Smoked spare ribs are king where flavor is concerned however, if you take the time to trim them up and remove some of the extra fat before cooking them, a great experience becomes an even better experience. Cooking them in the smoker using the 3-2-1 method will create smoked ribs that are exceptionally tender.. just the way most of us like them.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 6 hours
- Smoker Temp: 230°F
- Meat Finish Temp: N/A
- Recommended Wood: Hickory
- 2 (or more) racks of spare ribs
- Yellow mustard
- Jeff's original rub recipe (purchase recipes here)
- Heavy duty foil
- Jeff's barbecue sauce (purchase recipes here
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The ribs usually come in a thick plastic package. Remove the ribs from the package and give them a good rinse under cold water.
Some say this is not necessary but, in my opinion, it's a good thing. Make sure the sink is nice and clean and you'll want to clean the sink afterwards as well.
After rinsing, set them on some paper towels to drain.
On the bone side of the ribs is a flap of meat called the skirt. To make sure that the ribs are uniform in thickness and to help them cook better, it's a great idea to trim this off.
You can still cook it alongside the ribs and when it's tender (about 60-90 minutes), it's makes a great snack for the cook and/or cook's helpers.
On the pig/hog, there are basically two types of ribs.. the baby backs and the spare ribs.
The baby backs have less fat and are a little more aesthetically pleasing (allegedly) than the fattier, more oddly shaped spare ribs.
For this reason, it is common to trim them up.
In doing so, a lot of the less desirable parts are removed and they end up looking more like a baby back.
Here's how to do that:
Cut off that bone that juts out on one side.. it's mostly cartilage so it can be cut with a sharp knife pretty easily. A cleaver will work if your aim is pretty good 😉
Next cut off the brisket bone which runs along the same side as the piece you just removed.
If you feel carefully along the ribs, you can feel a joint separating the brisket bone from the rack of ribs. This is where you make your cut.
To finish the trim work, simply cut off the extra flap of meat on the small end of the ribs and you are finished.
Place all of the extra pieces in a pan and set them aside. They can be smoked right along with the other ribs or you can freeze them and smoke them later. Once cooked/smoked they can be stored and added to beans, soups, stews, etc. for great flavor.
Here's the St. Louis trimmed spare rib.. see how nice and square it is?!
This is the best part of the spare rib.
This step causes folks lots of frustration and let me just say that it's not the end of the world if you have trouble with this. If you can't get it off for some reason, forget about it.
It is nice to remove it but it's not worth a lot of frustration so try and do the best you can and leave it at that.
It's hard to get a picture of this being removed but you simply lay the ribs with the boney side up. You will notice a thick plastic like skin covering the meat.
Slip a knife or other sharp object under it and try to get enough pulled up so you can grab it.
Grasp it with a paper towel for good grip and pull it clean off if you can.
If it tears, no worries. Just make another go at it.
You may have better luck with catfish skinning pliers.
Here it is removed:
Regular yellow mustard and rub added to both sides is the only thing you need to season these up.
Don't over complicate it!
While it's boney side up:
Squeeze on the mustard and rub it all over to create a nice sticky base for the rub to stick to.
Pour on about ¼ cup of Jeff's rib rub and spread it all over the ribs making sure you have full coverage.
Flip the ribs over and do the same thing to the meaty side.
Once the ribs are seasoned, leave them laying while you go get the smoker ready to cook.
Set up your smoker for cooking with indirect heat at about 230°F using hickory or your favorite smoking wood.
If you smoker has a water pan, use it
Once the smoker is ready, place the ribs bone side down on the smoker grate or if you are short on room, it is perfectly acceptable to use a rib rack to hold the ribs vertical.
This is what I did on the 22.5 WSM although, I could have easily placed a couple of racks on the lower grate and a couple of racks on the upper grate and had room left over.
After the ribs have been smoking for 3 hours, it's time to wrap them up and let them get the heat inside of a closed space so they can steam and get really tender.
I usually get my foil pre-cut and ready ahead of time about 30 inches long and 18 inches wide.
Once the ribs are ready, I can quickly take them off and get them wrapped without losing much heat.
Note: you can add a little apple juice to the foil if you like. Lately, I have been leaving it out in hopes of creating a little less steam and leaving my rub more intact during the process. They still get very tender without it, by the way.
Place the ribs back on the smoker at 230°F but you do not need to add any smoking wood during this time as it will not be able to access the wrapped ribs.
After cooking for 2 hours wrapped in foil, unwrap them from the foil and place them back on the smoker for a final hour to finish up.
With or without smoke.. your choice.
This is the time when the bark is set and it's also a great time to add some sauce if you like them that way.
Some love to criticize those who use sauce but my theory is that it's your ribs. YOU eat them the way that YOU like them. If you like them sauced up.. then go for it and be happy doing it.
Personally.. I like them either way. They're ribs, one of God's most amazing foods and if you put them in front of me, I'll eat them all day long with or without sauce.
I did not get a picture of the ribs all sliced up since I gave them away to a couple of new neighbors right after cooking them, but I can tell you that based on the one little rib from the end that I sliced off very stealthily, they were ultra tender, had a great smoke ring and were amazingly delicious.
Here's a couple of them on the cutting board:
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Love the sauce and rubLove the sauce and rub recipes. So far I have used them on beef ribs, pork ribs, and different chicken parts. Can't wait to do a beef brisket. Texas rub is great as well! ~Peter S.
I tried the rub on a beef..I tried the rub on a beef brisket and some beef ribs the other day and our entire family enjoyed it tremendously. I also made a batch of the barbeque sauce that we used on the brisket as well as some chicken. We all agreed it was the best sauce we have had in a while. ~Darwyn B.
Love the original rib rubLove the original rib rub and sauce! We have an annual rib fest competition at the lake every 4th of July. I will say we have won a great percent of the time over the past 15 years so we are not novices by any means. However, we didn't win last year and had to step up our game! We used Jeff's rub and sauce (sauce on the side) and it was a landslide win for us this year! Thanks Jeff for the great recipes. I'm looking forward to trying the Texas style rub in the near future! ~Michelle M.
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- 2 (or more) racks of spare ribs
- Yellow mustard
- Jeff’s original rub recipe
- Heavy duty foil
- Jeff’s barbecue sauce
- Remove the ribs from the package
- Rinse under cold water
- Allow to drain on paper towel
- Remove skirt, brisket bone, and end piece to square them up and create the St. Louis style spare ribs.
- Apply mustard to bone side of ribs
- Pour on about ¼ cup of rib rub and spread to cover over meat.
- Repeat mustard and rub on meaty side of ribs.
- Setup smoker for cooking at 230 °F using indirect heat with hickory or other favorite smoking wood.
- Place ribs directly on smoker grate bone side down.
- Smoke for 3 hours.
- After 3 hours, wrap in foil and place back into smoker for 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, unwrap and place back into smoker for a final hour.
- Brush on sauce if desired during last hour of cooking.
- Slice the ribs between the bones and serve with warm sauce on the side.