When a normal-sized BBQ sandwich won’t do, you need to up the ante. Do you want more? Do you want better? A certain fast food chain has long (and periodically) offered their idea of a BBQ sandwich, but it’s not good. We can do better! Enter the mega-rib sandwich. It’s a whole slab of ribs, bones removed, on a whole loaf of French bread—and it’s just what you need.
Here we want to talk about the temperatures needed to make this beast of a meal, and how you can achieve sandwich success. We’re hungry, so let’s get to it!
No bones about it: boneless rib sandwich
This sandwich’s simplicity belies its deliciousness. It’s a whole rack of ribs, sauced during cooking to make them sticky and sweet (we often prefer “dry” ribs—without sauce—but in this case the sauce is a key ingredient), cooked until fall-off-the-bone tender. The bones are taken out—hence the tenderness—and the whole lab is re-sauced and put on a French bread loaf.
Temps for “boneless” ribs
To get that fall-off-the-bone tenderness, we modify how we might usually cook ribs. KCBS competition rules mandate the ability to bite a rib and pull the meat from the bone, leaving a perfect bite mark in the meat. They aren’t tough, but neither do they fall from the bone. But we’re not making this sandwich at a KCBS tournament ….
In this case, we want our ribs to fall off. That means we cook them for about 2 hours unwrapped, then cook them up to 200°F (93°C) wrapped, and finally finish them, unwrapped. By cooking the ribs up to 200°F (93°C) while wrapped, we give them more time in the moist environment of the foil. And that extended foil-time means there is more collagen melt and more tenderness.
We used Smoke X4™ to monitor the temps during this cook because we were cooking three racks of ribs simultaneously. The four probe channels allowed us to keep an eye on the pit while we also kept an eye on each rack of ribs individually. And because Smoke X4 has such incredible range, we could take the receiver into the building and work on other projects while we kept one eye on the cook. And the optional needle probes you can get for your Smoke are perfect for cooking ribs.
When we unwrapped the pork, we sauced it and cooked it until the temp came back up to about 195°F (91°C). Back up to? Didn’t we cook it to 200°F (93°C) already? Yes, but we did that when the meat was wrapped. Unwrapping the meat allows a whole lot of surface moisture to evaporate, and evaporation causes cooling. So you’ll see a dramatic drop in temperature when you unwrap and sauce the ribs. Cooking back up to 195°F (91°C) moves the ribs through the collagen melt zone again, helping to release the bones.
The whole cook takes about five hours—roughly a 2-2-1 ratio, but remember that rib tenderness is a function of time and temperature. Don’t run by the clock alone, or your ribs might not work out as well.
Once the ribs have reached this state of super tenderness, we take them from the smoker, and simply twist and pull the bones out one at a time. It’s very satisfying.
The best ribs for a rib sandwich
You could, in theory, make a huge-ol’ rib sandwich out of any rack of ribs, but the structure of the bones and the meat-to-bone ratio can make a difference in the final product.
We find that pork ribs are best for this—they have a better meat-to-bone ratio compared to beef ribs. We chose to use St. Louis-style ribs for several reasons. First, they beat full spare ribs because all those weird bits on a rack of spares don’t work well in a sandwich. Second, they lay flatter than a rack of baby backs, and that flat geometry will help when it’s time to pull bones out of their sockets. Also, we find that St. Louis ribs are just the right size to fit on a loaf of grocery-store French bread.
You can certainly try this with another style of ribs, but maybe try some St. Louis-style ribs first.
This is a magnificent sandwich. You can make a couple of them and put them on a buffet at a party, or just split one with a friend or two for a delicious dinner. Monitoring the temperatures during cooking will help you ensure you get clean-pulled bones and a tender, juicy sandwich. Give it a shot this weekend, and enjoy!Print
A rib sandwich that puts imposter rib sandwiches to shame. Real BBQ, real meat, real good.
- 2 slabs St. Louis style ribs, membrane removed
- BBQ rub of your choice
- BBQ sauce of your choice
- 2 loaves French bread
- Pickles (we liked bread and butter for this recipe)
- Preheat your smoker to 250°F (121°C). Use Smoke X4 to monitor the pit temp with its air probe.
- Season your ribs well with BBQ rub.
- Place the ribs in your smoker, insert needle probes and connect them to your Smoke X.
- Cook for 2 hours, until the bark has set well.
- Wrap the ribs in foil and re-insert the probes in between the bones.
- Return the ribs to the cooker and increase the air temp to 275°F (135°C). Set the high-temp alarm on the meat channels of your Smoke X to 200°F (93°C).
- When the alarm sounds, remove the ribs from their wrapping and give them a good coating of sauce using a silicone brush.
- Put them back in the smoker, put the probes back in, and set the probes’ high-temp alarm for 195°F (91°C). Verify temp and tenderness using your Thermapen® ONE.
- When the high-temp alarms sound, remove the ribs from the smoker. Let them rest while you prepare your bread, etc.
- Slice your loaves of French bread all the way through and toast their faces in some butter in a hot pan, on a griddle, or under a broiler.
- Pull the bones from the ribs and lay one rack on each loaf of bread.
- Sauce the ribs with more BBQ sauce, top them with sliced onion and pickles, and close the sandwich.
- Slice and serve!
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