A fresh and bright side dish that's perfectly matched with grilled meats.
Smoked “Al Pastor” Pork Ribs
Smokey, charred pineapple glazes the top of these vividly red ribs, smoked to perfection. It’s Al Pastor, but not as you know it.
It no secret that pineapple and pork are friends. Mates. Buddies. Good pals. You get it, they pair together very well. Mexicans have known about this combo this for years, as evidenced by smoky Al Pastor tacos. Pork is marinaded in achiote (turning it bright red in color) and other spices, then layered kebab-style on a ‘trompo’ before being cooked like a vertical rotisserie. The meat is shaved thin and layered onto a corn tortilla. But, the taco is not finished until it’s crowned with a finish of sweet pineapple.
It makes complete sense, then, that these flavors should transfer perfectly to smoked pork ribs. And I’m please to report: THEY DO! The bring the pineapple flavor, I considered giving the ribs a quick brine in some pineapple juice mixed with salt, but I had concerns that this may tenderize them too much and give them an unpleasant texture. Pineapple contains the enzyme Bromelain which is a natural meat tenderizer. So, I switched to my back up plan – a charred, chunky pineapple preserve to paint over the top of the racks as a finishing glaze. The glaze contains Mexican piloncillo, a much more caramel-y version of brown sugar. You can buy it online here or if you choose not to use it, just substitute with 1 c white sugar.
You will need to pick up some achiote for this recipe. Though it’s more commonly found in paste form, I LOVE using this sauce based achiote because it’s much easier than rehydrating a paste into a slurry to coat the ribs (which makes the seasoning adhere better). Speaking of – I always use Hardcore Carnivore Red for my pork ribs.
Smoked Al Pastor Ribs
- 1 fresh, large pineapple
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 oz piloncillo
- 1 cup water
- 1 lime
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 1 rack st louis cut pork ribs
- 1-2 tablespoons achiote sauce
- 1 tablespoon Hardcore Carnivore Red
- Start by making the pineapple preserve. Trim the top, bottom and skin off the fresh pineapple. Cut lengthways into quarters and remove the core from each piece. Cut lengthways again to get 8 total pieces. Lay them on a lined sheet pan and place into a 400f oven for about 1.5 hours until they are deeply brown. Once baked and cooled, dice the pineapple finely.
- Use a serrated knife to scrape/chop the piloncillo. Add the white sugar, piloncillo and water to a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves and starts to bubble. Add the juice of the lime, cider vinegar and chopped pineapple. Reduce heat to a bubbling simmer, then cook until the preserve reduces and thickens, up to an hour. Allow to cool.
- Heat a smoker to run between 225-250f. I recommend using cherry or another fruit wood for this recipe.
- While the smoker comes to temperature, prepare the ribs. Remove them from plastic (if necessary) and pat dry with a paper towel. Slather them with achiote sauce (use gloves as it can stain), then coat with a generous layer of Hardcore Carnivore Red seasoning.
- Place the racks into the smoker, meat side up. Cook for three hours, they wrap tightly into two layers of foil. Cook a further two hours, meat side down.
- After 5 total cooking hours, unwrap the ribs and return them to the smoker, meat side up. Use a spoon to spread a generous amount of the pineapple preserve over the top of the ribs (it should have a shiny but chunky finish) and then cook a further 5-10 minutes to set the preserve. Serve and enjoy!
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