How To Smoke A Slab of Ribs That Will Make a Grown Man Weep

Includes Dana Carpender’s Go-To Barbecue Rub Recipe.

How To Smoke A Slab of Ribs That Will Make a Grown Man Weep

How To Smoke A Slab Of Ribs That Will Make A Grown Man Weep

CarbSmart Magazine May 2013 PDF Version

Originally published in the May 2013 issue of CarbSmart Magazine.

131 Pages. Articles by Dana Carpender, Amy Dungan, Ed Stockly, Susie T. Gibbs, Tracey Rollison, Misty Humphrey, and many more. Also includes 24 low carb/high fat recipes.

A million rib joints attest to Americans’ love of barbecued spare ribs. They also suggest that many people aren’t sure how to turn out a killer slab at home. If you’re one of those people, I’m here to help.

How To Smoke A Slab of Ribs That Will Make a Grown Man WeepFirst of all, do not grill your ribs. I used to try to cook spareribs over a charcoal fire, inevitably getting a slab of carbonized protein, rather than tender, juicy, flavorful meat that practically jumps off the bone into the mouth. It was a great day for me when I learned that proper barbecued ribs are not cooked over a direct flame, but rather are slow-smoked with indirect heat. I can hear the pit masters snickering, but I had to learn this, so I know some of you do, too.

Second important point: Do not put barbecue sauce on your ribs until they are almost done. The sweet, tomato-y sauce most of us know as “barbecue sauce” is properly termed “finishing sauce,” and it is, indeed, a finishing touch. Applied too early, it will blacken and taste nasty.

Barbecue sauce is also usually very sugary, even more so than ketchup. You can buy or make no-sugar-added barbecue sauce – The Low Carb Barbecue Book has many recipes, if you’d like to try. But I want to teach you how to turn out a slab of ribs so delectable, so savory, that you won’t even care about the sauce. Here’s how:

It is not a difficult job to smoke a slab of ribs but it takes a long time.

Please keep in mind that while smoking a slab of ribs is not a difficult job, it takes a long time. It’s perfect for a summer Sunday when you’re going to be puttering around the place anyway – you can mow the lawn, do the wash, or just sit in the sun reading a book, tending to your ribs every half-hour or so.


Dana Carpender’s Go-To Barbecue Rub Recipe

Start with a good rub. This slow-smoking method will work with any rub, but here’s the one I use most often.

  • Author: Dana Carpender
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 180 min
  • Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Diet: Diabetic


  • 1/2 cup Swerve (or erythritol, or Truvia to equal 1/2 cup sugar in sweetness)
  • 3 tablespoons celery salt
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned salt
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


  1. Just measure everything into a bowl and mix it up well. Keep this on hand in an old spice shaker.
  2. So it’s a lazy summer day around the house. First, sprinkle your slab of ribs liberally all over with rub. Let them sit while you continue preparations. (Indeed, you can season your ribs the night before, if you like.)
  3. You’ll need some soaked wood chips. You can buy wood chips anywhere you buy charcoal, in apple, mesquite, hickory, and very possibly other varieties – I’ve even had some made from old Jack Daniel’s barrels! Any chips will do. Fill a big bowl or old coffee can with chips and cover them with water. Sit them by your grill. You’ll also need a big square of heavy-duty aluminum foil; you’ll be putting your soaked chips on this.
  4. Put a drip pan – disposable aluminum is perfect – under the grate on one side of your propane grill. (I’ll give instructions for charcoal in a bit, but I’m telling you, slow-smoking is the whole reason I broke down and got a propane grill.) Light only the burner on the other side. You’ll need to know the temperature of your grill. If your grill lacks a thermometer, you can pick up an oven thermometer in the housewares aisle of any grocery store. Put the thermometer in the grill, close it, and let it heat – you want it somewhere between 250-300F (120-150C).
  5. While the grill is heating, go make your mop. Combine about ¼ cup of the same rub you used on the ribs, 1 cup of chicken broth or light beer, and about ⅓ cup olive oil. This is what you will use to baste your ribs.
  6. When your grill is up to temperature, lay your seasoned ribs over the drip pan, on the side away from the lit burner. Put the square of foil over the lit burner, and put a big handful of those wet chips on the foil. Close the lid of the grill. Leave the vents open just enough to allow the fire to burn.
  7. Go do something else for half an hour, while smoke pours out of the grill.
  8. When the half-hour is up, grab your mop, a basting brush, and tongs. Go open your grill – check the temperature while you’re at it. Mop your ribs liberally with the mopping sauce, and use the tongs to turn them over end-to-end – this ensures even cooking. Baste the other side, too! Put another handful of chips on your foil, then close the grill again.
  9. Let ‘em smoke another half-hour, then repeat the whole shebang: mop, turn, add chips, close the grill up again. You’re going to keep doing this every half-hour or so for 5-6 hours, or possibly a bit more, depending on the thickness of your slab and the weather. Yes, the weather – cool or windy weather can make it difficult to keep your grill up to temperature, while hot, sunny, still weather may make it over-heat a bit. Do monitor the thermometer when you’re mopping and turning your ribs and adjust the burner accordingly.
  10. When the meat has pulled back from the bones at the ends, and the ribs are so tender you have to be careful turning them for fear of tearing them, they’re done. If you really want a finishing sauce, this is the time to put it on. Slather both sides and close the grill again, just for 10 minutes. But try these without sauce; they’re mighty good as-is!
  11. Cut into individual ribs; I like to use my kitchen shears for this.


Serve with plenty of napkins, and Old Fashioned Coleslaw and UnPotato salad on the side.

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A few more thoughts on barbecuing

How To Smoke A Slab of Ribs That Will Make a Grown Man Weep

  • On one of my propane grills – yes, I have two – the main grate is too far above the burner for the chips to start smoking. There is, however, another grate beneath it, so I put the foil on that lower grate. Works fine.
  • Some purists insist on charcoal. You’re welcome to do this, of course, but it’s considerably more work. You’ll need to start a small pile of charcoal going on one side of the grill, with the drip pan and ribs at the other side, of course. Then you’ll need a second grill, in which you will start a dozen more coals going each time you do the whole mop-and-add-chips routine. When each new batch of charcoals is ashed over, transfer them to the main grill with a fire tongs, and start the next batch in the auxiliary grill. (Note: do not do this barefooted. The Voice of Foolish Experience.) It was after I performed this tedious process for nine hours while smoking a pork shoulder that I broke down and bought a propane grill.
  • If you’d like to serve smoked ribs as finger food, have the meat guys slice each slab lengthwise into three strips. When you later cut them into individual ribs, they’ll be easy to handle.

More Low Carb Recipes & Articles by Dana Carpender.

CarbSmart Magazine May 2013 PDF Version

Originally published in the May 2013 issue of CarbSmart Magazine.

131 Pages. Articles by Dana Carpender, Amy Dungan, Ed Stockly, Susie T. Gibbs, Tracey Rollison, Misty Humphrey, and many more. Also includes 24 low carb/high fat recipes.

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