How to Smoke Pork Ribs Using the 3-2-1 Method

Using the popular 3-2-1 method for smoking ribs is incredibly easy! Learn how to smoke ribs like a pro, and you’ll be the star of any backyard bbq!

Do you love incredibly tender pork ribs?  If you do, then you’re about to get reallllly excited!  This 3-2-1 method for smoking ribs will give you the most flavorful, tender and delicious ribs ever!

Delicious homemade smoked ribs are easier to make than you think, especially using the popular 3-2-1 method.  Fall of the bone tender, and lip-smackingly good, these ribs are FABULOUS!! #ribs #pork #bbq #smoked #smoking #grilling #easyrecipe

This post sponsored by Ohio Pork, but as always, all opinions are my own.

I can’t believe it’s nearly September, and here I am posting a smoker recipe.  But you know, I plan on using my smoker year-round, and even have one of those smoker blanket things in my Amazon cart ready to go for the bone-chilling winter.  The amazing deliciousness of smoked meats and other foods just can’t be narrowed down to a few measly summer months!

Plus, at the end of this recipe, I’ll share how to cook these baby back ribs on a regular grill and in the oven.  Obviously they won’t have that classic smoked meat flavor, but they’ll still be tender and yummy!  Year-round ribs… comin’ up!

Pile of smoked baby back ribs on parchment paper


A quick Google search for smoked ribs will show you a bunch of different ways to cook them.  For a smoking newbie, like myself, it can be overwhelming!  I have a trusty mini cookbook that came with my smoker, and it has a recipe called 3-2-1 ribs, and it piqued my interest.  It seemed simple enough, and promised fall off the bone tender ribs.  Here’s the basics:

  • The first 3 hours, you’re infusing the meat with smoke flavor.
  • The next 2 hours, you’re “steaming” the meat, which makes it incredibly moist.
  • The last hour, you’re basting and glazing the meat with a bbq sauce of your choice.


Here’s the rub…. pardon my shameless pun there… in bbq competition circles, fall off the bone ribs are terrible.  For rib connoisseurs, a great rib should be tender, and pull away cleanly from the bone as you bite into it, but it shouldn’t be SO tender that the bones slide out super easily.  However, for most people, and myself included, fall off the bone ribs are the best way to enjoy ribs.  So for probably 90-95% of people, these ribs would be perfect.

Rack of smoked baby back ribs


I always smoke mine bone side down (so the meaty side is facing up), for two reasons.  First, I want the smoke to penetrate the bone side too, so each and every bite of the ribs is equally smoky and delicious.  Secondly, if you cook them bone side UP, the juices will pool in the concave center of the bones.  Which sounds like it would keep the meat nice and juicy, and it does, but what it also does is create a barrier that blocks the smoke from penetrating the meat.  So for me, bone side down, always.

Holding smoked ribs with bbq sauce


In it’s simpler form, you’re breaking the cooking time into 3 easy time blocks.  A smoking time, a wrapped cooking time, and a basting time.

  • Set smoker to 225 F degrees.  Brush a glaze over the ribs, on both sides.  Sprinkle generously with rub, then smoke for 3 hours.
  • Transfer ribs to aluminum foil sheets, season with sugar, fold foil up on the sides and top with another sheet of foil, wrap together to seal the top and bottom sheets, leaving one end open.  Pour in some liquid (apple cider, bourbon, etc), then seal completely and return to smoker for another 2 hours.
  • Remove ribs from foil and place back in smoker and brush with bbq sauce.  Smoke for 1 hour, cranking up the temperature the last 15 minutes or so to get stickier ribs.

Brushing bbq sauce on smoked ribs

If you’re in the mood for amazingly tender ribs, you simply have to try these 3-2-1 ribs!  My version uses a store-bought rub for convenience, and you can use any bbq sauce that you love.  If you’re in the mood for something deliciously boozy, you’ve got to check out my bourbon bbq sauce!



Delicious homemade smoked ribs are easier to make than you think, especially using the popular 3-2-1 method.  Fall of the bone tender, and lip-smackingly good, these ribs are FABULOUS!! #ribs #pork #bbq #smoked #smoking #grilling #easyrecipe

Smoked Bourbon BBQ Baby Back Ribs

Using the popular 3-2-1 method for smoking ribs is incredibly easy!
4.7 from 15 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 6 hrs
Total Time 6 hrs 20 mins
Servings 6 servings
Calories 1184


  • 2 racks baby back ribs - , membrane removed
  • 1/3 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • generous amount of your favorite dry rub
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 6 Tbsp bourbon - , divided (or more apple juice)
  • 1 cup your favorite bbq sauce


  • Lay out 4 large sheets of aluminum foil and set aside. Fill hopper of smoker with wood pellets, I usually use hickory, but pecan or cherry would work as well.
  • Remove membrane from back of ribs. Slide a butter knife into the bone-side of the rack of ribs and make a small slit.  Grab the membrane and pull it off.  Use a paper towel to get a better grip on it.
  • Combine mustard, apple juice and Worcestershire sauce. Brush over ribs on both sides.  Season ribs with dry rub on both sides. Be generous.
  • Start smoker on the smoke setting for 5-10 minutes. Increase heat to 225 F degrees.  Smoke the ribs, meaty side up, for 3 hours.
  • Leave smoker on at 225 F degrees and place ribs on foil sheets.  Sprinkle rack of ribs on both sides with half of brown sugar and honey, then top with 2 Tbsp of butter. Pour in 3 Tbsp bourbon. Repeat with remaining rack of ribs and remaining brown sugar, honey, butter and bourbon.  
  • Add another foil sheet on top of the ribs and crimp to seal tightly.  Return foil packs of ribs to grill and cook for 2 hours.
  • Carefully remove ribs from foil, and brush ribs with bbq sauce.  Place ribs back on grill grate and grill for 1 hour.  Slice and enjoy!



