Please enjoy this smoked spare ribs recipe and try it out on your smoker grills at home. The 321 method for smoking ribs is one of the most effective ways to smoke BBQ ribs, and is often considered by pitmasters to be the best approach when smoking baby back ribs or spare ribs.
As a result of the 321 smoked ribs method being so simple, it is also a great approach to smoking ribs for beginners.
As usual we will guide you through step by step to recreate those fall apart tender spare ribs at home.
- Ribs 321 Method
- Smoked Spare Ribs Recipe Step 1 – Remove Excess Fat
- Ribs 321 Method Step 2 – Prepare The Ribs
- 321 Smoked Spare Ribs Recipe Step 3 – Smoke the Ribs For 3 Hours
- Smoked Spare Ribs Recipe Step 4 Wrap the Ribs & Smoke For 2 Hours
- Smoked Spare Ribs 321 Recipe Step 5 – Unwrap the Ribs & Sauce – Cook For 1 Final Hour
- Smoked Spare Ribs Recipe Step 6 – Rest for 15-20 Minutes Then Slice & Serve
- FAQ’s About Smoked Spare Ribs
Ribs 321 Method
We are going to use a tried and tested approach to smoking ribs the Ribs 321 Method. This involves smoking the ribs for 3 hours unwrapped, 2 hours wrapped in tinfoil/butchers paper (with a splash of the spritz liquid) and a final hour directly on the smoker grills with added BBQ sauce.
There are some who feel the Ribs 321 method is too long and overcooks the ribs, so they suggest a 311 approach where the ribs are wrapped and braised for only 1 hour. There are also those who think that a 221 approach is best – 2 hours of smoking unwrapped, 2 hours of smoking wrapped and a final hour unwrapped after saucing the ribs.
There are even a few who like to cut corners even further and go for a 211 approach – which is something we don’t recommend – especially when we are talking about smoking ribs for beginners.
If you are smoking Baby Back Ribs, rather than Spare ribs it is acceptable to reduce cooking times because they are smaller than Spare ribs and less fatty, so as a result require less smoking time.
If you are smoking Spare ribs (as this recipe suggests) we recommend the Ribs 321 Method.
Smoked Spare Ribs Recipe Step 1 – Remove Excess Fat
To get really good quality organic meat we always recommend going to your local butcher.
You may need to remove excess fat from your spare ribs, especially because this cut is fattier and larger than the baby back ribs.
If you can get your butcher to remove any fatty membrane, or trim your ribs around the edges for you it will save you some messy work later on.
If you don’t get your butcher to do it, cut away any excess fat (there may be a large fatty membrane on the ribs) with a sharp paring knife or kitchen scissors.
Try to make sure your spare ribs are a nice uniform shape as this will make them easier to cut and serve later, as well as help them be evenly cooked.
Ribs 321 Method Step 2 – Prepare The Ribs
Pat down your ribs with kitchen roll to make sure they are dry and ready for the dry rub.
We are going to use some yellow mustard as a binder for the dry rub to stick to. You don’t need to use too much because we aren’t aiming for taste here.
Rub the top of your ribs all over with about 1 a few squirts of mustard and then liberally dust the top of the meat with the rub.
Make sure to get the rub all along the top of the meat and around the sides as well. We want even distribution here.
Turn the ribs over and rub some mustard across the back of the ribs. Dust the underside of the ribs with the rub, again making sure you coat the sides as well.
When we cut each rib after cooking we want a similar amount of seasoning on each rib and bite.
Dry Rub Ingredients
- 1 Teaspoon Granulated Garlic
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
- 1/2 Teaspoon Chilli Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
- 2 Tablespoons Smoked Paprika
- 1 Tablespoon Fine Sea Salt
- 2 Teaspoons of Black Pepper
321 Smoked Spare Ribs Recipe Step 3 – Smoke the Ribs For 3 Hours
Get your smoker up to 225°F. We like to use cherry wood for ribs, but you can use the wood of your choice.
Place your spare ribs over an indirect heat, away from open flames to smoke for 3 hours. Pull the lid down.
