Some of my favorite meals to make include smoked ribs as they are always a crowd-pleaser. This recipe for Hickory smoked St Louis ribs with espresso rub and Cuban coffee sauce was inspired by my home city of Miami, especially for the flavors in the Espresso Rub and Cuban Coffee BBQ Sauce which make this unique recipe come together with a Southern Florida twist. I used hickory logs to smoke the ribs which complimented the coffee notes perfectly. I smoked the ribs for 6 hours using the 3-2-1 method. After six hours the end result were ribs that pulled easily from the bone without sacrificing the texture of the meat.
The starting point for the ribs is the rub and sauce. I wanted a hint of espresso but I didn’t want it to overpower the hickory flavor from the smoke. If you are following my recipes for the rub and sauce you will see there is not too much espresso used. When preparing the ribs put a light dusting of the rub on after removing the membrane. Then refrigerate for one to four hours before smoking. The end result is a hint of coffee which is not overpowering.
With St. Louis ribs I like to use apple, pecan, oak and hickory woods. These woods work well on their own and can also be used in different combinations but feel free to experiment with different woods to suit your palate. When getting the smoker ready, and in all aspects of smoking meat, I have found that having patience and allowing extra time is key. Start your smoker early and allow it to gradually come to temperature. I averaged 240f for these ribs and I was happy with the texture of the meat. Go a little higher if you want softer meat and lower if you want meat with a bit more pull. Once the smoker gets to temp and holds for about 20 minutes it’s time to get smoking.
3-2-1 explained – 3 hours smoking
For ribs the tried and proven formula is 3-2-1. If you follow this formula your ribs will come out tender and juicy. First smoke the ribs for 3 hours.
2 hours in foil
Following three hours on the smoker remove the ribs and wrap them in foil. Next add a little moisture to keep the ribs from drying out and to help cook them with steam. I used orange juice to keep with the Cuban flavor theme. You can use water, apple juice, beer or anything else you think might work. My ribs came chopped in half from Butcher Box. I wrapped each half rack with three table spoons of orange juice and used two layers of foil to insulate.
1 hour with sauce
The final step of hickory smoked St Louis ribs. When the two hours wrapped in foil are complete, remove the foil and put the ribs meat side down and baste with BBQ sauce. After 15 minutes flip the ribs paint the top with sauce. Then apply more sauce every 15 minutes until they are complete. During this time the lid will be open more and lose more heat therefore I usually get the firebox going hotter because of the lost heat. When the 6 hours are done remove the ribs and let them rest 30-40 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to settle into the meat. Serve with your favorite sides and enjoy.