Easily make fall-off-the-bone ribs that are flavorful and will have everyone asking for more with 3 2 1 Ribs. Smoking ribs has never been easier. This foolproof process is my favorite way of smoking ribs. It provides consistent perfection every single time.
There is nothing better than putting out a tray of juicy tender ribs to feed a crowd. I have never had a friend or family member complain when we serve up some 3 2 1 ribs at a gathering.
Prepping Pork Ribs
The first step is to remove the membrane from the bone side of the ribs. You can do this by using a dull knife, or the handle of a spoon to loosen the membrane from the ribs, then carefully grip it with a paper towel and slowly peel it off the entire side of the ribs. If it rips, just regrip it with a paper towel and continue to pull it off. Removing the membrane allows the meat to better absorb the smoke flavor. If left on, the membrane will get a weird texture and become unpleasant to chew.
The second part of prepping your ribs is to see what type of ribs you have. If you have spare ribs, you might want to separate them into St Louis style with the bone and the remaining part is the rib tips. Or if you are using baby back ribs, they are cleaned and prepared, you just need to remove the membrane. The last consideration is to cut the ribs down to ensure they will fit in your smoker.
Pork Ribs - Make sure to get hearty ribs with a lot of visible meat.
Yellow Mustard - The mustard tenderizes the meat and acts like glue for the dry rub to stick to the pork.
Brown Sugar - Brown sugar adds a warm, homey flavor. Alternatively, you could add a little molasses or honey to the yellow mustard and rub that on the ribs.
Smoked Paprika - We love to kick up the smoky flavor by adding smoked paprika to our dry rubs.
Garlic Powder - Garlic powder is one of our favorite spices. It adds a lot of flavor to savory dishes.
Onion Powder - Onion powder goes along with garlic so well.
Salt - You are always welcome to add more or less salt based on your preference. A good rule of thumb is to start with ½-1 teaspoon per pound of meat. We use kosher salt or pink salt.
Butter - The butter is added later on with some extra brown sugar when the ribs are wrapped in foil. This bastes the ribs as they cook.
How to Make 3 2 1 Ribs?
Step One: You need to prep the ribs first. Place the ribs on a large baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine the dry rub ingredients of salt, sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder. Mix thoroughly. Apply yellow mustard to both sides of the ribs and rub them so they are coated thoroughly. This will help the dry rub adhere. Next, sprinkle the dry rub mixture onto both sides of the ribs and rub it in well to ensure evenly seasoned.
Step Two: Place the ribs onto your preheated smoker on the grill grate. Smoke the ribs for three hours keeping the smoker temperature between 200°F and 225°F.
Expert Tip: If you are using a charcoal smoker you will need to play with the vents to hold the steady temperature. In my Weber kettle, I find a two-layer snake of coals, halfway around will provide enough fuel for this six-hour smoke.
Other factors will include the type of charcoal, the airflow through the vent, the outside temperature if the smoker is in the sun, and on and on. If you are new to a charcoal smoker, I recommend practicing different setups and monitoring the smoker's temperature so that you have more confidence when you go to smoke your first meat.
Step Three: After the ribs have smoked for three hours, wrap them in foil. You can use a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or whiskey to include in the wrap.
If you are interested in sweet ribs, you can include butter and brown sugar in the aluminum foil when you wrap them. I usually use two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of brown sugar per full rack of ribs. If you are cooking them as half racks, use a tablespoon of each inside each foil wrap.
Place the ribs meat side down in the foil on top of the butter and sugar. Make sure the foil is sealed well and place them back in the smoker at 200°F - 250°F for two more hours.
Step Four: After two hours of wrapped cooking, remove the ribs from the foil carefully. They will want to fall apart. Then place them back on the charcoal grill smoker to cook for the last hour. Continue to keep the smoker's temperature between 200°F - 250°F.
