Have you ever tucked into a rack of ribs at a garden party and wondered exactly how your host managed to keep them so juicy and moist? It may be that they’ve discovered one of the best-kept secrets in the world of grilling—spritzing!
So, how do you spritz ribs and what difference will it make to your food? Spritzing involves spraying the ribs with a flavored liquid during the cooking process, either on a grill or in a smoker. This is a great way to add flavor to your ribs, as well as giving you plump, moist, and perfectly tender meat that falls off the bone.
Are you feeling inspired to try out spritz for ribs at your next summer barbeque? Read on to find out everything you need to know about using spritz for ribs!
What Is A Spritz For Ribs?
If you haven’t come across spritzing before, this clever technique is really much more simple than it sounds.
Have you ever seen someone cooking a barbeque who periodically sprays the food with liquid from a bottle? If so, it is quite likely that they are using a spritz!
This barbequing method involves using a liquid marinade which is sprayed over the meat. To do this, a simple spray bottle is used. This contains a mixture of ingredients, all designed to add flavor and moisture to the food.
A spritz is used when cooking food on the grill, either when using a smoker or directly on the grill plate.
This is a mess-free alternative to the mopping method, where meat is basted during cooking using a marinade that is brushed on.
As well as being messy, basting meat can also run the risk of contaminated food, with the brush touching uncooked meat and then being placed back in the marinade.
When spritzing there is no contact with the meat with any utensils or equipment, so this is a much safer way to add moisture to the food.
Why Use A Spritz For Ribs?
The meat on a rack of ribs is one of the trickiest parts of an animal to cook to perfection.
There is such a thin layer of meat covering each bone that it can quickly become overcooked and dry, ruining your dreams of succulent meat that falls off the bone.
A favorite way to cook ribs on the grill is in a smoker, using low heat and aromatic smoke to slow cook this cut of meat to perfection.
However, it is a fine balance between producing ribs with soft juicy meat that melts in the mouth, and ribs that are tough, dry, and chewy.
The reason for this is that the small amount of meat and large surface area of ribs creates the perfect environment for moisture to evaporate. This means that they will soon dry out, losing all their incredible flavorsome juices.
The same problem can also happen when we cook ribs on the grill, as the direct heat is so high the meat quickly loses its moisture.
But we don’t need to let this happen, as a simple spritz can save the day!
However, spritz doesn’t just add moisture, but can also enhance the flavor of your barbecue ribs.
When spritzed, the rich and intense flavor of smoked ribs is transformed by this simple process.
Your family, friends, and guests cannot fail to be impressed when you pull out a tray of sizzling smoked juicy ribs, and nobody needs to know just how simple this method really is.
All you need to make a spritz for ribs is a spray bottle and the liquid ingredients of your choice. It really doesn’t get easier than that!
Do Ribs Taste Different When Cooked With A Spritz?
The great thing about using a spritz is that barbeque smoked ribs are much less likely to turn out dry and unpleasant.
Adding moisture at regular intervals helps to keep the meat moist, giving it time to cook through gently and absorb the aromatic wood smoke.
However, the story doesn’t end there, as spritzing also makes some subtle but incredible changes to the flavor and texture of the ribs.
Using a spritz gives the meat a darker, softer crust. This is due to a combination of caramelization and added moisture. In culinary terms, this crust is often referred to as the bark of the meat.
When you spritz meat, you lose the crunchy outer crust we are all familiar with when we barbeque food, but in exchange, we get something much more succulent and flavorsome.
This is because the oils and sugars in a spritz liquid will increase the level of browning of the meat’s surface, as well as seal in the juices of the meat. Spritzed ribs are also plumper and juicier than their plain barbequed counterparts.
There is also another unexpected bonus of using a spritz if you are smoking food—it actually enhances the penetration of the smoke into the food!
This means you are more likely to achieve the nirvana of smoking food on the grill—the formation of a perfectly pink smoke ring just near the surface of the food.
This occurs because the moisture on the surface of the meat attracts smoke, allowing it to sink into the meat and react with the muscle fibers. Clever stuff, and it tastes great too!
