Fall Off The Bone Tender 321 Smoked pork Ribs Recipe

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If you are new to smoking or still intimidated by the whole smoking thing and don’t know where to start – these 321 Smoked Pork Ribs are for you!

smoked ribs on a butcher paper, onion rings, hand in frame grabbing an onion ring, dish with bbq sauce, dish with pickles

Smoking infuses the meat with a blend of woodsy, smoky flavor that’s just irresistible. Texture transformation is something you will get hooked on instantly. Imagine fall-off-the-bone tender ribs every time! Yep, that is it, this is what you get! I’m getting hungry just thinking about this. Let’s get started. Let’s make Smoked Pork Ribs.

Why you will love 321 Smoked Ribs:

  • The 3-2-1 rib method creates fall-off-the-bone tenderness that’s hard to achieve with other cooking techniques.
  • Make them for any occasion, but especially when you need to feed a crowd
  • Flavor customization – endless possibilities; adjust spice blend, BBQ sauce or wood pellets flavor.
  • Easy, great for beginners and yields consistent results; hard to mess it up.
  • Beautifully infused flavor during the 2 hour smoked wrapped in foil

What are 321 Ribs?

The “3-2-1 method” for cooking ribs is a popular technique that ensures perfectly tender ribs. It involves smoking the ribs for 3 hours uncovered, wrapping them in foil with liquid (like apple cider vinegar), cooking for another 2 hours, and finally, uncovering and applying BBQ sauce for the last hour of cooking. This method helps the ribs to absorb smoke slowly, become tender while wrapped, and caramelize the sauce in the final step, creating a deliciously rich flavor and texture.

Ingredients, Variations and Substitutions

Rack of Pork Ribs – when selecting your rack of ribs, look for ones with plenty of meat and a good amount of marbling for that juicy, flavorful result.

Yellow Mustard – it acts as a binder for dry rub, helping it stick to the meat while also adding a subtle tanginess. Don’t worry, the mustard flavor won’t overpower the ribs. If you’re not a fan of yellow mustard, you can use a light coating of olive oil or even mayonnaise as an alternative binder. Experiment with Dijon or honey mustard.

Favorite BBQ Sauce – adding that sweet, smoky, and slightly tangy flavor that we all know and love. Using your favorite sauce ensures you get exactly the taste you’re craving. Once again your opportunity to experiment. Pick a sweet BBQ sauce for one rack and spicy BBQ sauce for another. Hey, and who says you cannot mix different sauces for a unique flavor profile.

Favorite BBQ Pork Dry Rib Rub Seasoning – another opportunity to get creative. Mix herbs, spices, brown sugar, and other flavorings to add depth and complexity to your ribs, complementing the smokiness from the grill. Make sure your dry rub has a good balance of sweet (such as brown sugar), savory (such as herbs), and spicy flavors. You want it to enhance the natural taste of the pork without overwhelming it. If you don’t have a premade dry rub, you can easily make your own using a combination of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, and any other spices you like.

Butter – adds richness and moisture to your ribs, helping to keep them tender and juicy during the smoking process. You can use salted or unsalted butter depending on your preference. You can use olive oil or another type of cooking fat instead of butter.

Equipment you will need

  • Smoker (pellet, charcoal, electric)
  • Wood pellets, wood chips or chunks depending on your smoker
  • Aluminum foil or butcher paper
  • Food thermometer
  • Grill tongs or BBQ gloves
  • Basting brush
  • Chef’s knife and a cutting board

Optional equipment

  • Rib rack – if your smoker has limited space, using rib rack can maximize the cooking area
  • Spray bottle – during the first phase of cooking you can spritz the ribs with a mixture of apple juice or vinegar. This helps to keep them moist
  • Meat injector – more advanced technique of adding flavor to the ribs by injecting marinade directly into the meat

Top tips for successful Smoked Pork Ribs:

Pick ribs with plenty of meat and good marbling. This will result in juicy and flavorful ribs.

Remove the membrane – before seasoning, be sure to remove the thin membrane from the back of the ribs. This will allow better seasoning penetration and enhance tenderness of the meat.

Consistency is key when cooking ribs. Maintain a stable temperature of around 225-250°F (107-121°C) throughout the smoking process to ensure even cooking.

