Smoked Babyback Ribs

We’ve been doing lots of pellet smoking over the past couple of years, and one thing I’ve learned is that 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!

bbq ribs

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.

bbq ribs prep

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.

dry rub on ribs

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.

3-2-1 Method for Smoking Ribs

I use the 3-2-1 method as a guide.  This means, smoke your ribs directly on grates for 3 hours, then wrap them securely in foil and cook for 2 more hours, then unwrap, place on grates again and smoke for 1 more hour, glazing in bbq sauce.

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.

BBQ ribs on pan

You’ll get sticky sweet and savory exterior with soft tender smoky meat.

We’ve got lots of great recipes for homemade BBQ Sauce that would go great with smoked ribs!  Try one of these:  Quick and Easy BBQ Sauce, Kansas City BBQ Sauce, Sweet & Smoky BBQ Sauce, Or South Carolina BBQ Sauce.

BBQ RIBs on plate


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BBQ Ribs

Smoked Babyback Ribs


The 3-2-1 Method for cooking perfect ribs in the pellet smoker!


up to 3 racks babyback ribs
12 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.

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