Some people think that using a spritz reduces the intensity of flavor in barbequed food, as it mutes the flavor of any sauce, spice rub, or marinade.
This is often just a case of personal preference, and many others will tell you that spritzed ribs taste far better than the traditional kind!
What Makes A Good Spritz For Ribs?
The aim when making a spritz is to create the perfect blend of liquid to help the meat retain moisture, as well as contribute towards the formation of a dark, sticky bark.
Most spritz recipes include some form of sugar, to aid in the caramelization of the meat. However, as the spritz must be sprayed in a fine mist, this sugary element is often a fruit juice rather than solid sugar.
Apple juice and white grape juice are popular favorites, and both work well with the flavor of ribs.
You will also find that a lot of spritz recipes include some form of acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice. The combination of acid and sugar gives that perfect sweet and sour mix, which is the key to a perfectly caramelized yet moist crust!
Alternative recipes use beer or a spirit such as bourbon. Many spritz recipes also include some form of cooking oil.
One thing that all spritz formulas have in common is that they do not contain anything that might clog the nozzle of the spray bottle! So dried herbs and spices are strictly off-limits here.
It is worth bearing in mind that if you are cooking meat that has fatty skin, then a water-based spritz will hinder the formation of a good crust. In this situation, either use an oil-based spritz or stick to a simple dry rub instead.
Homemade Spritz For Ribs Recipe
OK, so let’s take a look at how to make the best spritz for ribs at home!
The great thing about a spritz mix is that it is made entirely from store cupboard ingredients, and most of the elements can be substituted with an alternative if necessary.
To start with, we need the sweet base ingredient. The ideal partner for ribs is apple juice, but a sweet white grape juice would also work well.
If you want added sweetness, you can gently heat the juice and dissolve a small amount of soft brown sugar in it.
Added to this you need a contrasting liquid to bring a hint of acidity to the blend. Our favorite for a spritz for ribs is apple cider vinegar, but you could also use white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar.
If you have it, a splash of bourbon or beer can also be added at this point for a hit of decadent flavor!
Finally, you need an oil-based liquid to blend everything together and help the spritz stick to the meat. Light olive oil is ideal, or you can use liquid imitation butter as an alternative.
- 1 cup apple juice or sweet white grape juice
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar or alternative type of vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil or liquid imitation butter
- ¼ cup beer or bourbon (optional)
- Add all the ingredients to a spray bottle, and shake well to combine. The bottle will need to be shaken before use, as the ingredients will separate over time.
- Spray your barbeque ribs at regular intervals once a brown crust has started to form.
- Once the cooking process is complete, rinse the nozzle of the spray bottle thoroughly with water to prevent it from becoming blocked.
Best Bottles For Spritzing Ribs
The only extra piece of kitchen equipment you’ll need when spritzing ribs is a spray bottle, which can be used over and over again!
It is important to buy a spray bottle that is made from food-grade materials, and with a nozzle that will not clog up with oily spritz mixes.
Spritz bottles are normally made from either plastic or glass and are see-through so you can check the level of the contents easily. Strong flavors such as garlic may taint the bottle, so remember to clean it out straight after use.
Here are our top picks for the three best spray bottles for spritzing ribs:
1. Rocky Mountain Goods BBQ Spray Bottle
If it is simple and functional you are looking for, then this spray bottle ticks all the boxes!
It has a 250ml capacity, which will hold enough spritz spray for an average family barbeque.
The bottle comes with a lifetime warranty and has an adjustable nozzle to control the spread and intensity of the spray.
This spray bottle is suitable for use with both water and oil-based spritz sprays. However, oil-based sprays may cause the nozzle to clog, so don’t forget to flush it through with soapy water after use.
2. Cdycam Oil Sprayer for Cooking
This is one of the most elegant spritz bottles we’ve ever seen, and it would look stylish on any barbeque side table.
It works well with all liquids, including cooking oils, and includes a cleaning brush to keep it in pristine condition.
