321 ribs are the easiest way to get fall off the bone tender ribs. The 3 2 1 method of cooking pork ribs is one of the most tried and true ways to get a consistent fall-off-the-bone rack of ribs for any new or experienced pitmaster.
Smoking ribs is always our preferred way to make juicy and tender ribs. When smoking your ribs, you can use a pellet grill, charcoal smoker, or an electric smoker. Any type of smoker will work and will give you seriously amazing ribs.
The best meat to use for the 3 2 1 rib method is either baby back ribs, or pork side ribs (also known as St Louis style ribs). Pork ribs are the only type of ribs that this recipe works for.
3 Simple Steps
This 321 ribs recipe breaks down into 3 simple steps and takes 6 hours to complete.
- Smoke your ribs directly on the grill at a low temperature for 3 hours
- Wrap your ribs in foil, add liquid, and put back on the grill for 2 hours
- Partially unwrap your ribs, add BBQ sauce, and put them back on the grill for 1 hour
The 321 ribs method is the best and simplest rib method to try. You can use this method with either baby back ribs or St Louis Style ribs. As long as you’re smoking pork ribs, you should be good to go!
The 3 2 1 ribs method breaks down your pork ribs in the perfect way to give you the best possible outcome! Juicy, tender, and fall-off-the-bone ribs.
BBQ Tip: Watching your sugar intake? No problem! Just use half the brown sugar and it’ll still taste great!
Detailed Cooking Instructions-321 Ribs
Prepare The Ribs
Before you start smoking your 321 ribs on your pellet smoker, you need to remove the ribs from their packaging and give them a quick rinse under cold water to remove any residue from the packaging. Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel, this will ensure that the rib rub adheres to the meat better.
Remove The Rib Membrane
Peeling off the rib membrane is an important step to ensure the ribs cook evenly. To remove the rib membrane, start by gently loosening the membrane with a butter knife. Then, use your fingers to gently pull it off. If the membrane is difficult to remove, use a paper towel to grip it and pull it off. Trim off any excess fat bits to give the ribs a cleaner appearance and to promote even cooking.
Prepare The BBQ Hero Rib Rub
For this recipe, you’ll be using a homemade rib rub to add flavor to your ribs. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard, cinnamon, celery salt, cayenne pepper, Kosher salt, and black pepper. Check the measurement of pork rub recipe here. This blend of spices will give the ribs a smoky and sweet taste that’s perfect for any barbecue.
Apply Rib Rub
Next, add the rib rub to the ribs, making sure to cover all sides of the ribs, starting with the bone side. If you’d like, you can use yellow mustard as a binder to help the rub adhere to the ribs better. Be generous with the rib rub, as this will add depth to the flavor of your ribs.
Preheat The Smoker
Now it’s time to get the smoker ready. Preheat your pellet smoker to 200ºF. You can use fruit woods like apple or cherry, or other hardwoods like hickory and alder to add flavor to the smoke. Experiment with different types of wood to see which flavor profile you prefer.
Smoke The Ribs For 3 Hours
Place the seasoned ribs bone side down on your grill and smoke for 3 hours. The bone side of the ribs should be facing down to protect the meat from the heat. Let the ribs smoke for 3 hours, without opening the smoker or flipping the ribs. This will allow the smoke to penetrate the meat and add flavor.
Wrap The Ribs In Foil
After three hours of smoking, it’s time to wrap the ribs in foil for the next two hours of cooking. This step is known as “braising” and helps to tenderize the ribs and infuse them with additional flavor.
To wrap the ribs, prepare your foil by placing a few 2-foot sheets of foil on your work surface. Carefully transfer the ribs to the foil bone side up. Sprinkle more of your homemade rib rub and a few slices of butter over the ribs, and then pour apple juice or apple cider vinegar over them. Next, wrap the ribs tightly in the foil, making sure not to puncture the foil,
Braise The Wrapped Ribs For 2 Hours
Place the wrapped ribs on the smoker at a temperature of 225ºF for 2 hours of braising.
Braising the ribs for 2 hours in the foil will help to tenderize the meat and allow the flavors to meld together. The foil will trap the moisture and heat, creating steam that will soften the meat.
Flip and Discard Foil
After two hours of braising, remove the wrapped ribs from the smoker and place them on your work surface. Carefully open the foil and flip the ribs over so that they are meat-side up. Discard the foil and any extra liquid, and then place the ribs back on the smoker.
Apply BBQ Sauce And Smoke For Final Hour
Coat the ribs with your favorite BBQ sauce and then place them back on the smoker for one hour, or until the ribs are tender and the sauce is sticky and set. If you’re looking for a specific type of sauce, you can try a classic tomato-based BBQ sauce, a tangy vinegar-based sauce, kanas city BBQ sauce or a sweet and spicy mustard-based sauce.