Use the 3-2-1 method as a guideline: The 3-2-1 method (3 hours unwrapped, 2 hours wrapped, 1 hour unwrapped) is a popular technique for smoking ribs. Adjust the timing based on your smoker, the size of the ribs, and personal preference.

Select the flavor of wood pellets that will complement the flavor of pork. Hickory, apple, cherry, or oak are great choices. 

Wrapping the ribs in foil or butcher paper during the cooking process helps tenderize the meat and prevent it from drying out. Add a liquid like butter, apple juice, or vinegar to the wrap for extra moisture and flavor.

Ribs are done when the meat has pulled back from the bones. you can easily insert a toothpick between the ribs with little resistance. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature reaches around 190-203°F (88-95°C) for optimal tenderness.

Rest before serving: Allow the ribs to rest for 10-15 minutes after cooking to let the juices redistribute. This helps keep the meat moist and enhances the overall flavor.

Get creative with seasoning, experiment with different dry rubs, sauces, and flavor combinations to customize your ribs to your taste preferences.

How to pick the perfect rack of ribs:

Freshness – look for ribs that are fresh and not past their expiration date. They should have a pinkish-red color with a bit of marbling, indicating good meat quality.

Appearance – choose ribs that have a good meat-to-bone ratio and are well-trimmed with minimal excess fat. The meat should be evenly distributed along the bones.

Thickness and Size – consider the thickness and size of the ribs based on your cooking preferences. Baby back ribs are generally smaller and cook faster. Spare ribs are larger and may require longer cooking times.

Flexibility – when selecting spare ribs, look for ribs that have some flexibility but aren’t too floppy. This indicates that they have a good amount of meat and will cook up tender.

Packaging – check the packaging for any tears or leaks. This can indicate that the ribs have been mishandled or are no longer fresh

Ask the Butcher – don’t hesitate to ask the butcher for assistance or recommendations. They can help you choose the best ribs for your cooking method and provide tips on preparation and cooking

ribs and cabbage on a serving plate

Types of Pork Ribs and how to best use them

Baby Back Ribs (also known as Back Ribs): 

come from the top of the ribcage between the spine and the spare ribs. They are shorter and curved, with meat between the bones and on top of them. Baby back ribs are known for their tenderness and slightly leaner meat compared to other cuts. They are perfect for smoking, grilling, or roasting and are often served as a standalone dish or as part of a barbecue platter.

Spare Ribs

come from the lower portion of the ribcage and have more bone and fat compared to baby back ribs. They are longer and straighter, with meat covering the bones and between them. Spare ribs are excellent for smoking, braising, or slow-cooking. They have a richer flavor and more marbling, making them ideal for recipes where longer cooking times help render the fat and tenderize the meat. They are commonly used in barbecue competitions for their flavor and versatility.

St. Louis Style Ribs

are trimmed spare ribs with the brisket bone removed, resulting in a more rectangular shape. They have a higher meat-to-bone ratio and are often more consistent in size and thickness. St. Louis style ribs are versatile and can be cooked using various methods, including smoking, grilling, or baking. They are popular in barbecue and are often seasoned with dry rubs or glazed with barbecue sauce for a flavorful result.

Country-Style Ribs

are not technically ribs but are cut from the blade end of the loin close to the pork shoulder. They are meatier and contain less bone compared to other rib cuts, resembling pork chops more than traditional ribs. Country-style ribs are perfect for grilling, baking, or braising. They are often marinated, seasoned, or coated with barbecue sauce before cooking to enhance flavor and tenderness. They are an excellent option for those who prefer less fatty cuts with more meat.

Step by Step instructions to smoke ribs

  • Preheat your smoker to a stable temperature of around 225-250°F (107-121°C). Recommended wood pellets hickory, apple, cherry, or oak
  • Prepare your rack of pork ribs. Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs using a paper towel. 
  • Apply a thin layer of yellow mustard (or alternative binder) all over the ribs to help the dry rub stick.
  • Generously season both sides of the ribs with your favorite BBQ pork dry rub seasoning. Ensure the ribs are evenly coated with the seasoning, pressing it gently into the meat to adhere.

  • Place the seasoned ribs directly on the smoker grates, bone side down. Close the lid and cook ribs for approximately 3 hours. During this time, the ribs will absorb smoky flavor and begin to develop a nice bark on the outside.
  • Phase 2 of smoking ribs is wrapping them. 
  • Carefully remove the ribs from the smoker and lay them meat side down on a sheet of aluminum foil. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter on top of the meat side of the ribs for extra moisture and flavor. Then, drizzle half of the BBQ sauce over the ribs, ensuring they’re evenly coated.

