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3-2-1 ribs came out tough - what to try?

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Hi all,

 

I did my second rib cook on Saturday. The flavor was AMAZING but the tenderness of the ribs were on the tough side... 

 

I used the 3-2-1 method and tried to maintain 225 throughout. Some questions so hopefully I can get it better next time :

 

Should I be looking at dome temp or grill temp for the 225? I was seeing some differences between the two. I have a ThermoPro TP08 with my probe on the main grate a few inches away from the ribs (it was on top of the plate setter). There was often about a 10-20 degree difference between dome and probe, and at some points the probe was warmer and at other times the dome was warmer. I didn't know which gauge to rely on. I am at a reasonable level of confidence that both my grill probe and dome therm are accurate within a few degrees. My dome therm is a calibrated Tel-Tru that is normally dead-on with my grate probe during direct cooks... This was only my second indirect cook...

 

Which should I be looking at for ribs?

 

Throughout the cook, I often noticed that my grill probe was reading in the 210-215 range while my dome was reading 235-240. I used the in-between as my "temp". This leads me to believe that maybe my temp was too low and that's why they came out tough - undercooked? 

 

 

More info on my setup:

 

Pit Boss 24" with Tel-Tru gauge

Metal heat deflector

Drip pan on heat deflector

Ribs on a rib rack sitting on main grate

 

The ribs were originally frozen but thawed out overnight 2 nights before cook day (I know, always better to have fresh but I had bought a pack from Costco and couldn't eat 4 racks by myself the last time, lol)

Removed the membrane, although when I ate the ribs I felt like there was a tough barrier behind the meat that I could push in with my fingers (it was rubbery) - that's where the toughness came from..

 

Did I get a bad cut of meat, did freezing the ribs contribute maybe? Or are they simply undercooked...

 

Looking for any advice as it sucks to invest so much time and effort to get amazingly delicious ribs that are tough to eat :)

 

Thanks in advance!!

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They were likely undercooked. I've said this so many times, ditch the foil. Cook your ribs at 250°-275° for about for hours indirect and you'll be golden.

Your difference between dome and grate isn't significant, but my guess is the lower temp, with the constant opening and closing for all that foiling and unfoiling was the big contributor to undercooked ribs. I suggest you do the boiling water test on your thermometers to verify. Once you do that, pick one and stick with it, consistency is more important than anything.

The rest of your set up is fine, you did everything right. I just can't tell you how many times people start with "I did the 3-2-1 method but....".

Rob

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I also do ribs indirect and without foiling. Set your kamado temp somewhere between 225 and 275 and leave it alone. After 3 1/2 hours or so try the bend test. Using tongs, pick up the ribs by inserting the tongs parallel to the long side. When the ribs bend about 90 degrees or so, they are done. You can also try the toothpick test, testing for uniform tenderness.

 

I don't rely on my dome thermometer for much more that a generalized reading. Once you get to know the particulars of your kamado, you may feel the same. Exact temperatures are really irrelevant. Many of us started cooking with a Weber charcoal grill and we didn't have or use thermometers. We did okay.

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It is really easy.  Ignore temps/times/etc.  You can stick with your 3/2/1 method at 225.. Just extend the "1" time until the ribs pass the "bend test".  There are plenty of web postings on what represents a Pass for a rib bend test.  It is the most simple methods of measuring doneness.  The ribs bend the correct amount when the collagens in the meat (which gives the meat toughness/firmness) have broken down.  Until then, they will remain tough.  I have had some ribs which finished over an hour early, and have had some finish late.  You have no control over the amount of collagen in the meat, all you control is the temperature and the time. 

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I have cooked both ways many many times. If you want fall off the bone tender then foil, if not don't. I tend to trust my Maverick at grill level more than the dome cause that is where the meat is cooking.

Your cook sounds to me like you simply under cooked the ribs.

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You can analyze the OP until the cows come home, but unless I missed it, everyone else is missing the most important factor: What cut of ribs were they? If they were Baby Backs, the 3-2-1 thing is waaassaay too long. I personally think foiling ribs during the cook is not a great way to go. I'm also not a big fan of the 3-2-1 concept in general.

 

....FWIW, the variance of dome temp vs. grate temp is a moot point. The longer you leave the dome closed, the closer they will be, providing both are accurate to begin with. Every time you open the dome, you are creating a huge temperature difference in the dome vs. grate temps. Even a 10 > 20 degree difference in the two, isn't going to effect the outcome of any cook. Most cooks wouldn't even be effected much by a 50*F difference, with maybe the exception of s Brisket, and even then I doubt it.

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I've tried several methods over time and always seems that to get ribs tender just takes time.. unless you want to boil them tender first, which I don't recommend.  I also tried an Emeril Lagasse method where they are baked covered for a few hours and then finished on the grill.  However, one of my first cooks on the Kamado Joe was to use the method that John uses in his Kamado Joe Cooking Channel.  And they turned out perfect, believe they were on for about 5 hours.

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Foiled again.... that technique is for non-k users.   

 

275° @ 3.5 hours on BBack 

250° @ 4.5 hours for spares ribs.

 

 

KISS works, kook indirect!  

 

Sometimes at the end of the kooking session, I put the high temps gloves on, reconfigure to DIRECT and get a hot grill.  

Then sear for maybe 5 minutes a side for a high heat  "finish" (no sauce).

 

 

ALSO: I always place the food in the Kooker BEFORE lighting and then do a slow ramp up for maximum "smoke ring".

 

GO~!

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I have tried a couple different ways, both with baby backs and st Louis's. I think my favorite is sort of a reverse sear type of thing. I'll cooking low and slow for a couple hours and not lift the lid. This is my smoke ring / roasting time. Check to see if they are close to probe tender.

I then remove a heat deflector from one side put a grate in the low position and open the vents. I'll then rotate the ribs one slab at a time over the hot side for purposes of grill marks and some carmelization.

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Last couple of times I tried 3-2-1(at 250) they came out way too tender. On my  more recent cook (St. Louis style), I went for 200-225 for approx 5 hours until they passed the bend test.

 

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I cut these from spare ribs. Only thing different I would have done is not to overlook the extra fat.

 

They were the best I've done on my Akorn.

 

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Good luck on your next cook.

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Thanks so much everyone! I think I will go full indirect without foil next time. I am more than happy to go up to 250-275 - I have always been impatient so if it cuts down the cook time with no adverse results, I'm game! If I don't get the tenderness I want, I may try 3-2-1 again but with the proper bend test to determine doneness.

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