After a total of six hours of smoking, remove your 321 ribs from the smoker and let them rest for 10-15 minutes. This resting period is important because it allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, making the ribs even more juicy and flavorful.
Take this time to finish preparing the rest of your meal (we’ve got some great sides for ribs down below). Letting your ribs rest will also let them come down in temperature because right now they are super hot!
Cut & Serve
Once your ribs are properly rested, cut between the bones and serve. We’ve found that while it’s easiest to cut the ribs meat side down, doing this will ruin your barbecue sauce layer.
So, we recommend finding the biggest knife you have, looking to see where the meat is between 2 ribs, and trying to cut right down the middle. If you miss the meat and hit a bone, don’t worry, just adjust and keep cutting. Cutting ribs takes a little practice but anyone can do it.
PS. Check out that beautiful pink smoke ring!
321 Ribs Quick Tips
If you’re new to smoking ribs or just looking to perfect your technique, these tips are a great starting point. By following these simple guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to smoking the most delicious, juicy, and tender ribs your friends and family have ever tasted. So, let’s get started!
Experiment With Wood Pellets
Different wood pellets will impart different flavors to your ribs. Experiment with different types of fruit woods like apple or cherry or hardwoods like hickory and alder to find your preferred flavor.
The 321 rib method requires a total of six hours of cooking time, so make sure you plan ahead and allow enough time for the ribs to cook. The end result will be juicy, tender ribs that are worth the wait.
Make Your Own Rib Rub
Making your own rib rub is easy and allows you to customize the flavor of your ribs. Combine brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard, cinnamon, celery salt, cayenne pepper, Kosher salt, and black pepper in a small bowl to make a delicious rib rub. You can also go for highly rated guga rub recipe.
Let The Ribs Rest
After removing the ribs from the smoker, let them rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, making the ribs even juicier and more flavorful.
Best Sides for 321 Ribs
Looking for the best sides to pair with your smoked ribs? Look no further! These sides will elevate your meal and impress your guests at the same time.
Smoked Corn on the Cob
One of the most popular sides for smoked pork ribs is Smoked Corn on the Cob. The fresh sweetness from the corn is a perfect complement to the juicy and smoky flavors in the meal. To make it even better, you can smoke corn on the cob at 225ºF (the same temperature as pork ribs) for only 1 hour. Just toss them on the grill at the last stage of this recipe cooking process and you’re done!
Smoked Mac and Cheese
Another very popular side dish for ribs is our Smoked Mac and Cheese. The cheesy, rich, and gooey flavors complement the sweet smoked ribs so nicely that we’ve seen many people just mix them all together!
Looking for a simple side dish that balances out the fattiness and nutritional calories of pork? Adding a simple Caesar salad can do just that! Just cut up some romaine lettuce, add Caesar dressing, parmesan cheese, and a few croutons to complete the salad!
Best Beer Pairing For Smoked 321 Ribs
When it comes to pairing beer with your smoked 321 ribs, the options are endless. From hoppy pale ales to rich stouts, there’s a beer for every taste bud. As a seasoned BBQ expert, I’ve tasted my fair share of beers and I’ve handpicked the top 3 types of beer that pair perfectly with this delicious smoked rib recipe.
American Pale Ale
American Pale Ales are hoppy, yet balanced beers that pair perfectly with the bold flavors of smoked 321 ribs. The hops in the beer complement the smoky and spicy notes in the rib rub, while the crisp finish helps cut through the rich and savory flavors of the meat. So, if you’re looking for a beer that can keep up with your BBQ hero status, this is it.
Brown Ale is a dark, malty beer that has a nutty, caramel-like flavor. This beer is an excellent choice to pair with smoked 321 ribs because it complements the sweet and smoky flavors of the meat, while also providing a comforting and smooth finish. So, if you’re in the mood for a comforting and cozy pairing, grab a Brown Ale and dig in.
Stouts, especially Oatmeal Stouts, are thick and creamy beers that are rich in chocolate and coffee flavors. These flavors pair perfectly with the sweet and smoky flavors of the 321 ribs, creating an indulgent and satisfying meal. If you’re looking to elevate your BBQ game with a truly decadent pairing, grab an Oatmeal Stout and savor each bite.
