Smoked pork ribs are a classic BBQ favorite guaranteed to impress your friends and family. With their tender, succulent meat and smoky flavor, they are the ultimate backyard feast. But if you’ve never made smoked pork ribs before, it can be intimidating to know where to start and as a guide of smoked ribs recipe.
That’s why we’ve put together this easy-to-follow smoked ribs recipe and a step-by-step guide on making the best smoked ribs. Whether you’re using a grill or a smoker, these ribs will turn out perfectly every time. So get your BBQ tools ready, and let’s get smoking ribs with smoke flavor!
The 6 different types of Pork Ribs
1. Baby back ribs
Baby back ribs come from the top of the ribcage, near the spine. They are smaller and more tender than other cuts of ribs and are often more expensive as a result. Baby back ribs are typically 2-3 inches wide and have a lean, meaty flavor. They are best cooked using a dry heat method, such as grilling or smoking, to allow the meat’s natural flavors to shine and get perfect smoking ribs.
2. St. Louis-style ribs
St. Louis style ribs are a cut of pork rib that comes from the belly of the pig, near the shoulder. They are larger and wider than baby back ribs and have a higher fat content, which makes them more flavorful. St. Louis-style ribs are typically 3-4 inches wide and are best cooked using a combination of dry and moist heat methods, such as braising or baking, to help tenderize the meat.
3. Spare ribs
Spare ribs are a cut of pork rib that comes from the belly of the pig, below the shoulder blade. They are wider and flatter than baby back ribs and have a higher fat content, which gives them a more flavorful and tender texture. Spare ribs are typically 3-4 inches wide and are best cooked using dry and moist heat methods, such as braising or baking, to help tenderize the meat.
4. Country-style ribs
Country-style ribs are a cut of pork rib that comes from the shoulder of the pig. They are larger and meatier than other cuts of rib and are often cut into individual portions before being sold. Country-style ribs are typically 4-6 inches wide and are best cooked using a moist heat method, such as braising or slow cooking, to help tenderize the meat.
5. Rib tips
Rib tips are a cut of pork ribs that comes from the lower part of the ribcage, near the belly of the pig. They are small, triangular-shaped pieces of meat that are often sold as a cheaper alternative to other cuts of ribs. Rib tips are typically 1-2 inches wide and are best cooked using a moist heat method, such as braising or stewing, to help tenderize the meat.
6. Loin back ribs
Loin back ribs come from the top of the ribcage, near the spine. They are similar to baby back ribs, but may have more fat and be less tender. Loin back ribs are typically 2-3 inches wide and are best cooked using a dry heat method, such as grilling or smoking, to allow the meat’s natural flavors to shine.
Pork Rib Cuts Chart
This recipe would work well for Pork Spare ribs, Pork Baby Back Ribs, or Pork St. Louis-style ribs. All three of these cuts of ribs have a higher fat content, which makes them more flavorful and tender. They are also wider and flatter than other cuts of ribs, which allows them to absorb more of the dry rub and smoke during cooking time.
|Cut of Rib||Description||Best Method|
|Baby Back Ribs||Small, tender ribs from top of ribcage near spine||Grilling, smoking|
|St. Louis Style Ribs||Ribs from belly of pig near shoulder, larger and wider than baby back ribs||Grilling, smoking, braising, baking|
|Spareribs||Wider, flatter ribs from belly of pig below shoulder blade||Braising, baking|
|Country Style Ribs||Larger, meatier ribs from shoulder of pig||Braising, slow cooking|
|Rib Tips||Small, triangular-shaped ribs from lower part of ribcage near belly of pig||Braising, stewing|
|Loin Back Ribs||Similar to baby back ribs, but may have more fat and be less tender||Grilling, smoking|
How to make Smoked Pork Ribs
It is important to know how to smoke pork ribs. Get ready to impress your friends and family with these mouth-watering smoky ribs with the help of the best-smoked ribs recipe! With our easy-to-follow smoked ribs recipe and step-by-step instructions, you’ll be on your way to BBQ greatness. Trust us; these ribs will be the star of your next cookout!
Step 1: Trim the pork ribs
Remove ribs from their packaging, and cut off any loose flaps of meat or fat (so those parts don’t burn). To cook ribs, this step eliminates any excess fat or meat that might not cook well on the smoker and could potentially catch fire.
Step 2: Remove the membrane
Flip the ribs around (meat side down) and remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. The membrane is a thin layer, tough layer of skin that covers the bones on the back of the ribs. Removing it will help the seasoning penetrate the meat and make the ribs more tender.
Removing the ribs membrane
1. Locate the membrane on the back of the ribs. It is a thin layer, white layer of connective tissue that runs along the bone side of the ribs.
2. Slide a fork under the membrane, careful not to puncture the meat.
3. Use the fork to loosen the membrane from the ribs gently.
4. Once the thin membrane is loosened, use a paper towel to grip it firmly.
5. Slowly and carefully pull the membrane off the ribs, using the fork to assist if necessary.
6. Discard the membrane and proceed with your desired cooking method.
Removing the membrane from the ribs can help to make them more tender and easier to eat. It is essential to remove the membrane if you use a dry heat cooking method, such as grilling or smoking, as the membrane can prevent the rub and your favorite BBQ sauce from fully penetrating the meat.
