Hearty and “summery,” ribs have become as integral a part of the American lexicon as apple pie, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs.
I will never forget the smell of a restaurant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania called Mr. Ribbs, where I got my first real taste of great smoked ribs. Slathered in a homemade barbecue sauce, these fell right off of the bone, and I fell in love.
For years before moving south, I would have the owner of Mr. Ribbs cater my backyard barbecues. Before he retired, he was nice enough to share his smoking method with me. Now I’m going to share it with you!
Before we dig in, though, it’s important to have your favorite barbecue sauce and barbecue seasoning nearby. I recommend a sweeter sauce and a spicier rub, though this is entirely up to your interpretation.
Three Hours of Smoking
The first step is to smoke your ribs for three hours. The smoker should maintain a constant temperature of about 225 degrees, creating a low and slow smoke. You’ll want to be sure that your ribs are slathered in a very generous barbecue rub. If you’re smoking baby back ribs, you may want to cut back to the smoking time to two hours to avoid drying the meat out. I’ve had my best success using apple, cherry, and maple woods, though many friends have delivered incredible results using alder and hickory.
Two Hours of Tenderizing
If you want ribs that melt in your mouth, you cannot skip this step. You’ll want to wrap your ribs tightly in aluminum foil. Before completely sealing the foil, pour a small amount of hard apple cider into the foil pouch. This will create both flavor and steam, which will make your ribs extremely tender. Return your ribs back to your smoker for two hours at 225 degrees, though be sure to turn off the smoking element… you want to slow-bake the ribs during this step.
One Hour of Sauce
The last step is most people’s favorite. Remove your ribs from the smoker and liberally coat your ribs in your favorite barbecue sauce on both sides. Be sure to not miss a single micrometer. Then return your ribs to your smoker for one hour, this time turning the smoking element on. This will add that beloved smoky flavor to your sauce.
The end result of this process is ribs that will fall off of the bone and into your belly. The seasoning and sauce will provide complex flavoring, which is enhanced by your smoker. The 3-2-1 method of smoking ribs will leave you wanting more, and your friends, family, and neighbors jealous.
Be sure to see our YouTube channel for more information on and if you’re in the area be sure to stop by and see Smokin’ Man Mike to talk shop about smoking’ meats and to sample our large collection of sauces and smoking accessories.