Peppered Babyback Ribs Recipe

The black pepper adds bite to these peppered babyback ribs, and is balanced with a bit of sweetness from marinating in apple juice. These smoke beautifully, and when done right have a gorgeous pink smoke ring all around the cut edges.

Creating a smoke ring is the goal of serious pit masters, and is caused by a chemical reaction the smoke produces into the meat. Lower temperature smoking creates a more pronounced smoke ring, because once meat reaches around 140 degrees, the smoke will not penetrate any deeper. So if you want a great smoke ring, low and slow, baby. That's the ticket!


This recipe is for two racks of baby back ribs.

  • Two 2-1/2 pound baby back racks
  • One quart apple juice
  • One and one-half tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
  • One teaspoon onion powder
  • One-half teaspoon salt

Prepare the ribs by removing the membrane if it's still intact, then scraping off any excess fat. For easier handling, I sometimes cut the slabs in half before marinating and seasoning.

Soak the ribs in apple juice for four hours, or overnight in a covered baking dish in the fridge. Pat dry, then season with pepper, salt and onion powder.

Smoke, using about two cups of soaked, drained hickory chips. Maintain your smoker temperature in the 225-250 degree range, cooking the ribs for three to five hours, until tender. Test the ribs for doneness by pulling on a rib bone. The meat should tear easily, but still have a bit of firmness remaining.

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