Step 3: Apply the dry rub
Apply your pork rib dry rub directly to the rib’s top, bottom, and sides. This step is to season ribs and add flavor. Make sure to coat the ribs evenly with the dry rub.
Step 4: Rest the seasoned ribs
Place your seasoned ribs on a baking sheet (bone side down) and let rest in your refrigerator for 1-2 hours. This step allows the seasoning to penetrate the meat and the flavors to develop.
Step 5: Preheat your smoker
Preheat your clean smoker and get it to a stable 225°F. This step is to get the smoker to the correct cooking temperature. Let the smoker reach a stable temperature before adding the ribs, as temperature fluctuations can affect the final product’s quality.
Step 6: Place the ribs on the smoker
Place the ribs (bone-side down) in the smoker and close the lid. This step is to start cooking the ribs. The bone-side-down position will help the ribs cook evenly and keep them moist.
Step 7: Spritz the ribs every 30 minutes
Spritz with equal parts mix of apple cider vinegar and water (alternatively, you could use apple juice for a sweeter taste) every 30 minutes for the first 3 hours of the cook time. This step is to add moisture to the ribs and keeps them from drying out. Mixing equal parts apple cider vinegar and water creates a spritz that will help to add flavor and moisture to the ribs as they cook. Apple cider works amazingly to complete the process.
Step 8: Wrap your ribs
After 3 hours, wrap your smoked ribs, increase the temperature of your smoker to 275°F and place back on the smoker meat side for an additional 1-2 hours. This step is to finish cooking the ribs and get them to the desired level of tenderness. Wrapping the ribs in aluminum foil will help to lock in moisture and keep them from drying out. Increasing the smoker’s temperature will also help cook the ribs faster and get the best smoky flavor.
How to wrap pork ribs
1. Lay out a large sheet of aluminum foil on a flat surface.
2. Place the ribs on the foil, meat side down.
3. Add any additional seasonings or liquids, such as BBQ sauce or apple juice, to the foil.
4. Bring the long sides of the foil up and fold them over the ribs, sealing the edges together to create a tight package.
5. Fold the short ends of the foil over to seal the package completely.
Step 9: Check your ribs
Check your ribs by opening the foil wrap and lifting one side of the rib rack. The smoked ribs are done if it starts tearing in the middle of the rib rack. This step tests if the ribs are cooked to the desired level of tenderness. If the ribs are tender and start to tear when you lift one end of the rack, they are done.
Step 10: Remove and rest
Remove the ribs from the smoker and let them rest in the foil wrap for 30 minutes or until you’re ready to serve. This step allows the juices to redistribute throughout the ribs, making them more tender and flavorful. Letting the ribs rest will also make them easier to handle and slice.
Optional Step: Apply BBQ Sauce and place back on the Smoker
If you prefer smoked ribs with your favorite BBQ sauce on them, it’s as easy as taking your now fully cooked ribs out of the foil, turning them bone side down, coating the meat side with a layer of BBQ sauce, and allowing them to cook for an additional 30 minutes on the smoker. BBQ sauce is a great ingredient for ribs recipes.
This extra step and time will allow the BBQ sauce to stick to the ribs and add flavor to your smoked ribs.
Tips for making the best-smoky ribs
- Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs for more tender ribs.
- Use a dry rub to add flavor to the ribs before cooking.
- Let the ribs rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat.
- Preheat the smoker to a stable 225°F before adding the ribs.
- Spritz the ribs with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water every 30 minutes to keep them moist.
- Wrap the ribs in aluminum foil, also known as the “Texas crutch,” to help speed up the cooking and keep the ribs moist.
- Check the rack of ribs for doneness by lifting one end of the rack and seeing if they start to tear in the middle.
- Let the finished ribs rest in the foil for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute.
Side Dishes for Smoky Ribs
- BBQ baked beans: Baked beans are a classic BBQ side dish that pairs perfectly with smoky ribs.
- Coleslaw: A refreshing coleslaw made with shredded cabbage, carrots, and a creamy dressing is the perfect balance to rich, smoky ribs.
- Grilled corn on the cob: Grilled corn on the cob is a summer staple with ribs.
- Grilled vegetables: Grilled vegetables, such as zucchini, bell peppers, and onions, make a healthy and flavorful side dish for ribs.
- Smoked potato salad: A simple potato salad made with boiled potatoes, mayonnaise, and your choice of herbs and spices, can be smoked along with the ribs for added flavor.
- Smoked macaroni and cheese: Mac and cheese can be smoked in a foil pan alongside the ribs for a creamy, smoky side dish.
- Smoked baked sweet potatoes: Slice them into rounds, coat them with olive oil, and smoke them until tender.
- Smoked green beans: Toss green beans with olive oil and your choice of seasoning, and smoke them until tender.
