Lip Smacking Ribs From Smackers

Chuck Averwater explains the revolutionary design of his Stacker Rib Smoker to a couple of BBQ enthusiasts during Memphis In May.

One of the truly amazing opportunities I got while attending Memphis In May was a chance to spend some time with Chuck Averwater owner of  Smackers Gourmet BBQ Seasoning and Smokers.  I've been a fan of Smackers Memphis Style Dry rub for a while now.  It's a great dry rub that's perfect for ribs and pork butts.  If I didn't do anything else while in Memphis what I saw and learned from Chuck in one short session would have made the trip worthwhile. Chuck's new smoker may be one of the most revolutionary BBQ pits to come out in years.  It is without a doubt a product that if you see it, you will want it.  After going through it's design and features you'll shake your head and wonder why it took someone this long to come up with it. What Chuck came up with is the Stacker a smoker made up of drawers.  With his revolutionary design Chuck has fixed the biggest problem pitmasters face when trying to check their meat, loss of heat.  On a traditional BBQ pit whenever you open the door to check the meat, sauce, rearrange or any other reason the heat drop can do nothing but give you fits.

From this view you can see some of the thought Chuck put into his design.  When each drawer is opened the back of the drawer seals off the heat chamber of the smoker.  According to Chuck when the drawer is opened for any length of time the overall temperature of the pit drops less than five degrees.

The stainless steel cooking grates are all removable.  The flexible high heat drawer gaskets allow for some adjustment of the seal to insure you always have a proper fit.  The pits are made in Memphis by hand.  Each piece of steel is laser cut to insure a proper fit.

It’s quite obvious from the design of his Stacker Smoker that Chuck is a thinker.  And not only has he thought up a great smoker, but he’s thought up an interesting and somewhat revolutionary way of smoking ribs.  Chuck was kind enough to send me an article he is planning to publish on his website that explains how to turn out some great ribs.

How many times have you seen ribs that had a dark, or even black appearance and had good taste and tenderness, but lacked some smoke flavor?

Most of that is caused by the sugars in the rub and not always because they were overcooked and appeared burned.  I experimented a few years ago and made a really interesting discovery.  I loaded a case of baby-backs into one of our Stacker drawer smokers without “any” rub on them.  Yes, even I thought it was crazy.  My theory was that if our pores open up when we sweat, then, why wouldn’t it be the same with the ribs?  I discovered that by applying a healthy amount of rub to the meat prior to cooking that it would cause the sugar to caramelize, as it’s expected to do.  Then, with more cooking time, the sugars turned the meat an unappetizing dark to black color.  Yes, I know over-saturation of smoke can cause this, too.

I’ve seen many cooks panic while thinking the ribs were burned and pulled them off and swear they would “never buy ribs from that place again” because they were so tough.  After all, it stands to reason that we are planning to “smoke” the ribs and that the smoke might possibly be blocked by the caramelized sugar, much like using a sunscreen, which in turn would not allow adequate smoke penetration and the desired smoke ring.  My thoughts were the same for applying mustard, also.

So, I smoked them without any rub applied before cooking to try to get maximum smoke penetration and flavor.  The result was indeed a much better smoke penetration and improved smoke flavor and tenderness.  I’ve judged many contests and eaten a lot of meat that was cooked properly with great tenderness, but, had very little or no smoke flavor whatsoever.  Then, the outside was beautifully covered with a sauce or glaze and just seemed to be lacking the smoke flavor.

I knew there had to be some balance somewhere in between so I later began applying a small amount of rub to the meat prior to cooking and rubbed it in, then, covered it with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature until the smoker heated up.  Then, put the ribs on around 225 degrees.  As the meat temperature began to rise and the fat rendered nicely into the water pan, the pores opened up and allowed much deeper smoke penetration, all the way to the bone.

