These Traeger Smoked Ribs are made easy using the 3-2-1 Cook Method. Grab your pork ribs: baby back, spare, or whatever you like! These are seasoned to perfection using a dry rub. This spread can be made with any smoker or pellet grill for BBQs, summer cookouts, or any occasion!
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What Type of Ribs to Use
You can use any ribs you like in this recipe, the prep and cook times will remain about the same. I used spare pork ribs.
Spare ribs are cut from the belly and behind the shoulder. They are closer to the belly and tend to have more fat. These ribs are also really flat. Because they have more fat, there’s lots of flavor so some people tend to favor these.
Baby back (pork) ribs are from the high back and backbone. These are the ribs found in bone-in pork loin chops, but without the loin. A lot of people find these to be more tender and lean. They are usually more expensive than the other pork ribs.
A slab or rack of baby back often includes 10-13 ribs and weighs 1- 3 pounds. One rack is usually enough to serve 2 people, maybe 3 or 4 if 2 pounds. This slab was a little over 3 pounds.
St. Louis Style ribs are spare ribs that have been trimmed down by cutting away the hard breastbone and chewy cartilage, otherwise known as connective tissue.
Beef back ribs are from the upper part of the cow and are the same cut found in bone-in ribeyes. These are usually mostly bone and fat, with a small amount of meat, but have lots of flavor.
Beef short ribs come from the lower part of the animal. These are typically really meaty and often served braised.
What is a Dry Rub and Marinade? How to Season the Meat
A dry rub is a combination of spices and seasoning added to the meat to enhance flavor. It’s different from a marinade which has liquid ingredients (often to tenderize the meat) like apple cider vinegar or citrus. The purpose of a dry rub is to create a crust around the meat. A dry rub will enhance the flavor of the ribs without using moisture or a liquid marinade. Rubs are usually a little more coarse than simply adding seasoning.
As a rule of thumb, when applying a rub you should apply enough to fully coat the meat. You don’t want to see any empty spots. Add more spices if necessary. I love to use my Homemade BBQ Rub and Seasoning for these. It’s a combination of the following:
Marinades are great for hearty meats that won’t necessarily get tender on their own by cooking, such as chicken, thick cuts of pork, and steak.
Since these ribs are cooked low and slow I like to use a combination of both a dry rub and a liquid marinade. Over time, you may notice the ribs dry out on the smoker (especially before they get wrapped in foil). I use a combination of melted butter and apple cider vinegar to baste the ribs.
Can I Leave a Dry Rub on Overnight?
Absolutely. You can prep the ribs in advance and allow the rub to sit overnight (or 10-12 hours) for amazing flavor, this is optional. When you prep the meat it allows the spices to penetrate and enhances the flavor. Store the ribs covered and in the refrigerator.
Remove the Membrane From the Back of the Ribs
Most ribs will have a thin membrane intact on the back of the ribs that protect the bones.
If you leave this on it will prevent the dry rub from penetrating into the meat. It will also get hard when you cook it and ribs will be tough and rubbery to eat.
Do You Have to Trim the Ribs or Remove Any Fat?
This is a matter of preference. Some like to trim any loose ends or meat tags if they are there. These will char quickly on the grill, but usually only when cooked at high heat, since these are cooked low and slow it’s not much of an issue. I keep the marble of fat within the ribs intact. This will add a lot of flavor.
What Type of Wood Pellets to Use
You can use whatever you like for ribs. I typically use the Signature Traeger blend. You can also use mesquite, hickory, apple, cherry, pecan, or maple.
How to Make Traeger Smoked Ribs Using the 3-2-1 Method
The 3-2-1 method is popular among beginners and those looking for a foolproof method to smoke tender, juicy, and fall of the bone ribs. You start with uncovered, raw ribs added to the smoker for 3 hours. This will produce the smoky flavor you want for ribs. Then, the method speeds the cooking process along by steaming the ribs inside foil to lock in moisture for 2 hours. After wrapping, the ribs are drizzled in BBQ Sauce (optional) and smoked for an additional hour.