This final hour will add a little more texture to the bark and give the ribs a great bite. IT also helps them to firm up a little. Once the ribs are done, remove them from the smoker, loosely tent them with foil and allow them to rest for about 10 minutes before serving. I hope you enjoy this 3 2 1 ribs recipe!
Spicy - Want to add some heat to your ribs? Add some slices of jalapeno when you wrap the ribs in foil. The peppers will roast as the ribs cooks and give them a great flavor and peppery taste.
Sauces - Serve the ribs with a classic Sweet BBQ Sauce, spicy Hot Honey BBQ Sauce, or a great combo sauce like Peach Sriracha BBQ Sauce. You can really serve it with any barbecue sauce you enjoy. Just brush or pour on the sauce in the last few minutes of cooking or when serving.
Seasoning - Change up the dry rub with black pepper, cumin, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, or dried herbs. Personal preference on spices can always come into play.
Type of Wood - Changing up the type of wood chips you use will change the flavor of the ribs. It's fun to try different varieties. Cherry and hickory are popular choices of wood chunks.
3 2 1 Ribs Criticisms, Rebuttals, & Questions
There are some experienced bit posses and other BBQ fanatics that will criticize the 3 2 1 method. This usually comes from their BBQ Snobness, lack of understanding of this process, or their desire to just hear their own voice or advice. Here are some of the common criticisms I see, and my responses if I come across them.
What is the 3 2 1 rule for smoking ribs?
Thre 3 2 1 stands for three separate moments in the smoking process. 3 stands for three hours. These first three hours of smoking are the start of the process. Prepare the ribs, season them and place them in the smoker for three hours. The 2 stands for the next two hours. After smoking for three hours, the ribs get wrapped with some liquid or sauce and are placed back in the smoker for two hours. The 1 stands for the final hour of smoking. The ribs are unwrapped and placed back in the smoker to build up a final crusty texture on the bark. This process for cooking ribs is best done at a steady 225°F. They can be cooked on any type of smoker.
"You will overcook your ribs if you cook them for 6 hours"
Maybe but not if you follow the instructions. BBQ is low and slow. In order to be able to cook the ribs for six hours, you do need to cook them low. 225°F smoker temperature is the highest you want to be using. If you smoke these at 250F or 275F, you will overcook these. They will get tough and chewy. The biggest challenge is maintaining that temperature. If you have a pellet grill, set the temp and you are good. If you are using a charcoal smoker or a stick burner, utilize the vents to restrict airflow and keep that temperature between 200-225°F.
"Wrapping the Ribs destroys the bark that the ribs have developed"
False. Now, if you wrap in foil, the ribs will steam and the bark gets soft. That is true, that's why we will unwrap them and put them back on the smoker for the last hour to firm up that crust. If you use butcher paper to wrap, it is porous. Flavor can penetrate the paper and the moisture and steam can escape through the paper as well.
Doesn't wrapping the ribs reduce the smoky bbq flavor that the ribs have?
No. Once the initial bark is developed, the smoky bbq flavor is there. There is little if any more smoke flavor meat will absorb after the first hour or so of smoking when the bark is developed.
- 2.3 lbs pork rib rack (one full rack of pork ribs)
- 2 tablespoon yellow mustard
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1.5 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoon salt
For Wrapping Ribs in foil
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon butter
- Prepare the ribs by removing the membrane and trimming them down to fit in your smoker, if needed.
- Coat ribs with yellow mustard, then combine dry rub ingredients and thoroughly coat all sides of the ribs.
- Place the ribs into your preheated smoker and smoke at 225°F for three hours.
- Wrap the ribs in foil with butter and brown sugar. Place the brown sugar and butter in the foil first then lay ribs meat side down in the foil. Wrap foil and seal well.
- Place ribs back in the smoker and cook at 225°F for another two hours.
- Remove the ribs from the foil and carefully place them back onto the smoker and smoker for one last hour at 225°F.
- Remove the ribs from the smoker and allow them to rest for 20 minutes. Then serve.