Related Recipes of 321 Ribs
- Smoked Lamb Ribs Recipe
- Smoked Spare Ribs Recipe
- Smoked Beef Back Ribs Recipe
- Smoked St. Louis Ribs Recipe
- Smoked Beef Ribs Recipe
321 Ribs | Easy Fall Of The Bone Smoked Ribs Recipe
- Heavy-Duty Aluminum Foil
- BBQ Tongs
- Rimmed baking sheet (Tongs)
Rib Rub Ingredients
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp Kosher salt
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp ground mustard
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp celery salt
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Smoked Ribs Ingredients
- 1 package of baby back ribs or St Louis Style ribs (2 racks of ribs per package)
- 1 cup of BBQ Sauce
- 1 cup of Apple Juice (or Apple Cider Vinegar)
- Yellow Mustard (optional for binding the rub to the ribs)
- Remove the ribs from their packaging, pat dry with a paper towel
- Peel off the rib membrane from the bone side of your ribs and trim off any excess fat bits
- Prepare the BBQ Hero Rib Rub by combining brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard, cinnamon, celery salt, cayenne pepper, Kosher salt, and black pepper in a small bowl.
- Add the homemade rib rub directly onto the ribs starting with the bone side and making sure to get all sides. You can use yellow mustard as a binder before adding the rib rub if you wish.
- Preheat your smoker to 200ºF. using fruit woods like apple or cherry or other hardwoods like hickory and alder.
- Place your seasoned baby back ribs cook or pork spare ribs bone side down on your grill for 3 hours of smoking.
- After 3 hours, it's time to wrap the ribs in foil. Prepare your foil by placing a few 2-foot sheets of foil on your work surface. Carefully transfer the ribs to the foil bone side up. Sprinkle more rib rub and a few slices of butter, and pour apple juice or apple cider vinegar over them.
- Wrap your ribs tight making sure to not puncture the foil and place them back on the smoker bone side up at a smoker temperature of 225ºF for 2 hours of braising.
- After another 2 hours of cooking, remove your wrapped ribs from the grill and place on your work surface. Carefully open the foil and flip the ribs over so that they are meat-side up.
- Discard the foil and extra liquid and place the ribs back in the smoker at 225ºF
- Coat the ribs with your favorite BBQ sauce and smoke for one hour or until the ribs are tender and the sauce is sticky and set.
- After a total of 6 hours of smoking, remove your smoked pork ribs from the grill and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Once your smoked baby back ribs (or spare ribs) are properly rested, cut between the bones and serve!
When Not To Use The 321 Ribs Method
This method of smoking 321 ribs is amazing, but it’s best to only use it while making ribs at home for your friends and family. You should not use this method to cook ribs when in a BBQ competition.
Having fall-off-the-bone ribs is frowned upon in BBQ competition. The best competition ribs method is Hot and Fast smoked ribs. The meat on hot and fast ribs is not as tender but allows the judges to make a clear bite mark into the rack of ribs (which is important in judging).
321 Ribs FAQS
What is the 321 Ribs rule?
The 321 rule for ribs has 3 steps. First, smoke your pork ribs for 3 hours at 200ºF. Then wrap in foil and smoke for another 2 hours at 225ºF. Finally, cover in BBQ sauce and smoke for 1 final hour.
Are 321 ribs good?
321 ribs are amazing! They are tender juicy and fall-off-the-bone ribs that are easy to duplicate again and again. For competition ribs, try the hot and fast ribs method.
Is 321 Ribs too long for baby back ribs?
No, the 321 method is perfect for a full rack of baby back ribs and pork side ribs. The only time this method may not work perfectly, is if you have a very small rack of ribs or cut a full rack in half.
Can you try 321 ribs for Beef?
No, the 321 rib method does not work for beef ribs. Beef ribs are much larger and take more time to fully cook. We recommend reading our Smoked Beef Ribs recipe for exactly how to smoke beef ribs.
Should you let your 321 ribs rest after smoking?
Yes, you should let your ribs rest after smoking. Letting your ribs rest for just 10-15 minutes will allow the temperature of the meat to go down, the juices to go back into the meat, and give you a nice tender rib.
Why are my 321 ribs dry?
If you followed the required fields are marked (process) of 3 2 1 ribs recipe above, your ribs should not be dry. However, if they are dry, make sure that you’re adding enough liquid into the foil during the wrapping step. Also, you could also add a tray of water on the grill for the first 3 hours of smoke. This will help keep the air in your smoker humid and your meat moist.
Can you smoke ribs for too long?
Yes, you can smoke ribs for too long. Smoking ribs too long will make them rubbery and eventually fall apart. Trust us when we say, 6 hours is the perfect amount of time to cook ribs.
Are fall-off-the-bone ribs overcooked?
No, fall-off-the-bone ribs are not overcooked. In fact, most people prefer fall-off-the-bone ribs over competition ribs that are meatier and stick to the bone. Personally, I like my ribs cooked to the point where they leave a clean bone.