  • Wrap the ribs tightly in the foil, making sure there are no leaks or openings. Place the wrapped ribs back on the smoker and continue to cook pork ribs for additional 2 hours. This wrapping phase helps tenderize the meat and infuse it with flavor while preventing it from drying out.

  • Phase 3 of smoking ribs. After about 2 hours of smoking wrapped ribs, carefully remove the foil from the ribs. At this time you can brush the remaining BBQ sauce over the ribs, reserving some for serving if desired.
  • Place the unwrapped ribs back on the smoker, ribs meat side up, and let them smoke for the final hour. This allows the sauce to caramelize slightly and the ribs to develop a beautiful exterior.

  • Once the final hour of smoking is complete, remove the ribs from the smoker and let them rest for about 10-15 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.
  • After resting, slice the ribs between the bones and serve them hot with your favorite sides and extra BBQ sauce on the side for dipping.

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Mistakes to avoid when smoking ribs

Not removing the membrane from the back of the ribs can result in tough and chewy meat.

Skipping the preheating of your smoker. This can lead to temperature fluctuations and uneven cooking.

Not maintaining a consistent temperature during cooking. This fluctuation will affect the cooking time and result in unevenly cooked ribs.

Rushing the cooking process. This can result in tough and dry ribs. This is a slow and low process that requires patience.

Not resting the ribs properly: Skipping the resting period after cooking can cause the juices to escape, resulting in dry ribs. Allow the ribs to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.

How to store and reheat smoked ribs meat:

Refrigeration:

  • Allow the smoked pork rib meat to cool completely to room temperature before refrigerating.
  • Wrap the ribs tightly in foil or place them in an airtight container to prevent them from drying out
  • Use within 3-4 days for optimal freshness.

Freezing:

  • Wrap the ribs tightly in plastic wrap and then foil, or place them in a heavy-duty freezer bag. Make sure to remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.
  • Smoked pork ribs can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.  

Thawing Frozen Smoked Pork Ribs: If the smoked ribs were frozen, thaw them overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. This gradual thawing helps preserve the texture and flavor of the meat  

Reheating:

  • Oven – preheat your oven to 250°F (120°C). Place the Smoked Pork Ribs on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Cover the ribs loosely with foil to prevent them from drying out. Heat the ribs in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. For added moisture, you can brush the ribs with a little BBQ sauce or apple juice before reheating
  • Grilling Method – preheat your grill to medium heat. Place the ribs on the grill and heat them indirectly, away from direct flames. Cover the grill and cook the ribs for about 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally, until heated through. Brush the ribs with BBQ sauce during the last few minutes of grilling for added flavor.
  • Microwave – (best for small portions); Place the ribs on a microwave-safe plate and cover them with a damp paper towel. Microwave on high power for 1-2 minutes per portion, checking periodically to avoid overheating. Rotate the ribs halfway through the heating process for more even warming
smoked ribs, cut into pieces, glass with beer, pickles

Easy Smoked Ribs

Sylwia Vaclavek
New to smoking, still intimidated by this cooking method. Easy Smoked Ribs are your way to in and to learn.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Rest Time 15 minutes
Total Time 6 hours 35 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 173 kcal

Equipment

  • wood pellet smoker
  • Aluminum foil or butcher paper
  • Food Thermometer –
  • BBQ gloves or grilling tongs
  • Basting brush
  • chef's knife
  • cutting board
  • Rib rack optional
  • Spray bottle optional
  • Meat injector

Ingredients
 
 

  • Rack of ribs
  • Mustard
  • BBQ Seasoning
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce
  • 2-3 tbsp butter