Depending on your smoker you may need to refuel every 45 minutes to an hour.
You’ll also need to spritz or brush the ribs every 45 minutes or so.
Use a mixture of apple cider vinegar, apple juice and butter.
Smoked Spare Ribs Recipe Step 4 Wrap the Ribs & Smoke For 2 Hours
After 3 hours of smoking you can remove the ribs from the grills and wrap them tightly in foil.
Add a little of the spritz mixture to the foil to help the ribs stay moist while they braise in the foil.
Place the wrapped ribs back on the grills, and pull the lid down.
Smoked Spare Ribs 321 Recipe Step 5 – Unwrap the Ribs & Sauce – Cook For 1 Final Hour
After about 2 hours you can unwrap the ribs and brush them on both sides with the BBQ sauce of your choice.
If you would like a homemade recipe for BBQ sauce try here.
Place the sauced spare ribs back on the grills for a final hour of smoking.
We are aiming for an internal temperature of 195-200°F for our smoked spare ribs.
Smoked Spare Ribs Recipe Step 6 – Rest for 15-20 Minutes Then Slice & Serve
Wrap the ribs in foil and rest them for 20-30 minutes to let the juices redistribute throughout the meat.
Cut each rib individually on either side of the bone, then serve with fries, mashed potatoes, green salad or the sides of your choice.
FAQ’s About Smoked Spare Ribs
Smoking Ribs For Beginners
The 321 Smoked Ribs Method is a great way of smoking ribs for beginners. It is straightforward and difficult to get wrong.
Are Spare Ribs Pork or Beef?
Spare ribs are cut from a pig’s backbone, and ribcage. The equivalent in cattle is Beef Short Ribs.
What Temperature Should Spare Ribs be Cooked To?
Spare ribs should be cooked to an internal temperature of 195-200°F to make sure all of the fat and collagen has rendered down properly.
How Long to Smoke Spare Ribs?
Using the 321 method spare ribs are smoked for 3 hours unwrapped, 2 hours wrapped in foil, then they are unwrapped, sauced and smoked for a final hour. It takes around 6 hours altogether at 225°F.
Can You Smoke Pork Ribs with Mesquite?
You can use mesquite wood to smoke pork ribs. You need to be careful however because mesquite creates a strong smoke taste which can be overpowering.
We like to use a milder fruit wood such as cherry.
Wood For Smoking Ribs
Ribs pair well with mild, fruit woods such as apple or cherry. There is always the danger that mesquite or hickory could overpower the natural sweetness of pork. Maple or pecan are also good woods for smoking ribs.
Easy Side Dishes For Ribs
Some of the best easy side dishes for ribs would include smoked mac n cheese, coleslaw, pesto pasta salad, corn bread, fries, mashed potatoes, beetroot and goat’s cheese salad, smoked corn on the cob with butter and chilli flakes, baked potatoes, pork or beef burnt ends, the list goes on an on.
For more ideas you could try our ‘Smoked Mac and Cheese with Bacon‘ recipe.
Or our pasta salad recipe.
For more ideas for easy side dishes for ribs you could try here:
Smoking Ribs Without Wrapping
If you are adamant about smoking ribs without wrapping, it is possible. You need to bear in mind that you will have to add around an hour to your cooking time, because wrapping the ribs concentrates the heat and speeds up the whole process.
There is also the concern that the ribs might get too dry, as wrapping the ribs retains moisture in the meat. You could get around this by spritzing the ribs with a little oil, honey, butter, apple cider vinegar or a combination of the above.
An extra hour unwrapped will also mean the ribs will take on more smoke flavour.
Are Spare Ribs Good to Smoke?
They most certainly are! Especially with a tasty dry rub and good BBQ sauce.
Spare ribs are larger and fattier than Baby Back ribs so they are more flavourful, feed more people and are less expensive.
If you enjoyed this article you could try our ‘Top 5 Smoker Recipes for Ribs,’ article.
Or our article on smoking Baby Back Ribs using the 321 method.