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Easy BBQ Smoked Ribs (3-2-1 Method)

The secret to perfectly smoked, fall-apart ribs is as easy as 3-2-1.

Do you like fall-off-the-bone ribs? Disaster-proof recipes? Cooking methods so easy you can't forget them? If you answered yes to any of these, you're in the right place. This failproof rib recipe is guaranteed to get you the most tender, bone lickin' ribs with the perfect amount of smokiness. The 3-2-1 refers to your smoke times: 3 hours heavy smoke, 2 hours wrapped in foil, and 1 hour bathed in BBQ sauce. Let's get started.

You’ll Need:

*This method can be used with baby back ribs, but adjust smoke time to 2-2-1. 

Remove the Membrane

To make your ribs extra tender, remove the membrane or silver skin from the bone side of the ribs prior to prepping. Leaving the membrane on can cause ribs to curl during the cook and prevents the rub from fully penetrating the backside of the meat.

To remove, slide a butter knife under the thin membrane that covers the bones on the underside of the ribs and pull up a small piece. Grab the end with a paper towel or clean dish towel, and pull firmly and slowly.

remove membrane from ribs

Spread

Pat your rack of ribs dry with a paper towel, then coat all sides in a thin layer of mustard. Not only does this help your rub stick to the surface of the ribs, but the acidity will help tenderize the meat and add a touch of brightness. If you’re not a mustard fan, don’t worry--the flavors tend to disappear after a long smoke cycle. We like to use this method to create a delicious bark on a Smoked Pork Shoulder.

coat rack in mustard

 

Dust

Coat both sides of the ribs generously in a rib rub, turning gently to keep mustard in place. A great rib rub starts with a base of sugar to complement the natural flavors of the pork. From there you can go spicy, smoky or a balance of both. Our no-fail choice is Lil’ Harry’s Famous Rib Rub that gives competition-style results.

Wrap your ribs tightly in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge overnight. This will allow the salt, sugars, and acid to penetrate the meat, setting the stage for tender and flavorful ribs.

dust in rib rub

 

Smoke: 3

When you’re ready to start, preheat your smoker to 225°F. Place ribs bone side down on smoker and smoke for 3 hours with heavy smoke. We like to use fruitwoods like cherry or apple for smoking pork, but hickory adds a delicious bacon-like flavor.

smoke ribs 3 hours at 225

 

Smoke: 2

Wrap rack tightly in aluminum foil and return to the smoker bone side up for an additional two hours. This process is called the “crutch” in the BBQ world and will create a steaming chamber for fall-apart tender ribs. Feeling wild? Add a shot (or two) of bourbon or whiskey to the foil before returning to the smoker. 

wrap ribs in foil and smoke for 2 hours

 

Smoke: 1

If you haven't already guessed, this is an additional one hour smoke. Unwrap the ribs and return to the smoker bone-side down for one final hour. This is the time you would slather on your favorite BBQ sauce--the heat will make it caramelize and set into sticky goodness. Remove ribs from smoker once internal temperature is in the 175-190° range.

Slather on the extra sauce, let rest for at least 10 minutes, and enjoy. 

 

 smoke for additional hour and remove

 

easy smoked ribs (3-2-1 method)

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