Introduction: 3-2-1 Smoked Ribs

I smoke ribs a couple of times a year and this is my go-to process. The "3-2-1" method consists of three steps for a total smoking time of 6 hours. The first three hours will be for the ribs to absorb the wood chips and natural smoke, the next two hours to add moisture and a slightly sweet taste, and the final hour to make them sticky and finish cooking. It's a pretty easy way of cooking them and produces a really delicious rack of ribs!


  • Smoking Items
    • Smoker (I used a Big Green Egg)
    • Hardwood Lump Charcoal
    • Lighter
    • Strike-A-Fire Lighter Sticks
    • Apple Wood Chips
    • Digital Thermometer or FlameBoss (I used a FlameBoss)
  • Ingredients
    • 1 Rack of Baby Back Ribs
    • Yellow Mustard
    • BBQ Rub (I used Cabela's All Purpose Seasoning)
    • 1 cup Apple Juice or Apple Cider
  • Other
    • Knife
    • Tongs
    • Foil
    • Baking Sheet

Step 1: Soak the Wood Chips in Water

Put the wood chips in water and let them soak for a minimum of 30 minutes. Once our timer is up, we can take them out and drain them of any excess water.

Step 2: Start the Smoker

Now that our smoke chips have been soaked and drained, we can add them to our smoker. We'll scatter our wood chips over the newly poured lump charcoal then start our fire. Make sure to leave the dome open, open the vent (draft door) all the way at the bottom, and take off the damper cap at the top of the dome. After about 10 minutes, we will add our indirect heat and grate back to the smoker and close the dome top. We can put on our metal top but we'll keep it open. Instructions for heating below. In both cases, we'll want to get the temperature to 225F degrees.

If using a digital thermometer: Once we start getting close to 225F (around 180F or so), we'll close the vent at the bottom leaving about a .5 inch of space and close the metal cap at the top leaving the open slots about half covered.

If using a FlameBoss: plug in the FlameBoss and put the metal cap on top. Once we get to about 180degrees, we'll spin the wheel on the metal cap to leave a very small opening.

Step 3: Make a Prep Space

We'll try to cut back on the amount of dishes. Using a large baking sheet, we can cover it is in press-n-seal wrap to do our seasoning. Once we put the ribs on, we can remove the wrap and use it later for taking the ribs off the smoker.

Step 4: Remove the Membrane and Excess Fat

We'll want to remove membrane and any excess fat from the ribs. I cut a little bit of the membrane off on one end and was able to pull it off in its entirety (see picture for reference).

Step 5: Prep the Ribs

After we've removed the membrane and excess fat, we'll smother both sides of the ribs with yellow mustard for both flavor and getting our seasoning to stick. There's not an exact amount to use, I would recommend doing it on both sides until there is a nice thin coating. Next, we'll be very liberal with our seasoning covering both sides. I used a seasoning from Cabela's that was tasty but you are welcome to use something different.

Step 6: First 3 Hours

Once we've prepped the ribs and our smoker has reached 225F degrees, we'll put on the ribs meat side up/bone side down. Make sure to "burp" the smoker before opening all the way. Let it cook for 3 hours - this phase is to get that nice, smokey flavor.

Step 7: Next 2 Hours

Take off the ribs after 3 hours and place them meat side down on a piece of tinfoil larger than the length of the ribs. We'll want to raise the sides of the tinfoil around the ribs just enough so nothing will spill out. We'll pour our 1 cup of apple juice/cider on the ribs. Wrap the tinfoil as tightly as possible around the ribs and add any other tinfoil as necessary to cover the ribs and create an air-tight wrap. Place back on the smoker for another 2 hours.

Step 8: Final Hour

Take off the ribs after two hours (we've now cooked them for 5 hours). Be very careful as you peel back the tinfoil - everything will be hot! Take your favorite BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's) and brush it over both sides of the ribs. Place it back on the smoker, meat side up/bone side down, and let it smoke for one more hour. This will give us "sticky" ribs by letting the sauce cook into the ribs.

Step 9: Enjoy!

Take them off the smoker and let them rest for a few minutes then enjoy!

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