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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Corncob Smoked Ribs

Late Tuesday night I returned from a visit to Betsy's family. We ate these barbecued baby back ribs while at her house and the recipe is destined to be a family favorite! This recipe turns a kettle grill into a smoker and the result is as close as I can get to really good ribs here in New Mexico. Some of you may know that I left a beloved rib place behind when I moved West and I've been underwhelmed by the rib offerings in my new state. I cooked these for Betsy, Michael, Leon and the one grandson who would try them. We all agree that we won't miss DixieBones BBQ quite as much now that we can cook these at home.

These are called corncob smoked ribs because corncobs provide most of the smoke. I found the recipe in Cook's Country Magazine where I learned that in South Dakota they have fewer trees to use for smoking so they use what they have. I save corncobs in the freezer since sometimes I want to have ribs when I can't find a fresh ear of corn. Just thaw them on the counter or the microwave.


Corncob Smoked Ribs

Source: Cook's Country Magazine 
Yield: 2 racks of ribs

The magazine has this to say about smoking with corncobs: "Corncobs may seem like an odd choice for smoking meat, but they impart a sweet, subtle smokiness that more assertive hardwood can’t offer. Cornmeal gives these ribs an initial blast of smoky flavor, while the fresh cobs offer long-lasting smoke and a nutty aroma."

I don't think these would work on a gas grill since I don't think you can produce as much smoke. 


1 c ketchup 
1/4 c water 
1 T pepper 
1 T onion powder 
1 T Worcestershire sauce 
1 T light corn syrup 
1 T granulated garlic 
2 teas celery seeds 
1/2 teas liquid smoke (favorite brand is Wright's since it doesn't have as many additives)


5 T (1/4 c plus 1T) packed light brown sugar 
1 teas salt 
1/2 teas pepper 
2 racks (2 1/2- to 3-pounds each) pork baby back ribs, trimmed and membrane removed 
1 cup cornmeal
6 corncobs, kernels removed and reserved for another use

Whisk all the ingredients for the sauce together in a bowl and set aside.

Combine sugar, salt, and pepper in bowl. Pat ribs dry with paper towels and rub with sugar mixture; set aside. Using large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap cornmeal in foil packet and cut several vent holes in top.  

Open bottom vents of charcoal grill halfway. Place 13 by 9-inch disposable aluminum roasting pan on 1 side of grill and fill pan with 2 quarts water. Arrange 3 quarts unlit charcoal briquettes on opposite side of grill. Place cobs on top of unlit briquettes. Light large chimney starter filled halfway with charcoal briquettes (3 quarts). When top coals are covered with ash, pour over cobs and unlit coals. Place cornmeal packet on coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot and cornmeal is smoking, about 5 minutes.

Clean and oil cooking grate. Place ribs, meat side up, on cool part of grill opposite coals. Cover, positioning lid vent over ribs, and cook until ribs are deep red and tender, 3½ to 4 hours, rotating ribs and switching positions every hour. (Do not flip ribs.) During last 30 minutes of cooking, baste ribs every 10 minutes, rotating and switching ribs each time. Transfer ribs to carving board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Cut ribs in between bones and serve, passing remaining sauce separately.

Notes from Colette:

I have used corncobs from which we've eaten the corn. I figure they are going to be burned up anyway so I don't usually buy corn just for this recipe.

I found that I don't really love this sauce for passing at the table. During the long time that it sits, the granules of the garlic and onion powders swell and the sauce gets less "saucelike". There is nothing wrong with the sauce flavor but the texture bothers me. If you find this to be the case for you, make another variety of barbecue sauce, for example:  Basic Barbecue Sauce or Smooth and Smokey Barbecue Sauce for passing at the table.



  1. Can corn cobs be used in an electric smoker?

  2. Corncob smoked ribs offer a different flavor from the more familiar hickory or mesquite-smoked ribs. Enjoy the sweet and mellow taste that's sure to be a hit at your next BBQ gathering!