Tender, juicy, and fall-off-the-bone, these Smoked Ribs are an absolute showstopper and could not be easier to make! These ones are rubbed in a delicious, homemade spice blend and smoked to perfection using the 3-2-1 Method.
Smoked Ribs using the 3-2-1 Method?
The 3-2-1 Method refers to the technique used to cook ribs low and slow so that they develop flavour without drying out. First, the ribs are smoked at a low temperature for 3 hours. They’re then wrapped in foil and steamed for 2 hours. Finally, they’re brushed with a sauce or glaze and grilled for 1 more hour. Each stage of the 3-2-1 method serves a different purpose.
I should also mention that the 3-2-1 Method only really applies to ribs cooked on a smoker or grill that is setup to be used as a smoker (i.e. indirect heat and wood chips packet). If you’re cooking ribs in an oven, you won’t need to follow these steps.
For the first 3 hours, the seasoned ribs are cooked uncovered over a low heat with heavy smoke rolling. This initial phase is crucial and should not be rushed if you want to develop a deep, smokey flavour and a beautiful pink smoke ring. If using a Traeger Grill, you want to aim for the grill temperature to be around 180F, If your Traeger has a Super Smoke option, now’s the time to use it for extra flavour!
Step 2 is when you introduce moisture into the ribs so that they don’t dry out while cooking. The goal is to slowly raise the internal temperature and break down the collagen and muscular fibres in the ribs. The most common (and easiest) way to do this is by wrapping the ribs in foil and allowing them to steam on the grill.
For the third and final step, the smoked ribs are returned back onto the grill and lacquered in a sauce or glaze of choice for around 1 hour. Depending on how you like your ribs cooked and whether you prefer a lot of sauce or only a little, this final step can actually only take 15 to 30 minutes.
There is an endless amount of options when it comes to seasoning your smoked ribs and it all boils down to personal preference and taste. Personally, I like my ribs with a slight spice to them. Nothing too crazy. Just enough to give you some depth of flavour.
Although I do like sticky and sweet ribs, I’ve come to realize through trial and error that I actually prefer NOT to add any sweetener to the rub itself. I find that sugars, especially natural ones like coconut sugar, tend to crystallize during the smoking process (Step 1) and create a hard crust on the ribs. Instead, I like to impart sweetness during Step 2 and 3. Before wrapping the ribs (see below).
One of my absolute favourite rubs comes from Michael Symon. The base of the rub is equal parts kosher salt and coarse black pepper, followed by coarsely ground coriander seed and celery seed. From there, you can add just about any other spices you like, such as granulated onion, granulated garlic, dry oregano, dry thyme, etc. Personally, I just like to add some paprika for colour.
Wrapping the Ribs
As mentioned, wrapping the ribs will introduce moisture and prevent them from drying out. If you plan to smoke or grill your ribs, this is truly an important step and will ensure a much juicier finished product.
Competition-style ribs are most often wrapped with butter, honey, brown sugar, apple juice or a type of vinegar sauce. I find that adding additional liquid is not entirely necessary since the ribs render a significant amount of natural juices.
I like to wrap my ribs with a few squares of grass-fed butter, a drizzle of honey and light dusting of coconut sugar.
Whatever you choose, I recommend placing the ingredients on the foil first, then laying the ribs meat side-down overtop. This way, the meat will come in direct contact with the flavours and juices. Wrapping the ribs bone side-down will also help prevent the bones from poking through the foil. Then again, it’s a good idea to double wrap the ribs so that no steam escapes in case the first layer accidentally gets pierced.
The Sauce is Boss
I can’t think of a more controversial topic in the world of BBQ than sauce. Depending on where you go, you’ll find people who like their ribs sweet and sticky, and others who like it tangy and vinegar-y. My opinion is that there’s a time and place for everything and I love it all!
Feel free to use any BBQ sauce you love. After all, you’re the one that’s going to be eating it! For something homemade, you can try my Balsamic-Maple BBQ Sauce. For something store-bought, Tessemae’s makes a great one.
For something a little different, I highly recommend making a batch of Michael Symon’s Dill Pickle Glaze (recipe below). It sounds crazy, but it’s SOOOO GOOD! If you know me, you know I love pickle juice (try my Dill Pick Fried Chicken or Dill Pickle Chicken Wings).
Smoked Ribs – 3-2-1 Method
For the Pickle Glaze:
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 1 cup dill pickle juice
For the Ribs
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- ¼ cup coarse ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons coarsely ground toasted coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons celery seed
- 3 racks St. Louis style side ribs or Baby Back Ribs
- ¼ cup yellow mustard
- 6 tablespoons grass-fed butter cut into thin squares
- 3 tablespoons honey
- ½ cup coconut sugar
For the Glaze:
- Add the coconut sugar and pickle juice to a sauce pan and simmer over medium heat until reduced by half. Set aside and let cool.
For the Ribs:
- Preheat your Traeger Grill to 180F (turn on Super Smoke if your Traeger has it). If using a conventional grill, setup a 2-zone fire for indirect heat.
- Pat ribs dry with paper towel and trim excess fat. Place the ribs meat-side down and use a paring knife to scrape off an edge of the membrane. Grab hold of the membrane with a piece of paper towel and slowly peel it back until it is all removed.
- Rub both sides of the ribs with mustard and generously season with the spice rub. Transfer ribs to the Traeger, bone-side down. If using a conventional grill, place ribs over indirect heat. Close the grill door and smoke for 3 hours.
- Remove the ribs from the grill and set aside. Evenly distribute the butter, honey, and coconut sugar onto three large pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil (big enough to wrap the ribs). Lay each rack of ribs on top of each sheet of foil, bone side-up, and tightly wrap with foil. Wrap the packet with a second piece of foil to safe guard against tears. Return the wrapped ribs to the Traeger or grill, bone-side up, raise the heat to 225F and cook 2 hours or until the thickest part of the ribs registers between 200F and 205F on a meat thermometer.
- Carefully unwrap the ribs and place them directly onto the grill, bone side-down. Brush with the dill pickle glaze every 10 or 15 minutes for an additional hour (or 30 minutes for a less tacky finished product). Finish with a final coat of glaze and serve.