Where There’s Smoke …

If you are in hot pursuit of perfect ribs, you’ll want to take a look at insider tips and recipes from locals in the know.

by Judie Byrd

If you dream of producing tender, succulent, smoked ribs in your own backyard this summer, you are in luck. Three local rib experts are sharing their recipes and tips. Secrets like which wood to use and how long to cook and an up-until-now guarded recipe for the perfect dry rub. So stock up on napkins. With these recipes, you’ll be serving up dreamy ribs all your family and friends will rave about.


Pat Craine

Pat Craine, retired Miller Beer distributor and rib connoisseur, shares three important steps to his fabulous ribs. First, remove the membrane (also called silver skin) from the underside of the rack.
“Restaurants skip this step because it’s too time consuming, but at home it doesn’t really take much, and your ribs will be a whole lot tastier,” he says. To do this, Pat gets under the membrane with the point of a knife, then uses a paper towel to grab the tough skin and pull if off.
Pat’s second tip is to use a good dry rub. Over the years, he has perfected his rub recipe, and for the first time, he is revealing it to the world — or at least to all of us. He says kept in an airtight container, the rub stays fresh for nine months. He uses his rub on all meats, including beef, pork and chicken.
Finally, cook the ribs low and slow, using only hickory wood. “Hickory gives the best flavor,” Pat says.
Pat also says he is available for weddings, hoedowns and goat ropings.

Pat’s Secret Signature Dry Rub

Yield: About 13 cups

• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar, either light or dark
• 2 cups seasoned salt
• 1 cup of your favorite barbecue rub (store bought) or restaurant packed
• 1 cup garlic salt
• 1/2 cup celery salt
• 1/2 cup onion salt
• 2 cups sweet or hot Hungarian paprika
• 1 cup packaged chili seasoning (the kind you would use to make a pot of chili)
• 1 cup freshly ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons rubbed sage
• 1 tablespoon ground allspice
• 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
Whisk all ingredients together and store, airtight, in a cool dark place.
To use, rub both sides of ribs completely. Cover well and refrigerate 24 hours before cooking.


Terry Moon

Like many firefighters, Terry Moon is pretty handy in the kitchen. But where he really shines is out by his smoker with a few racks of pork ribs. He always uses a St. Louis cut of ribs, and while he cuts the racks down himself, he says they are easy to find at most grocery stores.
Terry uses packaged Adkins BBQ Seasoning but kicks it up with his own addition of freshly ground black pepper.

Terry Moon’s Mahogany Ribs

Yield: As many racks as your smoker can hold
• Racks of St. Louis style pork ribs
• 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper per rack
• 1 tablespoon Adkins BBQ Seasoning per rack
• Pecan wood for smoking
• 1 pound brown sugar
• 1/2 cup water
• A few dashes of hot sauce, such as Tapatio
1. Coat both sides of ribs with black pepper, then cover liberally with seasoning. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
2. Build fire in fire box using pecan wood. Place ribs on smoker racks, meat side up. Close smoker lid and bring temperature up to 250 degrees. Maintain this temperature the entire time of cooking. Smoke ribs two to three hours or to desired color, which should be a dark reddish mahogany.
3. While ribs are smoking, combine brown sugar, water and hot sauce in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer to make a syrup.
4. When ribs reach desired color, remove from grill and place on a sheet of foil. Spoon syrup over ribs and turn so meat side is down. Tightly wrap foil so juice doesn’t run out. Return to smoker and cook an additional one and a half hours or to desired tenderness.
*Note: “Some people like their ribs to fall off the bone and some like to have to kind of pull the meat off the bone,” Terry says. “You can grab each end of the foil and bend the ribs toward each other to feel how easily they bend, or you can open the foil to check. The meat should be pulling off the ends of the bones, exposing the end of each rib.”


Valerie Hedge

When Valerie Hedge recently won first place at the Tres Rios River Ranch Cook-Off, her ribs became known as the best in Johnson County. Attending competition cook-offs for 20 years has given Valerie plenty of opportunity to perfect her craft. One reason she enjoys competitions is that the proceeds always go to good causes.
The recent cook-off benefited the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life.”
While Valerie is not willing to reveal her exact recipe, she has shared detailed instructions with us for producing great ribs. She uses only spare ribs for competition but prefers baby back ribs when she cooks at home.

Blue Ribbon Ribs the Valerie Hedge Way

Remove the silver skin from the bone side of each rack of ribs. Sprinkle both sides with granulated garlic and then cover with a dry rub (Valerie says many good ones are available in grocery stores). Using only mesquite wood, build a fire in the firebox and smoke ribs low and slow (not over 250 degrees) for four to five hours.
For the last 30 minutes of smoking time, she slathers the racks with a sweet, tangy sauce. She advises trying a variety of sauces from the grocery store and choosing the one you like the best.