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I am smoking ribs in a charcoal smoker. The smoked rib recipe that I am following instructs smoking the ribs at 225°F. My smoker is maintaining a temperature of 215°F. I can add more lump charcoal to raise the temperature, but fear I will soar right past my target temperature.

I realize the ribs will cook slower at a lower temperature, but is maintaining 225°F paramount to cooking the ribs correctly? Am I risking food safety by maintaining a slightly lower temperature?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

When you approach the low end of the low-and-slow cooking methods, a concern that is normally not an issue in faster cooking methods starts becoming important: how long will it take the food to get to safe temperature?

You want the food to be above 140 F (60 C) for the entirety of the cooking process, for safety, although having that happen instantly is not possible. Therefore, you want the temperature to get to that threshold as quickly as reasonably possible, especially for the surface of whole cuts of meats where the greatest risk of pathogens are.

Therefore, I would urge you to err on the side of caution and safety, and use the extra coal at the beginning of cooking until the food reaches at least 140 F.

Once it gets out of the danger zone, and into the safe zone, you have much more freedom. However, barbecue is far from exact. I would not worry about a 10 or even 15 F disparity. Your final outcome will likely be indistinguishable.

Still, once the food is safe, if you wish to allow the temperature to be somewhat lower, that is the time to do so.

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As long as you cook it long enough so that internal temperatures reach safe levels than you are fine. Sous vide for instance commonly occurs at temperatures of 150 degrees for instance for beef.

Pork needs to be at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit to be considered safe.

On a side note 225 is perfect for ribs. A meat thermometer is tough to use on ribs because of the thin meat and the bones but figure that Baby Backs will cook in about 3-4 hours and St. Louis can take about 6. Pick them up with your tongs and they should bend easily under the weight and start cracking at the surface.

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This is simply is not true: not only the final temperature matters, it also matters how fast the temperature gets above 140 F / 60 C. Sous-vide has a much faster transfer of heat due to the specific heat of water being so high compared to air. –  SAJ14SAJ Sep 23 '13 at 16:34
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