3-2-1 Smoked Ribs

Can you feel it? Summer is fading fast, thankfully–2019 was quite a scorcher. But that also means our grilling weather is in its death throes, so I wanted to push out to you my favorite ribs recipe. This is by no means an original recipe, the 3-2-1 technique is very well known at this point. I love its simplicity: you smoke the ribs for three hours, wrap and smoke for another two hours, then unwrap, sauce, and smoke for a final hour. All at 225F.

Also, some life updates. The limited hardcover edition of The Heritage Cookbook is complete, and I shipped out all of the orders last week! Who knew that signing and shipping 750 books at once could be so fun? Here are some pictures in case you missed seeing them on Instagram. The end result was 760 pages, 304 recipes, and 4 lbs, 8 ounces.

My next step is to try and find a way to distribute this massive tome for a wider (and international) release. Fingers crossed I will have some good news to share in the coming weeks!

3-2-1 Smoked Ribs (Gluten-free, Primal, Paleo, Keto)

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy

2 to 4 racks baby back or spare ribs
1/2 cup barbecue rub (or your favorite BBQ rub)
1/4 cup apple juice (or 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar + 3 tbsp water + 1 tsp honey)
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (or your favorite BBQ sauce)

1. Remove the membrane from the bottom of the ribs, if they have it. It can be tricky, but try and peel off a corner piece, grab it firmly, and rip it all the way down. It takes some work, but this will expose the meat a bit better and make for a more flavorful and tender eating experience. Having a hard time? No worries, skip this step and move on (there’s a lot of wiggle room in this recipe!).

2. Rub the ribs all over with the barbecue rub. You don’t need to coat it with rub, just enough so that you impart some flavor. If you have the time, you can leave the rub on for an hour or two (I wouldn’t go much longer than that).

3. Prepare your grill for indirect smoking (see the illustrated setup below), and shoot for a smoker temperature of about 225F (+/- 25F is fine!). Let some of that initial smoke burn off, about the first 5-10 minutes, which can impart an acrid flavor to your meat. Use hickory, apple, cherry, or another mild wood for the flavor.

4. Place the ribs in the smoker and smoke for 3 hours. Be sure to monitor your wood and replenish as needed. This is the most important time to add smoke to the ribs!

5. Next, wrap your ribs with two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Right before sealing them up, pour in a bit of the apple juice; you don’t need much. At this point you can either continue to cook them in your smoker (still at 225F), or transfer them to the oven to bake at 225F. The smoke won’t really penetrate the foil at this point, so the oven should be fine. Smoke for 2 hours.

6. Unwrap the ribs, and check them for doneness. You’ll want to hold them with tongs and make sure they bend considerably – like they’re close to tearing apart from gravity alone. Baby back ribs sometimes take longer than spare ribs. Once they’re nice and bendy, brush with the barbecue sauce, then smoke (or bake) for another 1 hour, or until the sauce has caramelized. If you baked them in Step #5 but have the ability to put them back on the grill/smoker, definitely do that – finishing them in the oven should be used as a last resort (or if you’re trying to save fuel).

7. Rest the ribs for 5 minutes, then serve. Personally, I like to cut each rib individually with a pair of kitchen shears, to make it easier for the kids to eat. You do you.

Serve it with:
Gluten-Free Southern Skillet Cornbread
Mixed Greens

Here’s an illustration on how to set up indirect smoking on a gas or charcoal grill. You’ll want to place a drip pan directly below the meat, and then place the wood chips and/or chunks over the hot part of the grill. For gas grills, I like to use a combination of chips and chunks – the chips will burn up first, and the chunks will take longer (giving you a longer smoke period without having to fiddle with anything). The charcoal grill will definitely impart a smokier flavor to the ribs, but is harder to control at the right temperature. For this recipe, I used a Traeger pellet grill, which I featured in my Caribbean Sticky Wings recipe last year. It imparts a smoky flavor *and* cooks through indirect heat, so it’s awesome for smoking ribs.

9 thoughts on “3-2-1 Smoked Ribs

      1. Do you think I could do the first 5 steps and then refrigerate, then do the last step the next day ? I know that seems crazy, but the timing and guests arriving etc would work better for me.

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        1. Yes, I think that would work. That’s how I’d approach it. I would keep them wrapped overnight, then warm them up in the foil for about 30-45 minutes; then take them out, brush with sauce, and continue for the final hour.

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