The 3 2 1 smoking method for ribs is talked about everywhere, and with good reason. It’s a way to turn out reliably tender ribs, and takes the guesswork out of cooking. This method makes use of most of the same steps we’ve highlighted in 11 Steps to Terrific Smoked Ribs, with a few changes.
Start strong with a great cut of meat, and that should hold true no matter what you’re cooking. You wouldn’t build a house with substandard materials. Your meals deserve the same philosophy, particularly for a dish like this, where meat is the star.
Remove the membrane from the back of your rack of ribs and coat—patting, not rubbing—the ribs in a dry rub, as described in steps 2 and 3. And as we discuss in step 4, that meat with the rib rub on it should sit out on your counter while your smoker comes up to temperature.
At step 5, things take a slight turn. When you smoke ribs using the 3 2 1 method, make “low and slow” your mantra. Don’t raise the temperature any higher than 225°F or you’ll overcook the ribs. These ribs are going to smoke for three solid hours. Leave the lid of your smoker closed except to apply a quick spray or mop so the ribs don’t dry out like we discuss in step 6. This is a longer smoke time, so you should do this at the end of every hour. Spray or mop twice during the three-hour smoke.
Wrapping the ribs in foil, as discussed in step 7, doesn’t change much except for time. Put the ribs meat-side-down in a double-layer of foil and seal them up. Some people advocate putting brown sugar or honey or butter or juice in the foil with the meat; that’s a matter of preference. Place rib back in the smoker and, since it’s at a lower heat, let it braise for two hours.
At the end of the two hours, take the ribs from the smoker and unwrap them carefully. Remove the ribs from the foil, throwing away the foil and any juices that have collected in the bottom of the foil. Turn them meat-side up and put them back on the grilling surface of the smoker. This last step in the smoker, step 8 in our tips, will take one hour. At this point, you can mop it once more or put on some barbecue sauce. If you use barbecue sauce apply it with a light hand. Close the lid and check after half an hour to see if the sauce has gotten tacky. If it has, daub on a bit more sauce to prevent it from burning, and close the lid for a final half an hour.
The remaining steps from our original 11-point blog, starting at step number 9, are unchanged. Meat should reach an internal temperature of 200°F. It should rest 10 minutes before eating, and ribs should be flipped meat-side down to cut, since it’s easier to see the bones that way. Don’t forget to serve with extra napkins!