The secret to any BBQ is low and slow cooking. That kettle drum will be a challenge to keep the temps around 225-250º, so be sure to use the indirect method of heating.
My entire technique depends on holding your cooking temp at 225º. I use a Weber Smokey Mountain and can hold the temp steady for over 6 hours on very little charcoal.
This technique is how the best cooks in the country have been preparing their ribs. They compete on the MIM and KCBS circuits and have a long list of achievements. I have personally won many cheap plastic trophies for my ribs using this technique.
First off, water is for doing dishes, NOT for cooking meat. Rely on low and slow cooking to tenderize them. Here is an article I wrote on making ribs in the oven....at the start, I explain why boiling is baaadddd..... http://www.recipegoldmine.com/bbqguru/kevin10.html
OK, let's go......rub your ribs down the night before. Use your favorite rub..they are a dime a dozen.....my article has a very good one. Wrap in Saran and let sit overnight in fridge.
Unwrap, prepare your smoker fire and then add the ribs. Just before adding to the pit, sprinkle with more rub. Add your smoke wood at this point. To 90% of the consuming public, smoke is smoke, so your choice of smoke wood is not a real issue at this point. Use whatever is free. Use chunks if you are using a charcoal fire and there is no need to soak.
Cook for 3 hours, basting after 2 hours. I use a very simple baste...3 parts citrus juice, 2 parts oil and 1 part vinegar. You can use whatever you want.
At the 3 hour mark, take the ribs off the smoker. Make sure to maintain your fire for the next several minutes. At this point you are going to foil your ribs. So, timeout for a discussion on foiling......
Many purists/traditionalists insist that foiling is a "crutch" and really not needed. That is their opinion and they are entitled to it. I am in pursuit of the BEST ribs and after 25 years and several hundred thousand racks of ribs prepared about 2 dozen different ways, I have concluded that foiling is needed to turn out the BEST ribs.
The general public wants falling off the bone tenderness. Now, we all know that a rib is overdone if the meat falls off the bones, but do you really want to try and convince someone that their favorite rib is too tender? Of course not..you would be laughed at. So, the best way to get that tenderness is to wrap your ribs in foil.
Enough on that!
So, lay out a large sheet of foil and place your rack on it...one per sheet of foil. Use REYNOLDS Heavy Duty foil...the other brands are mere jokes. Once the rack is on the foil, sprinkle with brown sugar or honey. Then use your mop sauce to moisten so the sugar melts. Wrap tightly and then back to the smoker.
Cook another 2 1/2 hours...don't do anything with the foiled ribs during this time.
You should now be at the 5 1/2 mark of your cook. Take the ribs out of the foil and apply your favorite sauce. A word about sauce and dry ribs.......SWEET will always win...always has and always will. So, you can't go wrong with something sweet. You can also go with a dry rib. That is my persoanl choice but I also make available at least 3 or 4 different sauces at the table....sweet, hot, mustard, vinegar, etc.
If you want a dry rib, then sprinkle more of your rub onto the meat after taking them out of the foil. If you want sauce, then slather with sauce.
Place the ribs back into the smoker for another 30 minutes and you are finally done.
This technique is pure timing! Don't expect to get it correct the first time. Here are the variables.......
Temp.....225º for a solid 6 hours. This will NOT work if your temps are all over the map.
Weight of the ribs....I use 2 1/4 lb. racks of loin backs(technically NOT baby backs but close enough). These come from Sam's Club and are great because they are NOT tumbled and injected. If your rack weighs more or less than that, the timing will need to be adjusted.
OK, since I ramble so damn much, here is a quick step-by-step....
Rub night before.
Smoke at 225º for 3 hours.
Baste after 2 hours.
Wrap in foil at the 3 hour mark.
Cook another 2 1/2 hours.
Remove from foil and place back into smoker for the last 30 minutes.
Not really that hard.
I have several techniques that also turn out a great rib, but I must admit this has been proven to be a winner.