In America, we often give a lot of credit to Kansas City, Memphis, Carolina or Texas BBQ, but Hawaii’s BBQ is right up there in my top 3 favorites.
It tends to be a little sweeter with notes of the islands’ fresh fruits, like pineapples, mangoes and passion fruit. Mixed with that, you’ll find Asian influences like soy sauce, ginger and rice wine vinegar.
Meats are usually grilled or smoked using strawberry guava or kiawe wood, which are also a little sweet. And they’re almost always served with white sticky rice and creamy Hawaiian macaroni salad.
While we’d all love to take a trip to Hawaii, this recipe should hold us over until then.
Types of Ribs
Let’s start with the meat.
There are three basic cuts of pork ribs: spare, St. Louis and backribs. Spare and St. Louis ribs are cut from the belly or underside of the hog, while the backribs are cut from the back of the hog.
Sometimes backribs will be called baby backs and sometimes they are referred to as loin backribs. Either way, they are leaner than spares and St. Louis-style ribs, because they rest alongside the tender pork loin. They are also smaller and more arched.
For this recipe, I’m using Swift Meats Pork Backribs. You should be able to find them at your local Costco in packs of three. And as an added bonus, the silver skin on the back is already removed, which makes prepping these so much easier.
If you live in a dry climate, add a pan of water to your smoker to help promote moisture.
It takes about 4 hours to smoke pork backribs to an internal temperature of 205F degrees.
1 rack of ribs will serve 2-3 people, depending on how many other dishes you serve with them.
Adding the Hawaiian BBQ sweetness
A lot of ribs recipes use mustard as a binder, but this recipe starts with soy sauce. Rub a little bit on each side of the ribs and then liberally sprinkle on the Maui Wowee and Pork Rubs.
The Spiceology Maui Wowee Rub includes brown sugar, pineapple powder, soy sauce, sesame seeds, ginger, onion and garlic. For heat, there is a little crushed red pepper and cayenne. And for true island flavor, it also includes crushed rice hulls.
My Pork Rub adds more island flair with coconut sugar, along with some chiles, cumin and cinnamon for earthiness. It also creates a rich, red color because of the smoked paprika.
While the ribs are cooking, we’ll create a sticky Hawaiian BBQ sauce on the stove with brown sugar, butter, honey, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, more rub and one of my favorite umami bombs – sesame oil.
How to smoke pork ribs
I have a few different smoked pork ribs recipes on my site, but this is by far the easiest, because it doesn’t involve wrapping and unwrapping the ribs.
All you have to do is set your smoker to 250F degrees and smoke them for 4 hours.
You can smoke these on a charcoal grill or smoker over indirect heat, or you can use a pellet grill. If all you have is a gas grill, that’s okay, too. Just create an indirect heat zone by leaving some burners off, and then add a smoke tube with wood chips for added smoke flavor.
If you can get your hands on strawberry guava wood, that’s awesome, but other sweet fruit woods like cherry, peach and apple also go great with this recipe. And honestly, if all you have on hand is hickory or mesquite, the recipe is still going to turn out awesome.
About 3 hours into the cook, you’ll make the Maui Wowee BBQ sauce that gets brushed on right at the end for finger-licking Hawaiian BBQ happiness.
Visit SwiftMeats.com to learn more about their delicious sources of protein that the whole family will love. You can also learn more about their sustainability practices and the progress they have made to reduce greenhouse emissions and water and energy use while surpassing animal welfare standards.
How to know when ribs are done
This recipe has two stages: the bark-building stage and the sauce stage.
For the bark-building stage, we’re looking to create a flavorful, mahogany crust or bark on the outside of the pork ribs. This adds texture and flavor when you take a bite.
You’ll notice the bark creation will start to happen after hour 3 of the cook. That’s when the meat will transition from having a pinkish hue to having that true barbecue appearance.
Once you hit this stage, let the ribs ride a bit longer. Then, we’re going to hit them with the sauce.
Because the sauce has sugar, you need to be careful not to burn it. Fortunately, because we’re cooking at 250F degrees, that shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you’re cooking on a gas grill, the side of the ribs closest to the direct heat could char. To avoid this, watch the ribs and rotate them, as needed.
Brush on the sauce and let them smoke for another 30 minutes. All we’re looking for is sticky, tacky goodness. At this point, the ribs are cooked through. The internal temperature of the meat should be around 205F degrees.
Remove them from the grill and let them rest a bit before slicing.
For the true Hawaiian experience, serve them with white sticky rice and sprinkle on some sliced green onions and sesame seeds. And forget about the silverware. This is one of those meals where it’s okay to dig in with your fingers.
Maui Wowee Hawaiian BBQ Smoked Pork Ribs
Make these sweet, sticky, meaty Maui Wowee Hawaiian BBQ smoked pork ribs to bring the islands to your backyard.