Ribs Spritz Debate: Should You Spritz Ribs?


Rib spritz

I have been smoking ribs for a while now and I never really put much focus on spritzing ribs. I learned to smoke meat without spritzing and I have been able to turn out tender and moist meat with plenty of flavor. When done right, the smoke flavor and rib rub bring plenty of flavor, while the rendering of the fat brings plenty of moisture and tenderness.

With that said, I do use spritzes when smoking ribs occasionally. And while I haven’t noticed much of a difference between spritzing and not spritzing ribs, it did get me curious, does spritzing ribs actually help?

What Is A Spritz?

A rib spritz is a liquid or a combination of liquids that is sprayed on the surface of the ribs throughout the smoke. A highly debated topic, a rib spritz is believed to help add flavor and prevent the surface of the ribs from drying out. Some of the most commonly used spritzes include, apple juice, apple cider vinegar, whiskey and much more.

ribs in smoker

Should You Spritz Ribs?

This is a highly debated topic within the meat smoking community so the best thing to do is try it out yourself and figure out what you like. There are people who live by spritzing and then there are people who never spritz.

I ran a poll within the smoking meat community to find out how many people are spritzing their ribs and how many are not. I found that 60% of participants said they were spritzing their ribs while 40% were not.

Do you spritz ribs poll

As with anything when it comes to smoking meat, it all comes down to personal preference. Spritzing your ribs is not going to make or break your BBQ, but here is what it can do for you:

Add Flavor:

Most of the time, the liquids used for spritzing ribs contain sugar. When applying these spritzes to the surface of the ribs, the liquid is going to evaporate leaving behind the sugar. In doing so, you are adding another layer of flavor to your meat.

The sweetness added from theses spritzes compliment the smoky flavor we are getting from the wood. This can help create a deeper flavor profile. It is also common to see acidic liquid such as apple cider vinegar, used in spritzes. This helps tenderize the meat and add a bit of tanginess to the flavor.

The sky is the limit when it comes to ribs spritzes. Don’t be afraid to try different things. Look at spritzes as another layer of flavor.

ribs on smoker

Prevent The Ribs From Drying Out:

When smoking ribs, the surface of the ribs can tend to dry out. Most of the time, when you sauce your ribs up you won’t even be able to tell, but spritzing ribs helps to prevent this by adding moisture directly to the surface when needed.

Moisture is always a good thing when smoking meat as it promotes better moisture retention and an overall juicer finished product. That is why I always recommend using a water pan when smoking meat. You can also retain a lot of moisture by wrapping your ribs in aluminum foil or butcher paper.

For more tips on how to prevent dry ribs, check out my article on what causes ribs to turn out tough and dry!

Help Create Bark/Smoke Flavor:

Now this one is a bit controversial, but smoke is said to be attracted to moisture. By spritzing your ribs and adding more moisture, you are attracting more smoke to your ribs. This can help create a better bark and help create a better smokey flavor.

Why You Shouldn’t Spritz Your Ribs?

Spritzing ribs

Many people choose not to spritz their ribs not only because they believe it doesn’t do much, but because spritzing ribs does come with some down sides.

Longer Cook Times:

The more you spritz ribs, the longer they will take to smoke. Just as our bodies produce sweat to keep us cool, spritzing adds moisture to the ribs which subsequently cools them down through evaporative cooling.

This constant cooling can cause your ribs to take longer when smoking. Most people who spritz ribs only do so when the surface starts to dry out.

Another problem with constantly spritzing, is the constant opening of your smoker. Anytime your smoker lid opens, you are losing heat in your smoking chamber. Remember, if you are looking, you ain’t cooking.

Can Change The Flavor:

While spritzes are a great way to add flavor to the meat, it can also cause you to mess with the flavor too much.

It has been said that adding a spritz can mute the flavor of rib rub. The rubs and spices we put on the ribs contain a lot of flavor and using a spritz can easily overpower those flavors.

Additionally, If your spritz ponds too much in one area, it can leave a stronger taste in that area than in other areas. This can cause inconsistent flavor across the ribs.

When applying a spritz, you want to make sure you are applying an even and light layer across the surface.

“I use only water to spritz my ribs, that way I know I am going to get a consistent flavor. I don’t have to worry about it changing the flavor of my ribs or having strong spots. By using water, I am letting the rub work and I know exactly what its going to taste like”.

Head pitmaster for SMoked Seduction catering

 How Often Should You Spritz Ribs?

If you have decided to spritz your ribs, you should only do so when you see the surface start to dry out. Over spritzing can change the flavor too much and cause longer cooking times. Check your ribs every 30 minutes to an hour and spritz as needed.

What Is A Good Spritz For Ribs?

There are so many options, combinations, and recipes when it comes to rib spritz. Really, the sky is the limit. I have seen everything from juices, hard liquor, beer, vinegar, to even just water. Here is a list of some of the most commonly used spritzes when it comes to ribs.

Apple cider vinegarReds hard apple cider
Orange juiceTiger sauce & garlic
Apple juice/whiskeyWhiskey
Dr Pepper, Coke, Root beerBourbon
WaterCitrus juices
Beef brothBeer
orange juice

Mix and match these or use your favorite liquid. You can’t go wrong. Experiment and figure out what you like best. Here are some great recipes to start with.

Easy Rib Spritzes             

Jack and Coke Spritz

  • 4 parts Jack Daniels
  • 1 part Coke
Jack Daniels

This sweet and smokey combination will help bring out the flavor in your ribs all while creating a wonderful aroma. This is definitely a great combination to try when spritzing ribs.

Apple cider vinegar rib spritz

  • 1 part apple cider vinegar
  • 1 part water

This is one of the most common types of spritzes used when it comes to smoking ribs. It is such a simple spritz but really help to bring out the flavor in the bark

Orange juice spritz

  • ½ a cup of orange juice
  • ½ a cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

Other Commonly Asked Questions:

Can You Spritz Ribs With Beer?

Yes, you can spritz ribs with beer. When using beer as a spritz, you would typically use a dark beer. They tend to have a more complex flavor profile that pairs well with protein rich foods like ribs; however, any type of beer will work.

Does Spritzing Ribs Help With The Bark?

Spritzing ribs slows down the cooking process and adds moisture to the surface of the meat which is said to help your ribs take on more smoke flavor and create a better bark; however, as shown in the video above, spritzing ribs had little impact on the bark formation.

This continues to be a highly debated topic with no clear answer.

Smoked ribs done

Can You Spritz Ribs With Water Only?

Yes, you can spritz ribs with only water. A local BBQ catering company in my hometown uses only water to spritz with. According to them, It’s easily and readily available, and you get the benefits of adding moisture to your meat without having to worry about the flavor or inconsistency in taste.

Michael W.

Half of my family lives in Texas and we would visit them often. As a food lover, naturally I fell in love with smoked meat. Smoked brisket and peach cobbler is a staple around where my family grew up and quickly became a favorite of mine. Unfortunately we didn't have good BBQ where I grew up. After enough years, I finally decided to get a smoker so I didn't have to wait for good BBQ until I went to Texas. Getting into a new hobby can be overwhelming. When I first started smoking meat, there was so much conflicting information and so many different styles and techniques that I didn't know where to start. I started this website to help people BBQ better and learn the ropes by sharing my knowledge and experiences.

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