After cooking my first batch of baby back ribs on the Orion Cooker, I found that they were more "Kansas City Style", as opposed to what I like (fall off the bone). So although the Orion Cooker is exceptionally fast (1:15 for six racks), and the smoke flavor is easy to control by adding just a few wood chips, the ribs are not as tender as I would like.

The standard Orion Cooker method is simple (fill it with seasoned meat, fill it with charcoal, light the charcoal, come back after the prescribed time). Has anyone found a "tried and true' method to alter the standard Orion Cooker method that will provide a more a more tender result? I was thinking that less charcoal could be used (lower temperature), and just allow the ribs to cook longer. But it would be hard to come-up with an alternative cooking methodology by trial and error since opening the cooker to check doneness would suspend cooking for a significant amount of time.

  • Do you have a probe thermometer by any chance? Either a remote one or just one where you could monitor temps outside the cooker? Temp isn't a perfect indicator, but fall off the bone will finish at a higher temp than ribs with some tug to them. Ideally you'd get one with 2+ probes, one for meat, and one for your grate temp.
    – wax eagle
    Sep 11, 2014 at 13:24
  • I did execute on using probes. Your comment prompted me to ask another question: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/49185/…
    – Dale
    Oct 23, 2014 at 14:06

3 Answers 3


If you want the ribs to be more tender, then cook them for a longer period of time. You said here:

come back after the prescribed time

This is your mistake. There is no such thing as a "prescribed time." The ribs are done when they are done. The time is merely a guideline. There are a several cues to doneness.

  • The rib meat will retreat from end of the bone during cooking. The bigger the retreat, the more "done" they are.
  • You should be able to slide a probe between the bones with little resistance. If you want really "fall off the bone ribs" then the probe should push right through without even the slightest of effort.
  • If you pick up the rack with a pair of tongs, it should bend easily. The closer to vertical, the more tender they will be.
  • If you take the ends of two of the bones in the rack, and gently pull them apart, you should see some tearing in the meat. Again, bigger tear equals more tender.

The moral of the story is: don't live and die by the clock, but use it as a guideline. Cook the ribs to how you like them.

  • Good points, all of them. Thanks. Unfortunately the Orion Cooker, as delivered, is a time-based cooking device. It has one setting (full ring of charcoal). I was afraid that if I cooked longer on that high setting, the meat would get overdone or dried out. As to what the ribs "look like" during cooking, there can be "no peeking" using the Orion, or your cooking will stop and your times will be meaningless.
    – Dale
    Oct 23, 2014 at 13:57

I haven't used an Orion, but I watched their video and I feel like I've got a pretty good handle on the concept. I'm like you, I like ribs super-fall apart, and usually a bit saucy. I would try braising them in a big roasting pan in the oven a couple of inches deep in liquid for two hours or so (just at a simmer, don't let the liquid boil), before putting the racks in the smoker. For the liquid you can get as experimental as you care to.

  • I've been tweaking and retesting my rib method over the summer, and roasting or braising before smoking or grilling seems to result in more tender ribs than the other way around. Go figure, but I agree that this technique would get you to the desired end. Although rather than using a braising liquid, you could just brush them with a bit of sauce and wrap them in foil before placing in a low (~250F) oven for a couple hours.
    – logophobe
    Sep 11, 2014 at 14:35
  • I think that would work if I were cooking at home where I had access to an oven and roasting pans. But my goal is to improve the Orion cooking method without complicating it too much.
    – Dale
    Oct 23, 2014 at 14:03

Reducing the amount of charcoal used in the Orion Cooker and cooking longer can produce a more tender result.

Specifically, using 6 lb of a 12.5 lb bag of charcoal and cooking for 120 minutes for 3 racks produced ribs that were not quite as tender as desired, but much better than the normal Orion recipe (12.5 lb of charcoal for 70 minutes).

The temperature profile was as follows: Rib Cook Temperature Profile

The above shows that the meat temperature was held between 195 and 205 for 60 minutes. This profile is not optimal for the most tender ribs, so additional changes toward lower/slower may improve the result.

Note that the charcoal reduction required a minor modification to the equipement since unless the charcoal is adjacent to the Cooker's wall, the wood chips will not smoke. The modification is shown in a you tube video entitled "Orion Cooker Charcoal Saving Mod And Improved Tender Rib Cooking" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otrplfPBvfk).

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