The only downside to this bottle is the relatively small 100ml capacity, so if you are catering for a larger party it might be sensible to opt for a bigger bottle.
3. Mr. BBQ Mister Battery Powered Barbecue Spray Bottle
If you’re a fan of cool barbeque gadgets, then how about this battery-powered spritz spray bottle!
This model is perfect if you’re the kind of person that takes grilling very seriously, firing up the barbeque at any excuse.
The great thing about this system is that it sprays food rapidly, so if you’ve got a large amount of meat on the grill it can be spritzed in a matter of seconds.
This means you can quickly close the lid again, preserving precious heat and smoke.
Tips When Using A Spritz For Ribs
To get the best results from a spritz for ribs, it is vital to use it at the correct stages during the cooking process.
There are also a few other factors to bear in mind when using a spritz for ribs, but we’ve got all the best techniques for you right here!
Firstly, it is important to remember that spritzing your ribs will almost always increase the cooking time. When the cold liquid hits the surface of the meat, it reduces the heat and slows down the cooking process.
The impact of this is lessened if you are cooking ribs directly on the grill over high heat.
They will quickly get back up to temperature and will be sizzling away again in no time at all. You may find that ribs cooked in this way take no longer to cook when you use a spritz.
However, if you are smoking your ribs it is a different matter! This method uses lower heat levels to cook meat slowly, and a spritz will reduce the temperature even more.
This means that the cooking time could increase by as much as 20%. So if you normally smoke your rack of ribs for 5 hours, you will need to add on an extra hour when a spritz is used.
So, when do we start using the spritz if you’re cooking ribs? If you’re grilling the ribs directly on the hot plate, start spritzing as soon as they are lightly browned and sizzling.
Starting the spritz too early means you won’t get any crisp to the crust at all, and too late will give you a crunchy crust and drier meat.
In the smoker, wait for a crust to form on the meat—around 90 minutes is normally sufficient. Then you can start spritzing, without worrying that the liquid will wash your carefully seasoned rub mix off the ribs.
When it comes to applying the spritz, it is best to apply it immediately after you have flipped the ribs over.
This will give the liquid chance to soak into the meat, away from the heat of the grill. It also reduces the amount of seasoning rub that will be washed away by the spritz.
The aim when spritzing is to spray the surface of the meat with a fine mist, adding a layer of moisture. This will need to be done several times during the cooking process to be effective.
Grilled ribs will need to be spritzed every 5-10 minutes, and smoked ribs benefit from a spray of water every 30 minutes.
Now that we’ve gone over whether or not a spritz is necessary for ribs as well as how to incorporate one into your cooking, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
How do you keep ribs juicy on the grill?
Ribs are notoriously tricky to cook on the grill, and there is a fine line between a succulent juicy rack of ribs and a dry overcooked one!
The key to keeping ribs moist is to keep the grill at a low to moderate temperature, as high heat will quickly dry them out.
Some other methods of keeping ribs juicy on the grill include ways of adding moisture either before or during cooking. The ribs can be brined or marinated in a flavored liquid, or you can use a mopping sauce or spritz during cooking.
If you are cooking your ribs in a smoker, another way to add moisture is by using a water pan. This will generate steam, helping to keep the meat juicy and aiding the penetration of the smoke.
How do you keep ribs from drying out after cooking?
A common problem when cooking ribs is that they come off the grill looking perfectly succulent and juicy, then by the time you’ve dished up your sides the ribs are dry and inedible!
This happens because your ribs continue to release moisture, even when they are removed from the heat.
To prevent your ribs from drying out after cooking, they should be covered or wrapped in aluminum foil as soon as they are removed from the grill.
This will seal in steam and moisture, helping to keep those precious juices firmly locked in the meat.
For extra juiciness, add a small amount of barbeque sauce or meat juices from the pan to the ribs before wrapping them in foil.
A splash of warm water can also work well, but don’t go overboard as this may make the bark turn sticky rather than crusty.
If you’re interested in seeing a side-by-side comparison of spritzing vs not spritzing, here’s a great video on the subject!