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This Smoked Ribs Recipe is the ONLY one you’ll ever need. Whatever type of ribs you are smoking (spare ribs, pork ribs, baby back ribs), this 3-2-1 ribs method will give you fall off the bone ribs every time along with that distinctive smoky flavor that is undeniable. Don’t have a smoker? Try my Oven Baked Ribs or Crockpot Ribs which are also fall off the bone tender and delicious – minus the smoke flavor.
What is the 3-2-1 Ribs Method for Smoking Ribs?
The 3-2-1 ribs method for smoked ribs is the technique with (as the name suggests) 3 different steps to ensure the most flavorful and tender, fall off the bone ribs. It starts with (#1) 3 hours of smoking with just a dry rub, followed by (#2) a foil wrap in some type of liquid (usually apple juice, wine or beer) for 2 hours, and finished by (#3) removing from liquid, saucing up and smoking uncovered again for one more hour. I have your step by step instructions for this below, so stay close!
What are St. Louis Style Ribs?
For the purposes of this recipe, I am using St. Louis Style Pork Spare Ribs. Mostly, because they were WAY on sale at my local grocery store, but also because they are in my opinion the most flavorful and meaty. The term “St. Louis Style” comes from the way the ribs are cut. In the 1930’s, meatpackers in St. Louis created a new, rectangular cut for pork spare ribs that included more meat.
What Temperature to Smoke Ribs
I recommend setting your smoker to 225° F and keep it at that temperature from start to finish. You could go up to 250° F, but no more than that. Remember, this is a low and slow method.
How Long to Smoke Ribs
You should prepare to smoke your ribs for about 6 hours using this method, if smoking at 225° F. You’ll then want to let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes or however long you can stand it. If you find that you are running short on time and need to speed up the process a bit (just a bit!), increasing the smoker temperature up to 250° F will help a little. I wouldn’t go any higher that that, though.
What is Rib Membrane and Do I Have to Remove it?
The Rib Membrane or Silver Skin is connective tissue found on the bone side of every rack of ribs. No matter how long you cook your ribs, this tissue won’t break down so it’s best to remove all silver skin before cooking to ensure the ribs are as tender as you want. Removing it also ensures your seasonings and especially that SMOKE penetrate all of the meat.
How to Remove Rib Membrane
This is actually so much easier than you think! It seems like it would be intimidating but couldn’t be simpler.
- Turn your rack of ribs over so the back bone side is face up.
- Starting at the smaller, narrower end, use a small knife or kitchen shears to slide under the edge of silver skin and get a little flap to grab.
- Using a paper towel, grip the flap you created and pull off. It should come off in one long sheet but if it doesn’t, use the knife to pull up another section and start pulling again.
How to Smoke Ribs
Now that we’ve learned the basics, let’s get to the STEP by STEP instructions on How To Smoke Ribs. If you follow my instructions carefully, you should have the most delicious, smoky, tender, fall off the bone ribs ever. Printable recipe card will be found at the bottom of this post.
Preheat your smoker to 225° F. Since every smoker is different, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer instructions for startup. I use a Traeger Wood Fired Pellet Grill. My favorite wood (or wood pellets) to use for any kind of pork is Apple Wood as it just compliments the pork so well but you can use any kind of fruit wood you’d like. Hickory or Mesquite would totally work as well.
Remove Membrane From Ribs
Before you do anything to season your ribs, you first want to remove the membrane found on the bone side of your rack of ribs. Instructions on that above!
Season Ribs with Mustard and Dry Rub
Pat your Ribs dry with paper towels and spread classic yellow mustard all over the meat. The mustard ensures the rub adheres to the ribs and can help to tenderize the meat since it contains vinegar. Then, generously apply a dry rub seasoning of your choice to all sides of the ribs. I used my homemade Pulled Pork Dry Rub recipe, which is perfect for Pork Ribs too!
Place Ribs on Smoker + Smoke for 3 Hours
Place your fully seasoned ribs either in a rib rack or directly on the smoker grate. Smoke for 3 hours.
Wrap Your Ribs + Add Liquid
Tear off a few sheets of aluminum foil and layer together to create a “boat”. Place your ribs in foil boat bone side up and transfer to smoker grate. Carefully pour Apple Juice and Brown Sugar mixture over ribs and crimp foil to create an airtight vessel. Continue smoking for 2 more hours in the braising liquid. This is an important step to ensure super tender ribs.
Remove Ribs From Liquid + Add BBQ Sauce!
Remove your ribs from the foil wrap and discard liquid*. Place ribs back on smoker and slather a sauce of your choice on both sides. I used my Homemade BBQ Sauce. Smoke for ONE FINAL hour to finish things off and let the sauce set. After an hour the rib meat will be pulling away from the bone. OH boy oh boy.
*If you don’t want to waste the braising liquid, you can totally save it for your next batch of BBQ sauce…with an apple twist!
Remove Ribs from Smoker and Let Rest
Finally, remove ribs from smoker and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Your ribs should be falling apart at this point and you’ll be patting yourself on the back! (high five!)
At this point, you can also add more BBQ sauce if you’d like. Serve warm.
What to Serve with Ribs
Here are some of my favorite side dishes for Ribs:
- Classic Coleslaw
- Corn Casserole
- Boston Baked Beans
- Macaroni Salad
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Deviled Egg Potato Salad
How to Store Leftover Ribs
Any leftover Ribs can be saved by refrigerating in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
To reheat, simply warm in the microwave, lightly covered (to retain moisture), until heated through.
To freeze, place in an airtight freezer safe bag or container. Ribs will stay fresh in the freezer for 3 months.
Love this Smoked Ribs Recipe? Try These Recipes:
Below is the printable recipe card. Save it and enjoy, friends!
- 1 slab St. Louis Style Pork Spare Ribs, about 3 pounds (any kind of ribs will work in this recipe)
- 2 tbsp Yellow Mustard
- 1/4 cup Dry Rub for Pork
- 1 cup Apple Juice or Apple Cider
- 1/4 cup Brown Sugar packed
- 1/2 cup BBQ Sauce + more for serving/dipping
- 1 Smoker
- Preheat your smoker to 225° F. Since every smoker is different, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer instructions for startup.
- Remove the membrane found on the bone side of your rack of ribs.
- Pat your Ribs dry with paper towels and spread classic yellow mustard all over the meat. Then, generously apply a dry rub seasoning of your choice to all sides of the ribs.
- Place your fully seasoned ribs either in a rib rack or directly on the smoker grate. Smoke for 3 hours.
- Tear off a few sheets of aluminum foil and layer together to create a "boat". Place your ribs in foil boat bone side up and transfer to smoker grate. Carefully pour Apple Juice and Brown Sugar mixture over ribs and crimp foil to create an airtight vessel. Continue smoking for 2 more hours in the braising liquid.
- Remove your ribs from the foil wrap and discard liquid. Slather a sauce of your choice all over ribs. I used my Homemade BBQ Sauce. Add the ribs back to the smoker to smoke for ONE FINAL hour and to let the sauce set.
- Finally, remove ribs from smoker and let rest for at least 10 minutes.
- Add more BBQ if preferred and serve warm.