How to Smoke Ribs in Electric Smokers: Safe and Flavorful Cooking Tips

how to smoke ribs in electric smoker
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Smoked ribs have a distinctive flavor that brings a different sensation to our taste buds. There are various ways to smoke meat, but today, we will focus on how to smoke ribs in electric smokers. Everybody likes the taste of smoked food: be it meat, vegetables, poultry, or fish.

Smoked meats or barbecues are always a favorite among parties and weekend get-togethers among friends and families. If you have plans on buying a griller of your own, you might want to consider the best electric smokers. Keep on reading so that we can tell you more about electric smokers and how to use them.

Note: most links in this article are Amazon.com Affiliate links, see Affiliate Disclosure, thank you.

What Is an Electric Smoker?

For some of us, an electric smoker is a new thing because we were used to grilling on charcoal. Whether we admit it or not, using a charcoal or wood grill is a tedious task.

It takes a lot of time just to start the charcoal burning. Then you will need to spend more time cleaning after the cookout.

It's a good thing the electric smoker came into the scene. Not only does it make grilling faster, but it also simplifies the process compared to the conventional way. There's no need to continually check on what you are cooking as compared to using a charcoal griller—no more burned or overcooked meat on your next cookout.

Electric Smoker Accessories Must-Haves

To ensure your safety while smoking ribs, you must have the following:

  • Rubber or Plastic Gloves: Wearing gloves when smoking or grilling protects your hands from the heat. It will also give you the ability to handle hot tongs, knives, and the meat itself.
  • Barbecue Mop: A barbecue mop is an essential tool in smoking or grilling. Coating your meat with a sauce makes it moist and full of flavor.
  • Tongs: Long-handled tongs are the best kind to use so that you can remove the ribs safely from the smoker without fear of getting burned.
  • Thermometer: It is better to use a thermometer to check the doneness of the ribs than guessing. It is safe to eat meat when it reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Disposable Aluminum Pans: These disposable aluminum pans act as dripping pans at the start of smoking. Then they transfer the ribs to the aluminum pan with the drippings included after wrapping the ribs in aluminum foil.
  • Squeeze Bottles: You can put some barbecue sauce in a squeeze bottle and use it if you need to put on additional sauce on the smoked ribs.

Setting Up Your Electric Smoker

Now you have all the things that you need, you should set up your electric smoker. Here are the steps:

1. Season the Electric Smoker

Don't forget to season your electric smoker if it's the first time that you'll use it. Seasoning means thoroughly cleaning it to make sure that there are no leftover dirt and chemicals in your griller.

Rub the entire interior of the electric smoker with cooking oil. Afterward, turn the smoker on and set the temperature between 250 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit and the timer at two to three hours.

Keep it running until the timer stops. Turn off the smoker after seasoning and keep its door open until it cools completely.

That said, check your user's manual for instructions before using it the first time. Some smokers do not require seasoning, especially the newer models. For those that do, seasoning is only done right before using the smoker for the first time.

2. Turn the Power On

Once the smoker has cooled down, turn the power on and putting it on standby mode. It will not produce any heat just yet until you set the temperature and start the timer. Make sure that your electrical connections are clear and without any obstructions for safety reasons and to prevent any unwanted accidents.

3. Add Wood Chips Into the Smoker Box

Begin by filling up the smoker box with the wood chips of your choice. The typical amount of wood chips that you will use is around four cups in a three- to five-hour cooking time. It means that you have to refill the smoker box from time to time.

Wood chips are availible in many flavors to suit your taste, but avoid softwoods because most of them can toxic. For a variety starter pack of wood chips check out this link to Amazon.com

4. Preheat the Electric Smoker

Preheat your smoker from 200 to 225 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the standard smoking temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. Most recipes indicate the required temperature settings based on the kind of meat you chose to cook, so just follow as recommended.

5. Put a Water Pan Under the Smoking Chamber

After the preheating time, fill a tray or pan with water and put it under the cooking chamber. It will create steam that will keep the meat moist during the smoking process. It is better to fill it up with hot water to maintain the ideal temperature inside the smoker. You can also add flavor to the water like apple juice, beer, wine, or any other zest you want to saturate the meat while smoking.

How to Smoke Ribs in Electric Smokers

We will provide you two methods of smoking ribs using your electric smoker.

The Standard Method

Here are the steps to follow:

1. Season the Ribs

After the seasoning process, you can start preparing the ribs while you wait for the preheating process to finish. Since pork ribs belong to the big meat cut category, you need to rub a generous coating of the dry seasoning all over the pork ribs for full flavor. You can also opt for a pure salt and pepper rub.

2. Put the Ribs Inside the Smoker

Place the meat inside the smoker on top of the rack. Make a quick job of putting the meat inside to prevent the smoke from escaping the cooking chamber. When the ribs are appropriately placed inside, close, and lock the door of the griller.

3. Complete the Smoking Process

If you want to use smoking as a cooking method, you need to be patient. It usually takes a minimum of two hours to a maximum of eight hours to complete the smoking process.

Cook the ribs according to the length of time indicated in the recipe. Refrain from opening the door of the smoker unless you need to refill the wood chips or the water.

