Pitmaster Jim Johnson helps you avoid the pitfalls of cooking ribs

Firing up the grill May 16 for National Barbecue Day? Jim Johnson knows that getting fall-off-the-bone barbecue ribs has its challenges. Here, the 78-time grand champion pitmaster shares his list of do’s and don’ts for successfully cooking ribs.

Do Keep It Low and Slow

Johnson recommends cooking ribs anywhere from 225 to 275 degrees for three to five hours. Cook time depends on the cuts of meat, which have different fat contents that require a longer stay in the smoker.

Do Decide If Meat Should Grill or Smoke

“A burger has been ground up, and it will cook evenly all the way through,” Johnson says. “A rib or a pork shoulder has connective tissue. It needs a longer period of time exposed to heat to break all that down and make it soft and tender so it falls off the bone.”

Don’t Add Sauce until the End

Apply sauce too early, and it can become gummy or even burn.

“The minute we add any ingredient that has sugar or tomato-based product, such as barbecue sauce, over an open flame, it over-caramelizes and turns black long before the product’s finished,” Johnson says. “Always add your sauce at the very end, about 15-30 minutes before removing it.”

Don’t Put Bark in Your Bite

Remember to trim the bark off the wood before adding it to the smoker. Johnson warns that mold, mildew, and insects that gather on bark will give your meat an “off flavor.” Also, be careful not to add too much wood to avoid over-smoking your food.

Find more barbecue tips from Jim Johnson on his website.

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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