Smoked ribs are one of my favorite meals to make when we have friends over. Not just because everyone loves them, but because I can get all of the prep and cooking out of the way long before they arrive. After the ribs are fully smoked, they can sit covered for quite a while if necessary before being served. This gives me the opportunity to hangout with our guests before eating rather than being too busy in the kitchen. When everyone is ready to eat, the ribs are ready to go.
Many years ago after several failed attempts to make smoked ribs to the point they would ‘fall off of the bone’…, I came across the 3-2-1 method which has worked perfectly for me every time!
The 3-2-1 method is a 3 step process of smoking for a total time of 6 hours. I’ll explain the 3 steps more below…
Maybe the first key decision to make is which type of smoked ribs you want to serve There are several types of ribs and rib cuts to chose from. Do you want Beef or Pork? I always go with Pork, but you won’t go wrong with Beef either. There are several types of Pork rib cuts to chose from: Baby back, St. Louis-Style, Spareribs and Country style ribs.
My favorite is Baby back ribs and the recipe below is how I make them. Note: Other ribs/cuts may need some variation on cooking time and temperature…
You will also need to choose which type of wood chips you would like to use. I prefer Apple wood chips for my ribs which compliments the sweet rub and sauces I like to use. But there many wood chip choices such as Hickory, Mesquite, Cherry and others. You can experiment over time and come up with what you like best. Maybe a combination of a few woods would work best for you!
I like to use a heavy sugar based rub to coat my ribs. This helps form a nice bark that not only looks great but adds amazing flavor!
- 2 racks Pork baby back ribs
- 6 – 8 oz Dry rub – See my Rib rub recipe or use you favorite store bought rub
- 6 oz BBQ sauce – Use your favorite
- 6 oz Apple juice
- 4 oz Brown sugar
Cut each rack in half, this will allow for easier handling and a better fit in the smoker.
Many people remove the membrane on the bone side of the ribs to allow the smoke and favors to better absorb. I have personally found removing the membrane to be time consuming, messy and doesn’t make a noticeable difference, so I no longer even attempt it. I’ll leave it to you to decide if removing the membrane is worth the effort.
Generously sprinkle rub on both sides of the ribs and be sure to cover the edges as well.
Allow to sit for 20 – 30 minutes covered on the counter top (in a cool place). This is especially important if the ribs are partially frozen, they need to be fully defrosted before smoking.
Preheat your smoker to 260 degrees.
Let’s begin the 3-2-1 process:
Smoking time is 3 hours for this first step of the process.
Place the ribs in the pre-heated smoker, directly on the rack, bone side down and set a timer for 3 hours.
Add chips right away to get the smoking process going. I like to keep a good amount smoke going through this first step, the type of smoker you have will determine how to best do this.
In my electric smoker, I add a small amount of chips every 30 mins.
Smoking time is 2 hours.
In this step, the ribs will ‘smoke’, covered in foil so they can steam.
Remove the ribs and place on foil (big enough to fully enclose the half rack). Bend the sides of the foil up slightly so that the apple juice in the next part won’t spill.
Sprinkle each side with brown sugar, add ~1 1/2 oz of Apple juice onto the foil. With the bone side down gently wrap the foil around so that it is fully sealed on both ends and the top but not pressed against the ribs.
Place covered ribs back into the smoker. Repeat for each piece. Be careful not to tear the foil, you need a tight seal to produce the steam.
Re-set the temperature to 230 degrees and set a timer for 2 hours.
Smoking time is 1 hour.
In this final step, the ribs will smoke uncovered, basted in your favorite BBQ sauce.
Note, sauce is optional, so if you don’t want or like sauce on your ribs just follow the directions without basting.
Remove each foil pack from the smoker one at a time. Baste both sides of the ribs in sauce. Place the ribs back into the smoker, directly on the rack (no foil) bone side down.
Note, there will be a lot of juice in the foil, so take caution when opening and be prepared to dispose of the juice without making a big mess.
Re-set the temperature to 225 degrees and set a timer for 1 hour.
After the ribs have completed the final step, remove from the smoker and allow to sit for 20 minutes lightly covered with foil.
Cut into individual ribs with a sharpe knife and serve with more BBQ sauce on the side.
- 4 tbsp Brown Sugar
- 2 tbsp Salt
- 2 tbsp Garlic Powder
- 2 tbsp Onion Powder
- 2 tbsp Chili Powder
- 2 tbsp Smoked Paprika
- 2 tbsp Ground Cumin
- 1 tbsp Black Pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp Mustard Powder
- 1/2 tsp Cayenne Powder – Add more to spice it up!
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and set aside until ready to use.
Rub can be stored in an airtight container for future use.
After you pull the ribs from the smoker and let them rest they are ready to serve. If you aren’t ready to serve, just keep them covered in foil.
I hope the 3-2-1 method works for you as well as it has for me! If it does, you will serve ribs your friends and family will rave about!
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