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Should You Use a Rib Mop?
In case you didn't get the memo - we can't get enough of cooking our food outdoors and breathing in that majestic aroma that only a smoker can create! We also love trying new seasoning blends, mops and styles of cooking (along with passing on our best tips to you). This time of year we cook everything that we possibly can on the smoker, from vegetables and sausage, to our all time favorite - ribs. If you're a fan of ribs and BBQ then you probably know that around the country there are plenty of different styles. No matter the style, one thing that many people can agree on is that using a mop or spray during the cooking of your ribs, especially if you are cooking them low and slow, can be a major advantage.

Why Use A Mop?
There are plenty of arguments for and against using a mop while you are cooking ribs, but we think the benefits definitely win. Many people will argue that using a mop will make your outer crust soggy, but not if you apply it at the correct time. We'll get to applying your mop in just a little. Not only will using a mop not make your ribs soggy, the moisture will attract smoke to your ribs (in a good way) giving them more smoky flavor in a shorter amount of time. Also, if you are cooking your ribs low and slow (which we hope you are), a mop will help keep your meat from drying out.

Depending on the ingredients that you use to make your mop, it can help caramelize your meat and add extra layers of complexity. Many people think that these layers can come from using a BBQ sauce, but be wary because the extremely high sugar content can cause your meat to become charred and dry.

Competition barbecuers like using mops because it gives them a chance to add even more mouthwatering flavor to their ribs. It is a great way to experiment with different flavor profiles while tying them together to create an award winning piece of meat.

A Few Basics
When it comes to making a mop you might be wondering what type of ingredients to use. It needs some liquid along with some dry stuff, oh and a bunch of flavor, too. But how do you get there?

First off, do not use the same liquid that you originally used to marinate your meat. This can cause cross contamination between your partially cooked meat and the marinade. If you would like to use the same ingredients feel free to whip up a new batch and give your ribs a fresh start.

Before making your mop, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, mops should be thin - think no thicker than fruit juice. For this reason, we suggest making your own from liquids and spices as opposed to mixing BBQ sauce with vinegar. Although the second option will work in a pinch, this mixture will not apply as evenly to your ribs. Commercially distributed sauces also typically contain extremely high amounts of sugar. Although sugar is a necessary ingredient for forming a crust, too much sugar can create large amounts of smoke and char your meat.

Mop Ingredients
Now that you know the basics, you are ready to start gathering ingredients to make your mop. You can begin by deciding what type of liquids to use. Many people like to use apple cider vinegar to make their mop, along with other complimentary liquids such as whiskey, bourbon, Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper (especially the hard to find Dublin Dr. Pepper), lemon juice or even cherry juice, which can be used in combination with regular vinegar for anyone who can't eat apples. This is also where you can play around with some of your favorite flavor profiles to reach a balance that is just right. If you are using soda in your mop make sure it is not diet. Also, using flat soda will keep your mop from foaming and fizzing when it is placed on the grill.

A super simple mop can be made from just apple cider vinegar and some of your favorite BBQ rubs. We recommend adding 1-2 tablespoons of seasoning to one cup of vinegar, or whatever combination of liquids you are using.  If you want to get a little fancier you can not only create your own combination of liquids for your mop, but also assemble your very own rib rub. To make a rib rub we like using the 8-3-1-1 method.

Almost all barbecue rubs go by the guidelines of the 8-3-1-1 method. When it comes to layering flavor, we like to make our mop with a balance of sweet, heat and tart flavors to give a layered flavor that comes together with ease. These flavors will come in part from the liquids that you choose for your mop and also the rib rub that you combine with the liquids. The sweet flavors in our rub will come from powdered juice, such as pineapple, or one of our favorite granulated sweeteners like our granulated molasses or Vermont maple sugar. When it comes to heat, you have a wide selection to choose from ranging from burn your face off heat to fruity, flavorful heat. For the hot aspect you can use ground chile powder, some of your favorite hot sauce or even Sriracha Powder which ties into our next flavor component - tartness. Once you have the perfect amount of sweet and heat, you are ready to balance it out with a smooth, tart ingredient. This is where your liquids come in. The tart aspect of most rib mops comes from vinegar, most often apple cider vinegar and any other liquids you would like to add from the list above.

Making Your Mop

We mentioned earlier that a very simple rib mop can be made by mixing 1-2 tablespoons of rib rub with one cup of apple cider vinegar. This can be the same rub that you used to marinate your ribs, but what if you mixed your own rub and want to create a mop that is uniquely your own? We have a few tips to help you marry your flavors with ease.

If you are using a combination of liquids along with your homemade rub combine these ingredients along with any others that sound good:
1 cup vinegar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2-4 tbsp of your rub (depending on additional liquid ingredients)
½ tbsp lemon juice (optional)
1 cup soda of your choice (optional)
1 tbsp Soy Sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or Sriracha sauce (optional)

 Although these ingredients will make a pretty delicious mop, they are just guidelines and the ingredients and amounts used can be altered to fit your personal preferences.

When to Mop

The best time to apply your mop is right after the crust has formed and you have flipped your meat. This will allow your mop to marry with the hot and bubbly surface of the crust where the meat juices are.

Many people are under the impression that you should never open a smoker or grill while meat is cooking. While you shouldn't leave the lid open for long periods of time, it is quite okay to open the smoker or grill to spray or mop your meat. This is because most of the heat that is used to cook your meat thoroughly is actually stored in the outer layers of the meat and slowly transferred to the inner sections of meat. This temperature will stay almost exactly the same when the cooker is opened and the internal air temperature will quickly reheat once the lid is closed.

As you can see, a rib mop can not only help you create a more complex flavor for your meat, but it will also help keep it moist while cooking low and slow. Just remember that too much sugar, especially i is the enemy when it comes to making a mop and you should be well on your way to friends and family asking for your secret.

Related Posts
The Anatomy of A Rib Rub
Is It Done Yet?
The 12 Secrets of Cooking Smoked BBQ Ribs
8 Things That You Need to Know About Grilling A Great Steak


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