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Pineapple + Pork + Smoke = BBQ Greatness

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I know this may be a Southern thing, but why do people put pineapple ON their pork as well as injecting it INTO their pork?

The quick and dirty answer is the enzyme bromelain, which tenderizes proteins (Hello, Ribs and Christmas Ham!) and gives them a sweet taste.

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But there is yet another reason…

Pineapple + Pork + Smoke = BBQ Greatness

Pineapple isn’t a fruit in the conventional sense, as one might think. It is rather a collection of berries that have fused together. Berries themselves have a strong flavor affinity with smoke and mezcal, which is a spirit blended in Mexico from agave hearts…yep, you guessed it…mezcal is tequila’s older, rougher brother. Mezcal is noted to have a smoky, old flavor in its own right. So if berries equal smoke, and pineapple equals berries…you can see a microscopic puff of smoke flavor when you rest a pineapple on a well-smoked and basted rack of ribs. Okay, that might be an optic stretch. But taste-wise, it’s totally logical. After all, ham can’t have all the fun…


That said, on to the good part…we’re going to figure out how to get all this smoky flavor into these ribs of ours without burning them before they hit the pit/grill. Because bromelain, as wonderful as it is, isn’t the greatest friend of marinade because it breaks down protein, making the meat mushy if you leave it in direct contact too long. So, we’re going to figure out what to do with the lovely pineapple juice we’re left with after we slice and core a couple of pineapples. Well, maybe we may have to actually grab a bottle of pineapple juice, but keep those pineapple rings chilled, we’re going to need them…

So, to give a base to the equation, we need a rub and a sauce for these ribs. We can’t allow pineapple to sit on meat itself, now can we?

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Southern Pitmaster Secret – Pineapple Mezcal Ribs – Best Southern Rib Recipe

For the Spice Rub:

  • 2 cups Sweet Spanish Paprika
  • 1/2 cup of Cayenne Pepper
  • Zest of 2 large Limes
  • Zest of 2 large Lemons
  • 1 cup Honey Powder
  • 1/4 cup of Dried Cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of Cumin
  • Brown Mustard (not Yellow, not Dijon, but absolutely Brown – we’ll get to why in the instructions).

PLEASE NOTE: There is no mention of sugar anywhere because all of the elements listed involve natural sugars breaking down. This reduces not only the glycemic index to protect us diabetics in the house, but it saves that sugar that you might need otherwise, for cookies for the children…

OK, as I was saying…

For the Sauce (you’re gonna need that):

  • 3 cups Pineapple juice
  • Lemon juice and zest from 2 Lemons
  • Lime juice and zest from 2 Limes
  • 1/2 cup Mezcal
  • 1/4 cup Honey Powder
  • 1/4 cup Sweet Spanish Paprika
  • 1 tbsp Avocado oil to saute the fresh Onion and Garlic
  • 1/4 cup Onion powder
  • 1/4 cup Garlic powder
  • 1 Onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, finely diced
  • 2 cloves Star Anise

The above ingredients should cover 3-4 racks of ribs of any style, with a little bit left over for another rack in a pinch!

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  • Make sure you have 3-4 racks of ribs, weighing in at 1-2 pounds per rack.
  • Trim the ribs of all excess fat on the meat side.
  • On the bone side, remove the silverskin. Some Pitmasters will say that this is unnecessary…but I never met anyone that liked overly chewy ribs, so I remove it every. SINGLE. Time.
  • Take the bottle of brown mustard and slather your ribs, both sides, with an even coat. The spice in the brown mustard will yield an extra depth of spice. This will result in the ribs holding onto the rub better in the pit or on the grill – and that will also hold the smoke better (okay, that was a reach, but you’ll believe me when you taste it) Get your hands dirty!
  • Despite the name, you don’t actually rub the spice mixture on the ribs. You take the mixture in your hands and gently pat the mixture evenly on both sides the ribs. This way, you’ll get the mixture evenly spread and into the meat deeply for better flavor. Y’all pitmasters in the group know this will get you a better bark and smoke ring.
  • Place your ribs meat side up in your preheated pit or grill, at 250F degrees. I know you’re asking yourselves, what, no foil? Don’t worry, you’re not going to lose any moisture or flavor. Keep a spray bottle of 1/4 lemon juice and 3/4 apple juice to spritz every 10-15 minutes.
  • Ohhhh, I almost forgot. You need that natural smoke – my preference is apple wood. You can use what you will, but I think apple gives a sweeter smoke than other woods.
  • Let the ribs rock for 2/3 hours…anything longer will overcook… And while you’re waiting…



Saute the chopped onion and chopped garlic in a pot with your avocado oil, over medium-low heat. Let it sweat until the scent brightens your kitchen. Reason for doing it on medium-low heat means they’ll sweat more gently and break down more thoroughly. Don’t worry about this being too watery, you just need that taste. We’ll punch it up a notch…

  • Add all other ingredients except the lemon and lime zests and stir them in gently.
  • Increase the heat to medium and stir gently, constantly, until the sauce just starts to boil. We don’t want a rolling boil here, we just want it to boil gently (pro tip: this keeps the sauce from clumping at the bottom and messing up your good pots)
  • After about an hour, the sauce will be well-blended enough for you to drop the heat to low, to begin the reducing/thickening process.
  • After about 30 minutes of reduction, stir in your fruit zests to give the sauce a brightness.
  • Great thing about this is that the sauce will be ready right before the ribs will be totally done. And that’s a good thing because…

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About the hour and 15 minute point, your ribs should be close to done. And when I say done, I don’t mean falling off the bone, I mean they should still have a toothsome feel, a gentle chew. The rub won’t be burnt either, thanks to that periodic spritz of juice. At this point you can brush the ribs lightly with the sauce, and cover again.

Do this again at the hour and 30 minute point.

At two hours, you should take those glorious ribs out and let them sit on a rack so you can brush with the remaining sauce, to your liking. The sauce should have pleasantly thickened over time, so it will give you a good sticky rib to savor when you cut them.

Gently place the pineapple slices on top of the ribs to further tenderize them. Let them sit for about 5 minutes, and then cut your ribs into single-serving bones. Cut the pineapple slices along with them so that the sweetness mixes with the smoke for an incredibly gentle chew.


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