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How to smoke ribs in a barrel

Ralph Marrone

55-gallon metal barrel with a lid and handle

3 4-foot lengths of rebar

6 hooks for hanging ribs (I use metal shish-kebab skewers bent into a “U” shape with a hook on one end

A heavy metal pan or grate (the diameter of the drum) for charcoal

Cut a slit about 2-by-5 inches in the side of the drum about 3 inches from the bottom. Cut six holes about 4 inches from the top of the drum (three on each opposite side) to insert the rebar. From this, you will hang the ribs. Put two or three bricks in the bottom of the barrel. Put the pan or grate on them so that you will have a airflow under the briquettes.

Dump 10 pounds of Kingsford charcoal briquettes into the barrel on the grate and douse with lighter fluid. Stand back, as it will flare up. Let charcoal burn down a bit until covered with a white ash. I usually soak some hickory chunks for a few hours then put them in at this time for added flavor. The soaking makes sure the chunks smoke and not burn up. The key is smoke, not flames or fire. You can control the heat by using the lid; keep tight to slow down the heat, or offset it for a few minutes to heat up.

RIBS

6 racks of pork ribs (baby backs or St. Louis style)

Lawry’s seasoned salt (or any rub that you like)

Salt down both sides of the ribs about 1/2 hour before cooking. Fold over rack of ribs, in half, and insert skewer through meaty part of rack. When briquettes are ready, insert the rebar rods into the holes in drum and hang the ribs on the rods. Place lid on top, making sure no flames are present. If there are flames, a squirt bottle comes in handy to douse them.

Cook ribs about 1 1/2 to two hours. This is a visual thing; you have to inspect the ribs regularly to make sure they are not too done but a nice bronzy color.

Remove ribs from drum by the hooks using heavy gloves. Let cool for a few minutes then slice into individual ribs. You will notice that the ribs are a slight pink color inside as the smoke is doing the cooking but ribs are perfectly done. Serve with your favorite barbecue sauce on the side.