Any temperature from 225 to 275 degrees is typically fine. Ribs need to cook slowly in order to achieve the right texture, I recommend 225 degrees.
Cook Time/How Long to Smoke
In total, the ribs will take around 6 hours to cook. You will smoke them uncovered for 3 hours, covered in foil for 2 hours, and then 1 additional hour uncovered.
When smoking ribs, I don’t like to be rushed. Feel free to add additional time if necessary.
Pair With these Side Dish Recipes
Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
Broccoli Salad with Bacon and Cheese
Smoked Mac and Cheese
Southern Baked Beans
Southern Potato Salad
Southern Soul Food Baked Mac and Cheese
Easy Spaghetti Salad
Southern Macaroni Salad
Instant Pot Corn on the Cob
Air Fryer Corn on the Cob
More Ribs Recipes
More Traeger and Smoker Recipes
Traeger Smoked Bacon
Smoked Mac and Cheese
Traeger Smoked Salmon
Traeger Smoked Chicken Breast
Traeger Smoked Turkey
Traeger Smoked Chicken Wings
Smoked Lobster Tail
Traeger Smoked Whole Chicken
Pork Belly Burnt Ends
Traeger Smoked Ribs (3-2-1 Method)
- Preheat smoker to 225 degrees.
- Pat the ribs dry. Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. This is a thin layer that can be tough to remove. The best way to remove it is to use a small knife and a paper towel. The paper towel will help because it's really slippery. I have removed the membrane without it, plenty of times. Do what works best for you.
- Rub the mustard onto both sides of the ribs and sprinkle the BBQ rub throughout onto both sides of the ribs. Use your hands to press it down into the meat so that it penetrates the meat.
- Allow the ribs to rest with the spices for at least 20 minutes or store the ribs covered and in the refrigerator an hour to overnight.
- Place the ribs on the smoker, meat side up.
- Smoke the ribs uncovered for 3 hours. After an hour and a half, check on the ribs if they appear dry, baste the ribs with 1 tablespoon of melted butter and 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
- Grab a large piece of foil (large enough to completely cover the ribs). Drizzle 1 tablespoon of butter onto the bottom of the foil. After 3 hours on the smoker, transfer the ribs to the foil, bone side up and meat side down. Drizzle the remaining butter and apple cider vinegar onto the ribs. Seal the foil and place the ribs back on the smoker for 2 hours.
- Remove the ribs from the foil and transfer them back to the smoker meat side up. Smoke the ribs for an additional hour. You can drizzle the ribs with the optional BBQ Sauce here or wait 30 minutes. I like to add the sauce 30 minutes prior to when I pull the ribs off the smoker.
- I like tender, fall of the bone ribs. You can test this while the ribs are still on the smoker. Poke at the bones to gauge texture.Remove the ribs from the smoker. Allow the ribs to rest for 20 minutes prior to serving.
- You can use any cut of ribs in this recipe.
- The amount of the ingredients you will need will vary based on the size of your ribs. Adjust accordingly and add more or less of whatever you need.
- You can use whatever pellets you like for ribs. I typically use the Signature Traeger blend. You can also use mesquite, hickory, apple, cherry, pecan, or maple.
- Mustard is used to rub down the ribs prior to applying the dry rub to help it stick. You won’t taste it. Use any mustard you like.
- You can use any BBQ Rub or seasoning you like. Ensure the ribs are fully coated.
- You can substitute butter for any oil such as olive oil.
- Apple cider vinegar can be substituted for apple juice, water, or standard vinegar. Vinegar will help tenderize the meat.
- Cook time may vary based on the smoker you use, temperature, and the size of your ribs. For safety, ribs should reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees, but I often cook them longer than that. I use my judgment based on the texture of the ribs.