To create a smoked rib brine, combine 4 parts water with one part brown sugar. Add plenty of Kosher salt, black pepper, and any seasonings you want to infuse into the meat such as garlic powder, onion powder, or paprika. Soak the ribs (membranes removed) in the mixture overnight. Then pat dry before smoking as usual.
A delicious smoked rib brine brings out the best in your rack of ribs. Brining infuses the ribs with moisture and makes them tender while giving them some flavor, depending on what spices you’ll use.
How to Brine Smoked Ribs
To brine ribs, you’ll need to mix a solution of salt, sugar, and water and then soak the ribs in the mixture for several hours or overnight.
The salt and sugar in the brine solution help to break down the fibers in the meat, making it more tender. The liquid can also add moisture to either smoked or BBQ ribs, which can be especially useful if you plan on cooking them for a long time.
Simply follow this step-by-step guide to brining smoked ribs:
- Combine salt and sugar in a large pot or container. Add enough water to cover the ribs and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve.
- Add any additional seasonings or flavors to the brine – such as garlic powder, smoked paprika, onion powder, black pepper, chili powder, cumin, or other herbs and spices.
- Place the ribs in the brine, making sure they are fully submerged. Cover the pot or container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours minimum or up to 24 hours.
- Remove the ribs from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.
- Smoke your ribs according to your recipe, and enjoy!
Tools Needed to Brine Ribs
To brine ribs, you will need the following equipment:
- A large container to hold the ribs and the brine solution – can be a large pot, plastic container, or food-grade plastic bag.
- A refrigerator to store the ribs and brine solution while they are brining.
- A whisk or spoon to mix the brine solution.
- Measuring cups and spoons for portioning ingredients.
What Ingredients Are Usually Added to Brine?
The most common brine ingredients for ribs include:
- Herbs and spices. Herbs and spices help to customize the flavor of the meat.
- Salt. This is the main ingredient that helps to tenderize the meat and add flavor.
- Sugar. The sweetness of sugar balances out all the flavors and is also a preservative.
- Water. This is used to dissolve the salt and sugar and create the brine solution.
Should Ribs be Brined Before Smoking?
There are a few different reasons why you might want to consider brining ribs before smoking them:
- Brining can help to tenderize the ribs by dissolving the protein in the muscle fibers. This can make the ribs softer and easier to chew.
- A brine solution can prevent meat from drying out during the smoking process and keep ribs moist.
- Brining can add flavor into the meat. You can add herbs and spices to the brine you like to enhance flavor.
Should Brined Ribs Also Be Marinated?
Both brining and marinating can be helpful techniques for adding flavor and tenderness to ribs, and they can be used in combination or separately, depending on your needs.
Marinades usually involve an acidic element like lemon or cider vinegar that break down the protein. When left for more extended periods, it can make the meat mushy. With brining, you can let your ribs sit for a longer time.
Marinades are typically used for smaller meat cuts while brining is done for larger meat cuts. Brining helps bring moisture, while the point of marinating is to increase the flavor of your ribs.
Ultimately, whether or not you choose to brine or marinate your ribs will depend on your preferences and the specific recipe you’re following.
Do Brined Ribs Need a Rib Rub?
If you dry brine (rub the ribs with salt), you don’t have to use a rib rub. However, you can combine your dry rub in the brining solution – a wet brine is excellent for encouraging the formation of moisture, and a dry rub is good for flavor (and you can pick the rub ingredients you want to flavor your meat with).
The primary purpose of brining is to make the meat juicy, not to add flavor. So complementing this with some herbs, spices, and other flavorings will do your ribs some good.
Some people may prefer the flavor of brined ribs without a rib rub, while others may find that the additional flavor and texture provided by a rib rub enhances the overall dish.
How Long Does it Take to Brine Ribs?
The amount of time it takes to brine ribs will depend on the type of ribs you have and the specific recipe you’re following. In general, ribs can be brined from several hours to overnight, with the exact timing depending on the size and thickness of the ribs and the desired level of flavor and tenderness.
Unlike marinades, you can brine a piece of meat for a long time without affecting its texture so that it won’t become mushy.
Benefits of Brining Ribs Before Smoking
There are several benefits to brining ribs before smoking them:
- Enhanced juiciness
- Enhanced moisture retention.
- Improved flavor
- Improved tenderness
- Increased shelf life
- Prevents drying out
Brine Flavor Variations for Smoked Ribs
The best brines add layers of flavor to your meat, and you can do this by adding different seasonings to the brine.
Here are 5 ways to change up your brining liquid:
1. Coffee Brine
To add a kick of bitterness to your brine that will also add a depth of bold flavor, add a few cups of cold brew to your brining liquid.
2. Beer Brine
This is nice and light and can be made with any beer. For example, you could use a pale ale or a stout, depending on what kind of flavor profile you’re going for.
This brine is excellent for fall flavors, but it’s also perfect all year round.
The combination of bright citrus, pepper, herbs, vinegar, and brown sugar is a fit for any pork meat you can imagine, including ribs!
A spicy and zesty citrus brine is perfect for adding an extra punch of flavor to ribs!