Beer and Smoky Ribs
- American amber ale: American amber ales have a balanced flavor profile that pairs well with the smoky, savory flavors of ribs.
- Brown ale: Brown ales have a malty flavor that complements the richness of ribs.
- Porter: Porters have a smooth, dark flavor that pairs well with the bold flavors of smoked ribs.
- Stout: Stouts have a rich, roasted flavor that goes well with the smokiness of ribs.
- Wheat beer: Wheat beers, such as hefeweizens, have a light, refreshing flavor that can help to cut through the richness of ribs.
- Lager: Crisp, clean lagers are a great choice to pair with ribs because they won’t overpower the flavors of the meat.
- Blonde ale: Blonde ales have a light, crisp flavor that pairs well with the bold flavors of smoked ribs.
Ultimately, the best beer to pair with smoky ribs is a matter of personal preference. Experiment with different beer styles to find the one you like best with your ribs.
Wine and Smoked Best Ribs
- Zinfandel: Zinfandel is a bold, fruity wine with enough body and tannins to stand up to the richness of ribs.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied red wine with bold tannins that can hold its own against the smoky flavors of ribs.
- Syrah/Shiraz: Syrah/Shiraz is a full-bodied red wine with bold, spicy flavors that complement the smokiness of ribs.
- Merlot: Merlot is a medium-bodied red wine with soft tannins and fruity flavors that pair well with ribs.
- Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir is a medium-bodied red wine with light tannins and a fruity flavor that pairs well with the richness of ribs.
- Beaujolais: Beaujolais is a light-bodied red wine with bright, fruity flavors that can help to cut through the richness of ribs.
Ultimately, the best wine to pair with smoky ribs is a matter of personal preference. Experiment with different wine styles to find the one you like best with your best ribs.
BBQ Hero Tip: In a rush? Check out our Quick Smoker Recipes For Busy Pitmasters! Looking for more great smoker recipes? Check out our post on What To Smoke This Weekend for easy and delicious smoker recipes the whole family will love!
Smoked Pork Ribs Recipe
- 2 Rack of ribs (spare ribs or babyback ribs)
- ¼ cup pork rib rub (see below)
Rib Rub (Make about ¼ rub cup per rack)
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp smoked papprika
- 1 tpsp granulated black pepper
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp granulated onion powder
- Remove the pork ribs from their packaging, and cut off any loose flaps of meat or fat (so those parts don't burn).
- Flip the ribs around (meat side down) and remove the membrane from the back of the pork ribs.
- Apply your pork rib dry rub directly to the top, bottom and sides of the pork ribs.
- Place your seasoned ribs on a baking sheet (bone side down) and let rest in your refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
- Preheat your smoker and get it to a stable 225°F
- Place the ribs (bone-side down) in the smoker and close the lid.
- Spritz with equal parts mix of apple cider vineger and water every 30 minutes for the first 3 hours of the cook.
- After 3 hours, wrap the ribs tightly, increase the temperature of your smoker to 275°F and place back on the smoker meat side down for an additional 1-2 hours
- Check your ribs by opening the foil wrap and lifting one side of the rack. If it starts tearing in the middle of the rack, the smoked ribs are done.
- Remove the ribs from the smoker and let them rest in the aluminum foil wrap for a minimum of 30 minutes or until you're ready to serve
Smoked Pork Ribs FAQs
How long does it take to smoke ribs at 225 degrees?
It takes approximately 6-8 hours to smoke ribs at 225 degrees, depending on the size and thickness of the ribs.
How long does it take to smoke pork ribs?
The time it takes to smoke pork ribs will vary, but generally it takes 6-8 hours at 225 degrees.
What is the 3 2 1 rule for smoking ribs?
The 3 2 1 rule for smoking ribs refers to a method where the ribs are smoked for 3 hours, then wrapped in foil, cooked for an additional 2 hours, and finally returned to the smoker for 1 more hour. This method helps to achieve tender and flavorful ribs.
Is it better to smoke ribs at 180 or 225?
It is generally recommended to smoke ribs at 225 degrees, as this allows for a longer cook time and helps to break down the collagen in the meat, resulting in tender ribs. However, some people prefer to smoke ribs at a lower temperature (such as 180 degrees) for a longer period of time to achieve a more tender result.
Do I need to flip my ribs when smoking?
Flipping ribs while smoking is unnecessary, as the slow cooking process allows for even cooking on both sides. However, some people (like us) flip their ribs when we wrap our ribs to get more of the juices to stay in the meat.
Can ribs be smoked in 4 hours?
It is possible to smoke ribs in 4 hours, but the result may not be as tender as if they were smoked for a longer period of time.
How do you keep ribs moist when smoking?
To keep ribs moist while smoking, it is important to wrap them in foil or use a spray bottle to moisten the ribs with a liquid such as apple juice or water. This helps to prevent the ribs from drying out during the smoking process.
Why are my smoked ribs tough?
Smoked ribs may be tough if they were overcooked, cooked at too high of a temperature, or not wrapped in foil or moistened during the cooking process. It is important to monitor the temperature and moisture levels of the ribs to ensure they are cooked to perfection.