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Moe Cason: What He’s Looking For In The Best Rack of Ribs

Moe Cason: What He’s Looking For In The Best Rack of Ribs

Reynolds Wrap® Chief Grilling Officer, Moe Cason, kicks off his four-city tour in Chicago!

By: Moe Cason

People always ask me what perfect ribs taste like. We all have different flavor palates based on what part of the country you’re from and/or what your grandmama had in her cupboard. Perfect flavor is subjective; so, to me, the perfect seasoning should be whatever tastes and feels like home. Texture on the other hand, better be just right or you’re going to have your Uncles and Cousins talking about you at the next cookout. We can’t be having that so let me tell you what I think the perfect rib should look and feel like.

I typically cook my ribs with oak and pecan wood and my pit temperature is consistently between 250-275 degrees Fahrenheit (every pit has different temperature sweet spots depending on the type of pit and how it operates). To achieve that mahogany and burgundy color, be careful not to over-smoke the meat.Wrapping the ribs in Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil during the cooking process will help with that. Get your trusty meat thermometer out and insert the probe between the bones to check the temperature. When the internal temperature reaches approximately 170 degrees Fahrenheit, the ribs can be wrapped. Wrapping ribs in foil does the following:

  • stops the smoking process
  • preserves the color of the rib
  • speeds up the tenderizing process

Depending on what flavor profile you want to achieve, moisture such as butter, apple juice, or honey can be added to the ribs when wrapping.

Once the ribs get to about 198-200 degrees Fahrenheit, unwrap and put them back on the pit for about 10-15 minutes. If opting to add sauce, do so after this time and baste an even coat over the ribs. Cook for an additional 5-15 minutes depending on the sugar content of the sauce. Less time is needed for a higher sugar content, but don’t walk away! Keep a close eye on them so the color isn’t compromised. Ribs are ready at about 200-203 degrees Fahrenheit, but you can also do the bend test. Pick up the rack with a set tongs and if a crack forms in the crust when they bend, they are ready. These tips will make your ribs the hit of the cookout!

I’ll be embarking on a four-city tour over the next few weeks looking for the best ribs in America. My first stop was Chicago and here are a couple places I visited that I really enjoyed.


My first stop on the BBQ trail was Bub City in Chicago. The manager offered me a lively spirit as I browsed their menu of BBQ offering regional flavors from Texas to Carolina. As I sat there waiting for my grub feeling the warmth of my tasty beverage, cool country jams filled my ears like a good time shindig. There’s even a stage for live music! The laid-back vibe of Bub City felt like I was in a BBQ joint in Austin. They even brought my food out served on a metal tray like they do in Texas. Now let’s talk about the food.

As the old saying goes, you eat with your eyes first. Everything on my tray was visually appealing and made me eager to sink my chompers into it all. The burgundy color on the ribs glistened and summoned me to try them first. The bite through was tender and came off the bone with ease. The maple bourbon glaze sauce was the first thing to hit my taste buds – not overly sweet with a slight tang. The bourbon complimented the savory notes of the salt, pepper, and garlic-based rub. It was plenty moist considering baby backs have a tendency to get dry since they are leaner than spareribs which have fatter marbling. These ribs definitely satisfied all the senses.


Most BBQ restaurants have some kind of theme for the décor – western, industrial, retro, hipster, etc.When I first walked into Smoque BBQ, I noticed there is none. But after eating the food, they don’t need one. The food itself IS the theme.

Smoque BBQ is a simple unassuming establishment with straightforward BBQ. That’s it. Nothing bourgeois on the menu, no weird plates or 17 different ways to make the same sandwich. Don’t let the line discourage you – it moves swiftly since food orders are placed at the counter and you pick it up yourself. I sat down with my tray of BBQ treasures and everything looked like it was rich in flavor. I chose the baby back ribs deep mahogany colored bark. I tore a couple of ribs apart easily and the meat displayed a nice moisture sheen and pulled cleanly from the bone. One of the many ways to tell if ribs are properly cooked is when the bone dries immediately when the meat separates from it. As soon as I bit into the meat, I swear I could hear the BBQ Gods singing. I could taste the woods used - sweeter smoke of applewood with depth of oak but the smoke did not overpower the flavor one bit.I would compare the well-balanced seasonings to KC style – pepper, chili powder, garlic, and not overly salty. Pitmaster and owner, Barry Sorkin, deserves the numerous best BBQ awards Chicago has bestowed upon him. This was my kind of rib ALL DAY.

Next up: Nashville!

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