December 2011
    Again, how you like your ribs is ultimately up to you.

    My take is to never, ever foil and boil them.  Stike and BowHunr, I'm with you.  

    If you absolutely need to empirically taste the difference for yourself, do a side-by-side blind tasting comparison.  Braising meat is a wonderful technique to have in your cooking arsenal, but ribs are more art than science.

    I have done it and found that foiling, even for an hour, creates an environment that will make for more tenderness (lookup braise) but draws a lot of the pork flavor out of the ribs.   Taste the juice in the packet.  That flavor belongs in the ribs, not in the liquid rendered from the ribs.

    It's all about perspective.  I can hammer out "fall off the bone" baby backs in about 80 minutes.  Those get cut into half slabs, rubbed, vacuum packed and submerged in nearly boiling water for 40 minutes and spend 40 minutes on a relatively hot grill (Egg at about 375F , direct, raised) .  They are tasty as hell.  They simply do not compare to the ribs that never see moist, quick heat.

    Like I said before,  It's all about what you like.  The pinnacle is low and slow, but I can cook hotter and faster and wind up with stellar, nearly competition level ribs at 350F cooker temps, quickie ribs, or full-blown slow smoked ribs at will,

    They are your meal, make them the way you and your friends and family like them.

    If you decide to start dry-aging meat, Stike is the man.   Research all you can, but he has been there and done that.   


    Captain Spaulding

  • After much research and consideration, I decided on the following:
    1) Used mustard and a dry rub from the BGE cookbook to season the meat over night (wrapped in celophane).
    2) Got the egg up to 225 degrees and put in some baseball sized chunks of hickory that had also been soaking over night.
    3) Plate setter, legs up, drip pan, cooking grate, and rib rack as the hardware set-up.
    4) Smoked them at 225 to 245 for about 5 hours.
    5) Took them out, foiled them, and put them in a warm over (just while I got the egg up to 450 to sear them)
    6) Sauced them, then flash grilled them for 3 to 4 mins. a side.
    7) Took them off and wrapped them in foil to recline for 10 mins. (there was a bit of bark as I used a dry rub with sugar)
    8) Sliced them, served them, devoured them, and then sent some home with my dinner guests.

    All in all, the only I regret I have is sending home some of the extras with my dinner guests. The ribs were all I had hoped they would be and I am already planning to break into my neighbor's house to raid his fridge.
  • ZumaZuma Posts: 49
    Some great options for all of us to try.   Personally, I do the 3-1-1 method and love them.  The last time I did ribs I brought my temp up to 260 for all of this.   Fell off the bone and was maybe our favorites of all the baby backs we have had.   
  • SqueezySqueezy Posts: 1,102
    As a KCBS BBQ judge, we are taught to judge 'fall off the bone' as overdone. Having said that, I personally like them slightly chewy all the way to 'almost' falling off the bone.
    Never eat anything passed through a window unless you're a seagull ... BGE Lg.
  • gerhardkgerhardk Posts: 938
    As a KCBS BBQ judge, we are taught to judge 'fall off the bone' as overdone. Having said that, I personally like them slightly chewy all the way to 'almost' falling off the bone.
    So did we meet at Oinktoberfest in Buffalo two or three years ago?  I remember starting a conversation with a fellow in the lobby of Salvatores that was wearing a T-shirt that said Anorexia Survivor.  He turned out to be from Woodstock and a judge at Oinktoberfest, we ended up seeing him there the following day.

  • SqueezySqueezy Posts: 1,102

    @ gerhardk    That would be me ... small world isn't it?

    Fancy meeting you here ...

    Never eat anything passed through a window unless you're a seagull ... BGE Lg.
  • gerhardkgerhardk Posts: 938
    That was when we were just starting our transition from gas to charcoal with the purchase of an offset smoker.  We just gave away the gas bbq this year.  If it wasn't for meeting you we would not have been aware of Oinktoberfest, so thanks for letting us know we had a great time.

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