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your smoker to a stable temperature of around 225-250°F (107-121°C). Recommended wood pellets hickory, apple, cherry, or oak
  • Prepare your rack of pork ribs. Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs.
  • Apply a thin layer of yellow mustard (or alternative binder) all over the ribs to help the dry rub stick.
  • Generously season both sides of the ribs with your favorite BBQ pork dry rub seasoning. Ensure the ribs are evenly coated with the seasoning, pressing it gently into the meat to adhere.
  • Place the prepared rack of ribs directly on the smoker grates, bone side down. Close the lid and let the ribs smoke for approximately 3 hours. During this time, the ribs will absorb smoky flavor and begin to develop a nice bark on the outside.
  • Phase 2 of smoking ribs is wrapping them.
  • Carefully remove the ribs from the smoker and lay them meat side down on a sheet of aluminum foil. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter on top of the meat side of the ribs for extra moisture and flavor. Then, drizzle half of the BBQ sauce over the ribs, ensuring they’re evenly coated.
  • Wrap the ribs tightly in the foil, making sure there are no leaks or openings. Place the wrapped ribs back on the smoker and continue cooking for an additional 2 hours. This wrapping phase helps tenderize the meat and infuse it with flavor while preventing it from drying out.
  • Phase 3 of smoking ribs. After about 2 hours of smoking wrapped ribs, carefully remove the foil from the ribs. At this time you can brush the remaining BBQ sauce over the ribs, reserving some for serving if desired.
  • Place the unwrapped ribs back on the smoker, meat side up, and let them smoke for the final hour. This allows the sauce to caramelize slightly and the ribs to develop a beautiful exterior.
  • Once the final hour of smoking is complete, remove the ribs from the smoker and let them rest for about 10-15 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.
  • After resting, slice the ribs between the bones and serve them hot with your favorite sides and extra BBQ sauce on the side for dipping.

Notes

Remember to remove the membrane  from the back of the ribs before seasoning.
Monitor the cooking temperature throughout the entire cooking time. Stable temperature of around 225-250°F (107-121°C) ensures even cooking.
Adjust the timing based on your smoker, the size of the ribs, and personal preference.
Don’t forget to wrap the ribs in foil or butcher paper. 
Ribs are done when the meat has pulled back from the bones. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature reaches around 190-203°F (88-95°C) for optimal tenderness.
DON’T SKIP the Rest before serving: Allow the ribs to rest for 10-15 minutes after cooking to let the juices redistribute. 

Nutrition

Serving: 3ribsCalories: 173kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 1gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 781mgPotassium: 168mgFiber: 1gSugar: 24gVitamin A: 335IUVitamin C: 0.4mgCalcium: 25mgIron: 0.5mg
Keyword pork ribs, ribs, smoked ribs
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Smoked Ribs Conclusion

Easy peasy, right?  Are you ready to smoke ribs? Told you smoking is not difficult. Starting with the 321 rib method is a great way to learn this craft.

I hope you love this fall off the bone BBQ ribs recipe! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you asap.

Smoked Ribs FAQ

How long should I smoke the ribs?

The smoking time for ribs can vary depending on the type of smoker, cooking temperature, and size of the ribs. Generally, ribs are smoked low and slow at around 225-250°F (107-121°C) for 4-6 hours. It’s essential to cook the ribs until they reach the desired tenderness rather than strictly adhering to a specific time frame.

Should I wrap the ribs in foil during smoking?

Wrapping ribs in foil, also known as the “Texas Crutch,” is a common technique. It helps to tenderize the meat and speed up the cooking process. Foil wrapping helps retain moisture and creates a steamy environment that breaks down collagen, resulting in tender ribs. Smoking the ribs unwrapped for the entire cooking duration will result in a firmer bark on the outside. It is very much a personal preference. Experiment and try both ways, see what you like better.

What type of wood should I use for smoking ribs?

Popular wood choices include hickory, apple, cherry, and oak. Hickory is a classic choice, known for its strong, robust flavor that pairs well with pork. Apple and cherry woods offer a sweeter, milder smoke, while oak provides a more subtle, earthy flavor.

How do I know when the ribs are done?

Ribs are done when the meat has pulled back from the bones. Additionally, you can use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the ribs reaches around 190-203°F (88-95°C) for optimal tenderness.

Do I need to remove the membrane from the ribs before smoking?

Yes. Removing this membrane allows for better seasoning penetration and enhances tenderness. Use a butter knife or your fingers to lift the membrane from one corner of the ribs, then peel it off in one piece using a paper towel.

Do I need to use apple cider vinegar for this ribs recipe?

No, this recipe does not call for apple cider vinegar. I encourage you to experiment with different ingredients and combinations to find the flavor profile that you enjoy most. Try adding apple cider vinegar to one batch of ribs and leaving it out of another batch and compare the results. Apple cider vinegar adds a tangy and slightly sweet flavor to the ribs, as well as helps to tenderize the meat.

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