Since the Stacker smoker can cook baby backs in 3 1/2 to 4 hours without wrapping in foil, I opened a drawer around the 3 hour mark and pulled out the entire grate with 3 to 5 slabs on it, set it on the table and performed the cosmetic work to the ribs by using what I call the “Spray, Sprinkle, Spray” method.  The spray is 3/4 apple juice (or apple cider) and 1/4 grenadine.  Yes, it does taste very sweet, but, it’s only used to help the rub stick that I’m about to apply.  The grenadine adds additional fruit flavor and gives the meat a really nice mahogany color.  Next, I spray one slab at a time.  Then, sprinkle a healthy portion of our Smackers BBQ Seasoning, and respray again to help draw it into the open pores of the meat.  It’s usually best to turn all the ribs over and do the bottoms and sides first (between the bones since some judges will pull them apart first to look for smoke and tenderness).  Then, flip them back over and Spray, Sprinkle, Spray the tops.  (Checkout some of the photos below).

Next, I put all the ribs back into the smoker and let them carmelize and watch the color develop as it all melts into the meat for another 30 minutes to an hour.  I check the tenderness using the “little fingernail” technique.  When the meat has pulled back from the ends of the bones about the length of your little fingernail, they are ready.  Then, I remove them again and paint on the finish glaze for even more flavor and appearance.  It’s best to let them rest some before eating or turn-in time.

I’ve demonstrated the effectiveness of this technique with Red Todd and several other very experienced champion BBQ teams that were all surprised how well it worked.  I even did it on chicken thighs that I cooked for the KCBS judges class held at the 2010 NBBQA trade show in Memphis.  Making great BBQ is a process of many steps and techniques.  I know BBQ cooking techniques  are very subjective and that some people might be skeptical, but, once you try this, you might be surprised, too.

Unseasoned ribs ready to go on the Stacker drawer smoker.

Unseasoned ribs after smoking for 3 hours. Granted, not very appealing at this stage, but, developing a great smoked flavor first.

Patrick Rooney of Sweet Swine O' Mine 2009 MIM World Champion trying this technique of spraying (step 1) with a mixture of apple juice and grenadine after smoking 3 hours.

Sprinkled with Smackers BBQ Seasoning on bottom and top (step 2)

Sprayed again (step 3)

Put back in the smoker until tender

Glazed

This is the appearance you get using this technique. No sauce required.

You can read more about Stackers and Smackers on www.smackersbbq.com.

5 Comments on Lip Smacking Ribs From Smackers

  1. Very interesting, I wish I had thought of this.

  2. OK, so I’m a litle confused by the article. It says two different things. He first talks about smoking them without rub, then he says;
    “I knew there had to be some balance somewhere in between so I later began applying a small amount of rub to the meat prior to cooking and rubbed it in, then, covered it with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature until the smoker heated up. Then, put the ribs on around 225 degrees. As the meat temperature began to rise and the fat rendered nicely into the water pan, the pores opened up and allowed much deeper smoke penetration, all the way to the bone.”
    And then he goes back to describing the unrubbed ribs. So, I’m confused about which method he uses. Thanks for a clarification. Love your site.

  3. Great post Larry, thanks for sharing. If I was looking to buy a pit to cook huge amounts of food in I would certainly add this to the list of potentials.

  4. Sorry for the confusion there 500. In my first experiment, I did not use any rub and just smoked the ribs on the Stacker for 3 hours and then used the “Spray, Sprinkle, Spray” method. In a later experiment, I used a small amount of rub prior to cooking the ribs and rubbed it into the meat, but, not enough to make the rub turn dark and seal up the pores of the meat. I still do the “Spray, Sprinkle, Spray” at 3 hours which helps draw all the flavors of the rub and juice mixture into the open pores of the meat. This is the balance I was looking for and the way I do it now. I hope I cleared that up for you. Thanks for pointing that out. Feel free to contact me at smackersbbq@aol.com if I can help answer any more questions.

  5. txschutte // July 5, 2010 at 6:29 pm //

    Interesting way layering the flavors as using the smoke for the first layer. I would love to see a smoker demonstration first hand.

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