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Smoked Ribs Recipe

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These Traeger Smoked Ribs follow the 3-2-1 method and are a fool proof way to get tender fall-off-the-bone ribs every single time. Perfect recipe for beginners and a summer staple in our home.

Serve these ribs with Mac N Cheese, Pasta Salad, or Cornbread for a full meal the entire family will LOVE.

white plate stacked high with cooked ribs


  • EASY: This is the perfect beginner smoker recipe because it is simple and requires minimal ingredients. Set it and forget it during the long cooking times and come back to fork tender ribs.
  • 6-Ingredients: You need practically nothing to whip these ups. The 6 basic ingredients are items you most likely already have on hand, minus the rib rack.
  • Family Favorite: Everyone loves these ribs and they are one of the top requested recipes for me to bring to family barbecues.

I am SO excited to share this smoked pork ribs recipe today. It is one I have been perfecting and it is drool worthy. I think we spent well over $150 in ribs over the last few months testing type, length of cooking, and seasoning. You just cannot go wrong with this recipe.

The 3-2-1 method is something that has been around for a while and recently has grown in popularity, thanks to the ease and fool-proof results. You get super tender ribs that practically fall off the bone every single time. It’s time to fire up the smoker and give this recipe a try!

large cutting board stacked with uncooked ribs, bbq sauce, seasoning and apple juice


I like to keep my recipes super simple. This one falls right in line and takes less than 10 minutes to prep and move over to the grill. After 3 hours you transfer to a foil pack with a sprinkle of brown sugar, splash of apple juice, and butter. Wrap up tightly and back to the smoker for 2 hours. Lastly, you’ll transfer back directly to the grates for the final hour. Here is what you need:

  • Yellow Mustard: Mustard is used as a binder to keep the dry rub on the ribs. I promise, cross my heart, this leaves behind zero flavor. My picky 13 year old has never tasted it on these ribs, and he can call out mustard added to anything.
  • Pork Rub: You can make your own OR use your favorite brand. We stick with Traeger Pork + Poultry (affiliate), which is my favorite, but have also been known to use Killer Hogs (affiliate), Lamberts (affiliate), and Pork Barrel BBQ (affiliate). The dry rub is what really locks in flavor during the first three hours of cooking. Be sure to pick your favorite.
  • Brown Sugar: Adding a touch of sugar to ribs makes these irresistible. It tenderizes while simultaneously adding flavor.
  • Apple Juice: Juice adds flavor but also, most importantly, keeps the ribs from drying out during the longer cooking process.
  • Butter: Everything tastes better with butter. But also, butter keeps the brown sugar bonded with the meat and adds a little moisture.
  • Ribs: Unseasoned, or pre seasoned if that is your jam, ribs. I find that spare ribs work better than baby back for this method. If you can, ask the butcher to remove the membrane. It will make it SO much easier to make this recipe. Although, you can remove it yourself, and with a little practice, will be a pro in no-time!
  • BBQ Sauce: Optional, but a delicious addition.
yellow mustard bottle held above rib racks


This recipe gives you a flavor packed rib that has sauce, but is not saucy. Don’t get me wrong, you will definitely get messy. The sauce ratio is simply perfection and heightens the flavor vs taking over.

  • PREP: If you didn’t have the butcher do it already, remove the membrane from the bone side of the ribs. I use this YouTube tutorial. Next, slather the ribs with mustard and heavily season with pork rub. Make sure you coat every inch of the ribs with seasoning.
  • SMOKE: Add the rack of ribs to the smoker set to 250°F. Let it slow smoke for 3 hours.
  • BATH: Remove the ribs from the smoker and place on two layered sheets of heavy duty foil. Create a “bowl” with the foil around the smoked ribs. Add the apple juice, sprinkle with brown sugar, and dot with butter. Cover and wrap tightly and put back on the smoker. Cook 2 hours.
  • SAUCE: Remove the ribs from the foil and juice mixture. Place directly on the rack and brush with BBQ sauce. Cook 60 minutes more or until they reach an internal temperature of 190°-205°°F. This part is so important. Sometimes it takes me just the 60 minutes, other times it takes closer to 2 hours to reach that higher finish point.
  • ENJOY: Let the ribs rest 10 minutes and enjoy!


  • Leave In Thermometer: Some grills come with a built in thermometer system. However, I find that mine sometimes glitches. I use this ThermoPro Thermometer (affiliate) and it works like a dream!
cooked ribs cut into slices and on a white plate


What is the 3-2-1 method of smoking ribs?

The 3-2-1 method is a slow cook process for cooking ribs on your smoker, or Traeger. The idea is that the first low temperature cook of 3 hours locks in the smoke flavor, the next 2 hours is wrapped with a touch of sugar and butter to help them fall apart, and the last hour is brushed with a light layer of sauce for that perfect finish.

What are the best pellets to use?

We have been liking cherry and apple pellets when smoking pork, but you can use pecan and peach for additional delicious flavor.

When are ribs done smoking?

To make sure you have that perfect fall off the bone tenderness you want to cook the ribs to an internal temperature of 225 – 250°F

What is the bend test for ribs?

The bend test is the perfect way to test the doneness of your ribs, and I thank my brother in law for showing me this! Here’s how you do it:
Hold one rack of ribs from the short end side with a pair of tongs. If the other end bends towards the ground and cracks start to form, your ribs are ready to eat!

What is the best barbecue sauce for ribs?

This is such a tricky question. For this recipe, you should only use barbecue sauce sparingly. Which means you can use whichever your favorite flavor is.

close up of cooked ribs


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Traeger Smoked Ribs

Traeger Smoked Ribs

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 15 minutes

These Traeger Smoked Ribs follow the 3-2-1 method and are a fool proof way to get tender fall-off-the-bone ribs every single time. Perfect recipe for beginners and a summer staple in our home.


  • 2 racks spare ribs, or baby back
  • 1/4 cup mustard
  • 1/4 cup rib dry rub
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup apple juice


    1. Preheat the smoker to 250°F with your preferred pellets.
    2. Remove the membrane off of the bone side of the ribs, if this wasn't previously done by the butcher.
    3. Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel and coat with mustard.
    4. Apply the dry rub to both sides, making sure to cover well.
    5. Place the ribs, top side down, onto the smoker. Let them cook for 3 hours.
    6. Prep the next step by taking 2 long strips of heavy duty aluminium foil and laying on the workstation.
    7. After the 3rd hour, remove the rack and place bone side down directly on top of the foil pieces.
    8. Sprinkle the top side with brown sugar, butter, and a drizzle of apple juice around the edges, using the foil to keep contained.
    9. Wrap the ribs tightly and place back onto the grill, top side down, for 2 additional hours.
    10. After the second hour, remove the ribs from the foil.
    11. Place the ribs, meat side up, directly onto the grate of the smoker. Lightly brush with barbecue sauce.
    12. Cook one more hour or until the temperature reaches 190°-205°, or they pass the bend test.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 356Total Fat: 38gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 123mgSodium: 551mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 1gSugar: 15gProtein: 21g
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