There’s no better way to make the most out of your pellet smoker than to smoke baby backs out in the backyard. This doesn’t have to be difficult; tender, smoky, and juicy ribs with a crunchy bark can be achieved using your own rib rub. In this guide, we share how to smoke pork ribs so you can host the ultimate barbecue for your friends and family.
Table of Contents
What’s the Best Way to Smoke Pork Ribs?
When you want great ribs, there are a few different ways that you can try, but in our opinion, cooking them inside a pellet smoker is the best for this cut of meat. There are a wide variety of pellet smokers available in the market that can handle all kinds of dishes. A traditional smoker, however, will need the use of a water pan or wood chips — simply fill the hopper with your favorite pellets, set the right temperature, and get smoking.
While there are a lot of complicated ways to make smoked ribs, such as 3-2-1 method, they’re not necessary to use for everyday cooking. All you need to do is preheat your smoker to 225°F and rub your ribs with dry rub, place your rack of ribs inside the smoker, and let it cook until it passes the bend test. There’s no need for heavy-duty aluminum foil, apple cider vinegar, a fancy marinade, or coat it with yellow mustard, because our recipe is so simple yet tasty.
How to Make the Best Ribs on a Pellet Smoker
First, you need to pick the best rack of ribs — you can go to your favorite market or butcher for spare ribs, which are more affordable than a rack of baby back ribs while having more meat. One rack of baby backs will only feed one adult while a spare rib can feed two. Next, you’ll need to get some smoker pellets; there are different options to choose from to give your meat a distinct smoky flavor.
You can get a wonderful smoke flavor from a wide range of pellets such as apple, cherry, competition blend, hickory, mesquite, or pecan.
Prepping Your Ribs
Before getting started, be sure to preheat your smoker to 225°F and be sure to follow the start-up process and instructions according to your pellet smoker. Some people will also line the bottom part of their smoker with aluminum foil, but this should only be done if your smoker allows it. Ribs will often come with a layer of tough skin — referred to as silver skin — on the rack’s bone side.
This membrane will need to be removed to allow your seasonings to penetrate your meat. A piece of paper towel will help you get a grip on this membrane since they’re so slippery.
Seasoning Your Ribs
Once you remove the silver skin, you can start seasoning your meat — be sure to lay them out on a baking sheet and then add around 2 to 3 tablespoons of rib rub on each side. It’s not good to coat them completely, so be sure to leave parts of the meat shining through. Here are just a few ingredients you may want to try to make your own dry rub:
- Brown sugar
- Garlic powder
- Black pepper
- Chili powder
- Onion powder
- Kosher salt
When combined, these ingredients can add a salty, smoky, and sweet flavor to your ribs. Once your smoker finishes preheating, you can place the rib rack directly over the grates to begin smoking. Be sure to allow for 4 hours of smoking to allow your meat to absorb all the flavors and smoke — the less you open your smoker, the faster your cook time will be.
You’ll want to keep watching over the internal temperature of your smoker and make sure it will stay in place.
The Right Temperature for Smoking Your Ribs
By the time the smoking finishes, your ribs should be around 180 to 190 degrees F; while this sounds high, it’s actually normal for smoking ribs. This is because we’re smoking at the low temperature of 225°F while spritzing our ribs with a little apple juice to keep the meat moist — this will prevent it from getting overdone. Pork will usually be done around 145°F but smoked ribs will be done once they reach 185°F because the meat around the bones will take longer to cook.
We strongly recommend getting an accurate smoker or grill thermometer to help the temperature in your smoker stay at 225°F. You may be surprised at what the actual temperature is inside the smoker compared to its built-in thermometer.
How Long Will it Take to Smoke Ribs?
The answer to this question will depend on the size of your ribs but will generally take 4 to 5 hours for baby back ribs and 6 to 7 hours for spare ribs. The method detailed below is a better way to make this meal and will soon be one of your favorite rib recipes. To find out if your ribs are done, you can use the bend test, which will ensure that you will get delicious ribs every time.
Unfortunately, thermometers aren’t the best solution for ribs since their meat is very close to the bone. To perform the bend test, pick up your ribs using tongs; if the ribs are almost split in half and break their bark, then they’re done.
Easy Smoked Ribs Recipe
Below is the easiest and simplest way to get smoky and juicy ribs with a tasty bark thanks to the BBQ rub we gave above. Follow the easy steps here to serve amazing ribs for your family and friends.
- 2 racks of spare or baby back ribs
- BBQ Rub for your ribs
- 1 cup of apple juice
- ½ cup of barbecue sauce
- Pellet smoker
- Spray bottle
- Get rid of the membrane from the back of the ribs using a sharp knife — place it in between the bone and the membrane. Loosen this membrane until you can tear it apart and grab the membrane using butcher paper or a paper towel.
- Place all the ingredients for your rub in one bowl.
- Spread your dry rub all over your ribs, but don’t cover them completely. Be sure to cover your ribs in saran wrap and place your wrapped ribs in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
- Start your smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions and set it up to 225°F — you can use apple wood chunks or any of the other suggestions above for these ribs.
- When the smoker is ready, place ribs bone side down on the smoker and allow it to smoke for 4 to 5 hours for baby back ribs and 6 to 7 hours for spare ribs.
- Mix ½ cup of water and ½ cup of apple juice inside a spray bottle and use it as a spritz for your ribs once every 30-45 minutes.
- Once it’s finished, remove your ribs from your smoker.
And that’s it! You’ll have perfectly cooked ribs with very little effort. But if you want to try making 3-2-1 ribs, you’ll still follow the same instructions with a few additions.
- After smoking for 3 hours, take your ribs out while leaving the smoke on.
- Lay down some tinfoil on your counter and lay your ribs down.
- Mix ½ cup of the BBQ sauce and ½ cup of the apple juice together inside a small bowl. Pour it over your ribs and seal the foil to prevent leakage then put your ribs back inside the smoker for another 2 hours.
- When it’s ready, remove your ribs from your smoker and take them out of the foil.
- Take some BBQ sauce, brown sugar, and honey to make a finishing sauce in a bowl. Coat your ribs using this sauce and place your ribs back inside during its final hour.
- Remove your ribs from the smoker and brush it again with your sauce before serving.
Side Dishes to Consider
There are many kinds of sides that you can serve with your perfectly smoked pork ribs, such as brown butter sage sauce, keto coleslaw, cauliflower mac and cheese, spaghetti squash, bacon-wrapped asparagus, and more!
The perfect BBQ ribs don’t have to take long to make, and you don’t have to settle for oven-baked ribs which won’t have the distinct smoky flavor we all crave. Making smoked baby back ribs can be done using just a few ingredients, and just two pieces of equipment — a spray bottle and a pellet grill for great ribs every single time. We hope that our guide has helped you serve up terrific ribs whether you choose the easy way or the 3-2-1 rib method.
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