Brining ribs before smoking them?

I'm playing around with my neighbour's new toy - an electric smoker - and we've already done a great batch of pork ribs with a dry rub.

What are your thoughts on first brining the ribs overnight before applying the dry rub cure? Smoked meat internet forums seem to think it's unnecessary but I've always understood that a brine is a good idea for most roast/smoked meat preparations. Thanks everyone!

  • Posted by: Reiney
  • September 12, 2012


tallpaul June 30, 2013
grilling is done over direct dry heat, usually over a hot fire for a short time. So yes there is a science to it.
ChefOno June 30, 2013

Indeed. And understanding the science makes mastering the art possible.

tallpaul June 30, 2013
BBQ-ing is a process of slowly smoking your Brisket, Pork Shoulder or Butt, Ribs, Chicken, Turkeys, Sausage…. anything that you want to infiltrate that wonderfully flavorful smoke ring into to give it that ‘straight from the pit’ tenderness, taste and aroma. So your are not doing this.
ChefOno June 30, 2013

Not in my dictionary it's not.

If you use the verb "barbeque" as a synonym for "grill" (a common mistake) then it becomes impossible to discuss and understand the differences between the two techniques.

In very basic terms, Santa Maria Tri-Tip is grilled, the direct application of high heat. You can think of barbeque as a braise without the moisture -- low and slow, rendering fat and converting collagen to gelatin. When you look at the science, there is very little in common between the two. Wood, fire -- that's about it.

tallpaul June 29, 2013
pierino the definition of barbecue is exactly the way you cook your meat. So therfore yes you are doing barbecue.
Reiney September 14, 2012
The ribs are smoking as we speak - a dry rub overnight, no brining!
HalfPint September 14, 2012
Post photos if you can :)
ChefOno September 14, 2012

Is it safe in here now or are the brickbats still flying?...

My rule is "brine chicken and pork, salt beef" -- except for ribs which get their salt from the rub. I don’t believe brine benefits ribs which are mostly about gelatin and rendered fat, of which they have plenty.

One or the other, if that's the question. The important thing is that sufficient salt gets into the cells so that they don't lose moisture as the meat comes up to temperature. I think the amount of time allowed for the salt to work is more important than the method employed.

SKK September 13, 2012
Sarah, my brother-in-law owns Carolina Smoke in Bothell, a great barbecue joint. He never brines before he smokes. He also does a slow smoke. He is from South Carolina.

Regarding Texas barbecue, I love it!
Reiney September 13, 2012
Interesting, so is brining ribs a Texan style or have I misunderstood the suggestion?

On another note, I don't know Pierino outside of this forum and, though I don't doubt his BBQ preference, I'm almost certain his comment was made entirely in jest and that he holds no malice against the great state of Texas.

(Kind of like when I tell my Canadian friends that Thanksgiving in October isn't A Real Thing :)

Cheers everyone!
aargersi September 13, 2012
Hi Sarah - actually a typical Texas treatment is a dry rub, but I think it would be worth a try to brine some! Maybe do one of each so you can side-by-side them and see which you prefer?

Pierino has a history of bad-mouthing Texas for a variety of reasons - just really gets my goat sine it's unfounded and unreciprocated ....
pierino September 13, 2012
ChefOno and Sarah have my intentions exactly down. And if you think I'm tough on Texas you won't want to hear what I have to say about Arizona. In my part of California we are known for grilling big hunks of tri tip over smoking oak coals. But we don't call it "barbecue" because it really is not. For this reporter, barbecue is pig.
ChefOno September 14, 2012

I agree about the pig except for one thing: Brisket.

ChefOno September 13, 2012

Demonstrating precisely that "the subject is intensely regional". Apparently Pierino is so good at BBQ, he's able to spark fires all over the State of Texas. Some of you need to check your thermometers -- I'll bet it's well over 225F under your collars.

marley16 September 13, 2012
Pierino, you sure have a nasty streak. You are missing out on some wonderful food. Perhaps, if you spent a little less time with the attitude and a little more tasting Texas food, your head would pop out of your a*s.
nannydeb September 13, 2012
pierino or whatever your nickname is, I'm not sure why you feel the need for such negativity, but I would think if I was the person asking advice I'd certainly dismiss you as the authority because of it.
aargersi September 13, 2012
Sarah I am sorry I didn't really aswer you thoroughly - was a bit hot under the collar - but I think you can make a brine that isn't so salt intensive and get a lot of great flavor into the ribs - one thing we love to do for smoked chicken that I think would translate - make a brine of whole garam masala (we buy it at the local Indian market) brown sugar, white peppercorn and salt, brine for 24 hours then smoke. You could do something similar then grill the ribs and I bet it would be darn tasty

Voted the Best Reply!

aargersi September 13, 2012
I say try it! I love brining meats and don't see how it could be bad ...


Pierino I don't know who the hell shoved anvil up your butt about Texas but once again you feel the need to insult a state that I (and millions of others) love dearly. As for BBQ? Well Bon Appetit seems to think we have the best in the country:

Just Google Best BBQ In America and you will see Texas cited again and again. The little town of Lockhart has some fantastic old BBQ joints and one of the highest BBQ per capita ratios in the country. People travel from all over the country and the world to visit it.

We do amazing dry rub low heat cooked smoked brisket, spicy sausage, beef and pork ribs, plus and number of other critters. I would say fully half the Texans in the state either have a backyard smoker or access to one, and know how to use it.

You don't like one single thing about Texas? Fine. That's your prerogative. But I would appreciate if you would keep your wild generalizations and insulting slams of my state to yourself, and I know I am not the only one that feels that way.
Michael C. May 15, 2014
Texas thinks it does everything better than anyone else. With regard to the 'Q, I'll concede brisket, but hogs is where it's at, and NOBODY tops the Carolinas in that department. I tip the hat to KC and Memphis, and their sauces, but y'all got another thing coming when the pig is the issue, and within the Carolinas, I submit that MY BBQ, with my brine, my dry rub, my smoking wood mix (relatively equal parts of apple, pear, hickory, white oak, and pecan chunks), and finally my sauce (smoking the vegetable components and slow cooking for 24 hrs with the herbs and spices and sweeteners and adjunct liiquids)...well, nobody stands a chance. And last 4th of July I fattened the yearling hog with carrots, parsnips, beets, and chestnuts for 2months prior to slaughter.
Texas DOES have some damn fine looking women though. Love of my life Della Richardson hails from there, but even she would tell you my BBQ, not to mention my sides, and anything else from a grill or kitchen, has y'all licked.
Reiney September 13, 2012
Thanks all - dry rub (only) it is!
Sam1148 September 12, 2012
I'd say skip the brine and just do the rub an hour before smoking. The rub has more than enough salt.

Brining is only needed for the leaner modern cuts of pork. Ribs have lots of fat and you'll seriously run the risk of making a salt brick if you brine and rub and smoke.
pierino September 12, 2012
Sarah, this one is a bit of a slippery slope. In the case of ribs I think brining is a waste of time. For larger muscle masses, that's a different story. And of course I'm an advocate of internal brines as opposed to the whole bath. Ribs are not just ribs. The subject is intensely regional from Kansas City to St. Louis to Memphis to the Carolinas. Forget about Texas. They can't barbecue anything properly. But I just don't see where either a long or a short brine time is going to improve anything. Too many other factors are involved.
chef O. September 12, 2012
Cooks illustrated has a great rib recipe where they are brined for an hour prior to seasoning. They always come out super moist. Very little effort so why not try it both ways!
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