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BBQ Ribs; Secrets to Falling Off the Bone Tenderness - The Texas Crutch!

Updated on October 28, 2009

It’s easy to get fall off the bone tender ribs when cooking in an oven, when braising or when performing the ultimate BBQ sin, parboiling, but achieving that same degree of tenderness in your BBQ alone is sometimes more challenging.

Now, I don’t mind a little pull to my ribs - but for the restaurant, I need to keep people happy, and most people want falling off the bone.

I just built myself a great new BBQ pit, but I’m still getting used to how she runs, and so unfortunately, the first batch of ribs I made in it came out a little tough for my liking.

Knowing that I didn’t want to sacrifice quality while testing things out (not to mention wasting a 50 lbs of ribs!) I decided to fall back on the oldest trick in the book to tender BBQ ribs – The Texas Crutch!

The Texas Crutch – An Easy Way to Very Tender BBQ Ribs

The Texas Crutch is a technique used to increase the tenderness and moistness of BBQ ribs, pulled pork, and especially brisket. It involves starting off your meat in your BBQ smoker (or grill over smoky indirect heat) for a couple of hours and then pulling out a roll of tinfoil to make a little magic:


These are time guidelines that assume your smoker is set to about 250f, and are of course, only approximations.

  • Cook your ribs as you normally would, uncovered, in your BBQ smoker for about 2 hours.
  • After 2 hours, take the ribs off the heat and wrap them up well in a couple of layers of heavy duty tinfoil.
  • Before you seal the tinfoil at the top, add in a generous cup or so of apple juice.
  • Seal the tinfoil well (you want to catch all the steam) and then return the wrapped ribs to the smoker for another hour, still at 250f (remember to have the seal facing up, so as not to leak out all the juices.
  • After an hour, take the ribs out of their wrapping, and return to the smoker for a final half hour to an hour, uncovered, still at 250.

What this does is give you the best of both worlds.

  1. You start out with a generous smoking time, letting the meat slowly gather in all that BBQ flavor.
  1. You then braise the meat in a steamy environment, which does wonders for tenderizing
  1. You then return the meat to the smoker for a final cook, to get back that nice BBQ crust, so as not to serve mushy looking ribs.

Like everything BBQ related, you get no shortages of opinions about the Texas Crutch, some people swearing by it – and others swearing about it! But if you’re having trouble getting fall off the bone ribs, this is a technique that you might want to try.

Falling Off the Bone!


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    • Spiceman profile image


      8 years ago from Fenton, Mi

      I linked your page to my recent Hub. From my years of grilling, you are right on the mark! I learned the method of cooking with foil forty years I can give it a name!

    • Splitty Booms profile image

      Splitty Booms 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Ok I just tried this for the first time...good stuff. But this is definitely a method for those who like to sauce their ribs. I don't sauce, so the family loved the texture and tenderness...but they only 'liked' the flavor. I was afraid to taste it myself, so I let everyone else taste a piece. After getting all good reactions, I finally tasted it. I personally LOVE it. Its more tender and juicy than I ever made ribs before. However, I know that I still need to perfect the method. Plus I'm not working with a smoker and I'm still an amateur when it comes to smoke and controlling it.

      But thank you again for introducing this method to me...once I find my happy place with this, the world best watch themselves:)

    • Splitty Booms profile image

      Splitty Booms 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Ha! I prob just read it wrong:) Thanks my good man!

    • John D Lee profile imageAUTHOR

      John D Lee 

      8 years ago

      Hi Splitty - sorry, I see that the way I wrote that could be confusing! When I say to cook them uncovered, I am talking about uncovered by tinfoil - definitely cook these with your lid closed.

      Happy Smoking!


    • Splitty Booms profile image

      Splitty Booms 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Great stuff, sir! I wouldn't call myself a veteran, or even seasoned...but I've moved past 'rookie' in the game of bbq. My family loves my ribs, but I am never satisfied. This type of fall of the bone goodness is what I long to produce...I've gotten close, but no Cuban cigar.

      The Texas Crutch sounds like a winner, I will be trying this on my next go.

      Here's something I'd like to ask you: I have a grill that is separated giving me a left and right side, and I can make separate fires for each side. I see you're a gas man, but even though I'm using charcoal and wood chips, would I leave my lid open or close it down? I know you said to leave your 'smoker' open, but is it the same for a bbq grill? Yeah...I'm THAT anal about this stuff. Appreciate any advice!

    • John D Lee profile imageAUTHOR

      John D Lee 

      9 years ago

      HI John,

      Really glad to hear that your ribs turned out well! I did write a hub on tips for Boston Butts, and you can find it here, if you;re interested

      Thanks for the comment


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I have been looking for a good smoked BBQ rib recipe for a long time and I found it this weekend. Your recipe was a great success with my guess and they were amazed at how tender they were. Thank you very much.

      P.S. Do you have a good Boston Butt recipe?

    • John D Lee profile imageAUTHOR

      John D Lee 

      9 years ago

      Hi Paul,

      I have a fairly tall vertical brick BBQ. The heat source is a gas ring at the bottom, which is defused by a heavy cast iron sheet. On top of the cast iron, I place wood chips for smoke. I've found that this gives me good consistent results with a minimum of fussing around.

      Sorry I can't be of more help, but I have no particular expertise about different types of charcoal.

      Best of luck and happy BBQ'n!

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 

      9 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      When you smoke ribs in your barbecue, do you use wood, gas, or charcoal?

      If you use charcoal, do you have a favorite brand? I've been looking for a good source of coconut charcoal, but haven't found one yet. I hear it burns at a nice steady temperature for long periods of time with little ash. It would be perfect in theory for slow cooking ribs.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      9 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks John D Lee! Been making St. Louis style ribs for the past few months now indirect on my weber and half the time they turn out too chewy. Your's is the first article I've bookmarked! Will be coming back for more! Great info!


    • Jane@CM profile image


      9 years ago

      YUM! I wish we had a smoker. The ribs look delicious!

    • dohn121 profile image


      9 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      I really want a smoker so I can do this. What a great recipe, as you always have the best methods. Thanks again, John.


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