4. Refill Water and Wood Chips

Speaking of refill, you have to replenish the water and wood chips at regular intervals. If you notice that the smoker isn't emitting any smoke, then that's your signal that you need to add more wood chips into the smoker box as well as water into the pan. However, be very careful not to over-smoke the ribs as it may taste unpleasant.

For some great recipes check out our article How to Smoke Ribs in a Pellet Smoker.

how to smoke ribs in electric smoker

The Three-Two-One Method

For this method, here's what you need to do:

1. Smoke

Place the seasoned ribs on the rack and set the electric smoker at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn the ignition on and smoke the ribs for three hours.

2. Steam

After three hours of smoking, take the ribs off from the racks. Place it on top of a piece of aluminum foil. Pour about ⅛ cup of flavor like apple juice, beer, wine, or any other zest of your choice.

The added flavor will improve the steaming process and also help to soften the meat on the ribs. Wrap the pork ribs with the aluminum foil and return it inside the cooking chamber and cook for another two hours.

3. Coat and Smoke

Once the two-hour steaming completes, take the ribs out from the cooker and unwrap it from the foil. Generously coat both sides of the ribs with barbecue sauce. Then return the meat one last time inside the smoker, placing it on top of the rack without the foil and cook for another one hour.

This three-two-one method of smoking ribs is applicable for electric smokers fitted with two to three layers of racks with the same number of ribs cooking at the same. If you only have one shelf or will only be smoking one slab, you only need a shorter timeframe for cooking.

For some great recipes check out our article How to Smoke Ribs in a Pellet Smoker.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Knowing how to set up and use your electric smoker is not enough to have perfectly cooked ribs that are safe to eat and delicious. You must make sure your smoker is clean, use the right wood chips, and choose the right type of ribs.

How to Clean Electric Smoker After Use

Cleaning your electric smoker after use is important to prolong its life, as well as ensure the ribs you'll cook don't get in contact with dirt, leftovers, and more.

1. Unplug the Electric Smoker

Make it a habit to clean your electric smoker after each use for better performance and longer lifespan. 

Before you start cleaning the electric smoker, unplug it first from the power outlet, open its door, and let it cool completely. Merely turning off the smoker does not guarantee that there is no electricity running through it.

2. Remove and Clean Its Accessories

Take out all the removable components from the smoker, such as racks, water pan, and the wood chip tray. If the grill grates are too grimy, dip a sponge into a soapy water solution and scrub it against the racks. Do the same thing with the water pan and wood chip box.

Avoid using rough cleaning tools to prevent leaving scratches on the smoker's surface and its accessories.

3. Remove Leftovers Inside the Smoking Chamber

Scrape fat residue and food particles out of the smoker using some damp paper towels. You can put paper towels on the floor below the smoker's door to catch all the dirt you are scraping out from the smoking chamber for easy clean-up. Just fold and gather up all the laid-out paper towels and throw them directly into the trash bin.

4. Clean the Cooking Chamber

Prepare soapy water along with a sponge or a hard-bristled brush. Use this to clean the insides of the smoker, including the door to remove all the grime and grease.

If you are not in the habit of cleaning your smoker regularly, molds are likely to grow inside. If this happens, turn on your smoker and keep it running for three to four hours to burn the mold. Scrub it out of the smoker once it has cooled down.

5. Wipe the Soap Out of the Smoker

Wipe the soap solution inside the smoker with a clean and wet cloth. You can also add a bit of apple cider vinegar to the water solution to disinfect the smoker. The exposed heating element should not be directly in contact with liquid.

6. Wipe It Dry

Dry the smoker by wiping its surface with a clean rag or paper towels. Let the remaining moisture inside by leaving the door of the smoker open until it's dry. You can keep the exterior of the smoker clean by regularly wiping it with a damp cloth.

Types of Pork Ribs

Here are the different types of ribs you can choose from:

  • St. Louis Ribs: This type of ribs is so-called in association with St. Louis' place where it is in. They are cut it in such a way that they look like a rectangle when served. It is also flatter and thinner and has fattier meat than the other rib types.
  • Baby Back Ribs: This rib part came from the lowest portion of the pork rib on its backside. It is more tender and less fatty than the other types.
  •   Spare Ribs: These came from the lower part of the pig, behind the shoulder and around the breastbone and belly. It usually has 11 to 13 portions of long bones.

Wood Chips You Can Use

Since we are talking about how to smoke ribs in electric smokers, we have to think of the kind of wood to use that will add flavor to the meat. Wood chip categories are from mild to intense flavorings.

Fruit woods are in the mild category like peach, apple, pear, and cherry. These are the kinds that give out a delicate, sweet flavor, perfect for fish and poultry.

Next are the woods that offer just the right amount of flavor. They are not too sweet and not too strong as well. These include maple, hickory, oak, and pecan. You can use this for pork, beef, and game meats.

Lastly, we have mesquite wood. It gives out the most potent flavor among all the other wood smoking chips. Since it has the most dominant taste, you should combine it with different wood chips.

For more information on smoking woods check out our article How to Match Your Smoking Wood to Your Meat? 

Conclusion

Using an electric smoker is more comfortable than the traditional way of smoking food. The first thing that you have to practice is patience. Smoking food means you cook it over low heat. It may take a long time to finish cooking the food, but the result is worth the wait. 

Additionally, make sure you buy a safe and reliable electric smoker. You can do so by reading guidelines on what you need to look for when buying an electric smoker for the first time.