Smoked Baby Back Ribs

One thing I’ve learned about backyard meat smoking, is that in most cases, it’s not so much about the “recipe” as it is about the method.  With smoking, you need to know your cut of meat, and you need to know your cooking method.  Spices, sauces, and rubs are just ancillary after that.  In this post I’m going to show you how I cook smoked ribs on my pellet smoker and they turn out perfect every time! If you’re looking for an indoor rib method, try my Pressure Cooker or Slow Cooker Ribs.

bbq ribs

Ingredient and Equipment Notes

  • Babyback Pork Ribs – Up to 3 pounds.
  • Mustard – Yellow mustard or Dijon.
  • Dry Rub
    • Chili powder
    • Smoked paprika
    • Kosher salt
    • Pepper
    • Cumin
    • Brown sugar
    • Garlic powder
    • Onion powder

How to Smoke Babyback Ribs

Step 1: Mustard Rub

  • The first thing I do give my ribs a thin rub of mustard.  You can use Dijon or even plain yellow mustard.  It doesn’t make them taste mustard-y, it just helps deepen the flavor and adhere the spice rub. There’s no measurement, I just give it a good squeeze and rub it all over both sides.

Step 2: Dry Rub

  • The next thing you need is a dry rub.  I shared my rub recipe a couple weeks ago, here it is if you missed it!  Rub it all over both sides and gently pat in.

Step 3: Smoke

  • At this point your ribs are ready for the smoker.  Your smoker should already be preheated to 225 and I always place a pan of water underneath my grate just to circulate some moisture in there.

Step 4: Roast

  • After the 3 hours of smoking, your ribs will look like this- kind of dry to the touch.  Now we’re going to wrap them up and roast them.  I get an extra large sheet pan and cover it with 2 criss-crossing sheets of heavy duty foil.  Depending on the size of your ribs, you could also place them in a large disposable foil pan. Either way, I add about 1-2 cups of apple cider (or apple juice, or if all else fails, chicken or beef broth) and then seal up the foil.
  • Your wrapped up package goes back on the smoker for about 2 hours.  You’ll find when you unwrap, tons of moisture was trapped in there and everything is now soft and tender. 
  • You’ll want to be careful handling them so they don’t fall apart, but gently place them back on the grates and smoke them for 1 final hour, glazing with BBQ sauce 1-2 times during the hour. You’ll get sticky sweet and savory exterior with soft tender smoky meat.
BBQ ribs on pan

Frequently Asked Questions

Could I use the same method for beef ribs?

While I have only done this with babyback pork ribs, lots of people use the 3-2-1 method with beef ribs with great results so I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work!

What wood pellets should I use?

I honestly haven’t found a wood pellet that has disappointed me yet. Just pick your favorite or whatever you have on hand.

BBQ RIBs on plate
BBQ Ribs

Smoked Babyback Ribs

The 3-2-1 Method for cooking perfect ribs in the pellet smoker!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 10 minutes
Servings6 people



  • up to 3 racks babyback ribs
  • mustard
  • 1-2 cups apple cider or apple juice or chicken or beef broth

Dry Rub

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons garlic
  • 2 tablespoons onion


  • Preheat pellet smoker to 225 degrees.  Combine all rub ingredients and set aside.
  • Place ribs on a work surface.  If needed, remove membrane on the bottom by inserting a knife between the bone and the membrane and then pull the membrane off.  It helps to grab it with a paper towel for grip!  Some ribs come with the membrane already removed.
  • Squirt a zig-zag of mustard over each one and rub into a thin layer. Sprinkle on dry rub (you may not use it all) on both sides.
  • Place ribs in smoker and cook for 3 hours.  Remove and place on a couple (or a few) overlapping sheets of heavy duty foil.  Pour apple cider over ribs and wrap everything securely in foil.
  • Cook for 2 hours.
  • Remove ribs from foil and gently place back in smoker.  Brush on bbq sauce and cook for a final 1 hour.  You may brush with additional sauce one more time during the hour if desired.


  • Leftover ribs should be stored in an airtight container, or wrapped tightly in foil, and stored in the refrigerator. For best results, eat within 3-4 days.
  • Plan ahead: There’s a lot of down time with smoking, but sometimes that means you lose track of when you need to complete the next step. It might be helpful to log what time each step was completed on a sticky note or on your phone.


Calories: 673kcal, Carbohydrates: 9g, Protein: 55g, Fat: 47g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g, Monounsaturated Fat: 20g, Trans Fat: 0.4g, Cholesterol: 196mg, Sodium: 1436mg, Potassium: 815mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 1051IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 119mg, Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Courses
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Babyback Ribs, Smoked Ribs
Calories: 673kcal
Author: Sara Wells
Cost: $30
Did You Make This Recipe?Snap a picture, and hashtag it #ourbestbites. We love to see your creations on our Instagram @ourbestbites!
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Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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