  • Set up grill so there is a hot area and a not hot area of the grill grates.   Soak wood chips for about an hour. 
  • Fill 3 aluminum foil pouches with wood chips, seal and poke a few holes in it to allow the smoke to come out.  Each time you open the grill door to tend to the ribs (at the beginning, after 3 hours, and after 2 hours), change out the pouches for a fresh one.
  • Start grill on HIGH, place 1 pouch of wood chips over the heat until you see smoke coming through the pouches’ holes.  Lower heat and keep temperature around 225 F degrees.  Place ribs on the not hot side of the grill and cook as directed in above recipe.
  • Preheat oven to 225 F degrees.  Follow recipe as written, except add a teaspoon or so of liquid smoke (found in the spice aisle of most grocery stores) to the mustard mixture you brush on the ribs before adding the rub.
Tried this recipe?Mention @the_chunky_chef or tag #thechunkychef!

If changing the recipe serving quantity, the recipe plugin will change the ingredient values for you, but it does NOT change the written instructions, those are manually added and not subject to a slider/button. You will have to extrapolate that multiplication to any amounts listed in the instructions.

For example: if an ingredient calls for 4 cups, and you doubled the recipe, it will automatically change to 8 cups. In the instructions, if I say “use 4 cups of cheese”, you will have to realize that since you doubled it, you use 8 cups, not 4


Delicious homemade smoked ribs are easier to make than you think, especially using the popular 3-2-1 method.  Fall of the bone tender, and lip-smackingly good, these ribs are FABULOUS!! #ribs #pork #bbq #smoked #smoking #grilling #easyrecipe

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33 comments on “How to Smoke Pork Ribs Using the 3-2-1 Method”

  1.  Bye Francesca! This recipe is spot on point, I like the life story part at the beginning of the page. Really easy to follow, I used a Traeger Ironwood 650 and these came out great with spare ribs. Will use again, thanks for the free information, it’s really priceless! 

  2. Have you tried this with something other than apple juice or bourbon? Perhaps pineapple juice (which is all that I have on hand right now….!)

  3. Holy smokes, these are incredible. These are the first ribs we’ve tried in our electric smoker, and don’t need to look any further for the perfect recipe. There is nothing that could be better about it. The flavor and tenderness of ribs were incredible. Made this recipe several times since the first time, and followed exactly, except didn’t have bourbon on hand, so I think I threw a little whiskey into it, or just used all apple juice. Thanks for the great recipe!! I also appreciate all of the info and explanations you talk about before the recipe, it is very helpful and answers many questions that some may have 🙂

  4. What if after 3 hours they are already 150 degrees??? Should I wrap with foil and keep smoking?

    • Technically they’re “done” at that temperature, but the meat will likely still be tough. Around 190-205 degrees (internal temperature) the collagens and fats melt, making the meat tender and juicy 🙂

  5. Woooow…..
    I think I will look for these and try your recipe this weekend. Thank you for sharing!

    Dang Thai from Embeya!

  6. Using home made Kentucky Bourbon sauce (#3) , and Agave and butter (#2). For phase #1 it states use a rub. What are folks using? I guess just salt and pepper, I don’t want to over power my smoke and sauce.

  7. I loved this recipe, the flavor was great! However, I am new to the smoking process and my ribs were not “fall off the bone”. I wouldn’t say they were tough either, somewhere in between. I’m sure it something that I did, but it seemed like they needed to be cooked maybe another hour. I used an electric smoker, so the temperature was consistently 225 throughout the process.
    Any suggestions?

  8. Ribs are SUPER. Francesca on the other hand…she’s the type of gal that constantly asks to speak with a manager. TOO EXTRA!

  9. Rating is based on comment to Francesca only! Just added bourbon and throwing back in!

  10. I love this recipe, it easy to remember and the taste is great. When my wife come homes from market and slaps some ribs on the counter and says, “guess what you’re doing tomorrow after church.” 😀Thanks!

  11. This is a fantastic recipe! Smoked them today for a potluck and they were a huge hit. Impressed my in-laws so much that they are planning to keep a couple racks in their freezer so I have to make this again (oh darn). Absolutely fabulous, fall of the bone tender, incredibly easy, Delicious!

  12. I’m sure this recipe is great, but is it not possible for sites like these to post them BEFORE the dissertation/author’s life story? It seems pretty ridiculous that if I want a recipe I have to scroll halfway down any given page to get to it, & if there are photos/videos and ads it takes so much longer to load.

  13. Why rub the bone side of the ribs? There is no meat there. Seems a complete waste of seasoning to me…

  14. I will try the grill part of the recipe, as I don’t have a smoker as yet.

  15. This method sounds so easy! I can’t wait to try!

  16. I will definitely try this method! Thanks for sharing!

  17. This is so helpful! Thanks for the great tips!! Smoked ribs are the best!!

  18. This looks amazing! I cannot wait to give it a try. I bet those flavors are amazing! Cannot wait to try this! Love! Thank you for sharing this great recipe.

  19. Oh these are wonderful!!! Smoked ribs have so much flavor.

  20. Love this method! Thanks for sharing!

  21. Thanks for all the suggestions! From novice to pro all in one spot!