There is nothing better than a juicy, pull off the bone rib that has been smoked to perfection. Let me show you how to smoke ribs and get consistent results every time.
How to smoke ribs using the 3-2-1 Method
Here is the secret method that has been used by professional BBQ enthusiasts for years. Keep in mind, this method applies to pork spare ribs only. Later in the guide, I will show you how to modify this recipe for baby back ribs.
Step 1 : Preheat the smoker
Step one is getting your smoker ready. Using an electric smoker, set the temperature to 225 degrees Fahrenheit and let it preheat, just like you would an oven. If you are using another type of smoker, wait until it gets to temperature and proceed to step 2.
Step 2: Cook low and slow for 3 hours
Step two is really easy. Just add your ribs directly to the rack, and smoke them for 3 hours. This will allow the ribs to impart all of that smokey flavor, and it the key part of the process. If you don’t allow it to smoke for the full 3 hours, then you won’t get as much smoke.
Step 3: Wrap it up for 2 hours
Remove the ribs from the smoker, and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. You can add any type of liquid you like, but I prefer apple juice. This will braise the meat, and allow the ribs to simmer in their own juices. Return the ribs to the smoker and allow them to cook for 2 hours.
Step 4: Unwrap for 1 hour
You may notice that the ribs feel a little mushy. That’s OK! The final step will eliminate this problem. Remove the ribs from the foil and place back on the rack and cook for another hour. This will allow the ribs to firm back up and help solidify the bark.
Here is the condensed version of the 3-2-1 ribs method:
3 hours unwrapped
2 hours wrapped
1 hour unwrapped
That’s really all there is to it. I recommend an electric smoker, due to the consistent results that you can achieve, with very little work. Check out our Best Electric Smokers 2017 Guide for more information. To modify this recipe for baby back ribs, modify the method to 2-2-1. Since they are much smaller, they don’t need nearly as much time in the smoker. Some people even do a 2-2-30 minutes method, because it is very easy to overcook baby back ribs.
How to smoke ribs using the Scientific Method
Up next is what I call the scientific method for smoke ribs. You need a precise digital thermometer, and this method will take a lot more work than the 3-2-1 method. When taking the temperature, make sure not to touch the bone, as it will get up to temperature much faster than the meat. Again, we will use a smoker temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit
Step 1: 150 Degrees Fahrenheit
Allow the ribs to get to an internal temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, they really won’t be able to take anymore smoke flavor, but they haven’t started to break down the collagen and connective tissues that make the meat tough.
Step 2: Braise until 195
Wrap the ribs and braise them until they get to an internal temperature of 190 degrees. At this point, they will almost be ready, but we to finish them off to make them toughen up just a bit.
Step 3: Throw them on the grill
Preheat your grill and cook for a couple of minutes on each side. This will allow them to get a nice char, and it will also firm up the bark that was softened during the braising process.
As you can see, this method takes quite a bit more work than the 3-2-1 method. I don’t recommend this for beginners, but go ahead and give it a shot if you feel up to it.