Just when you thought smoked pork spare ribs couldn’t get any better, I start researching, messing with the process, and trying out new methods to come up with the best possible method for not only getting them smoky but in making them perfectly tender and tasty.

Important Information
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 6 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 225°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 185-190°F or very flexible and lots of bend.
  • Recommended Wood: Pecan + a fruit wood if possible (50/50 mix)
What You’ll Need
  • 2+ racks of pork spare ribs
  • Yellow mustard
  • Jeff’s rub (purchase recipe here)
  • Dark brown sugar (light will work if it’s all you have)
  • REAL salted butter
  • Plenty of heavy duty foil

Get the Recipes for Jeff’s Rub and Sauce


My rub recipe is what the doctor ordered for pork ribs and it really shines big time on these smoked pork spare ribs. A perfect balance of sweet and spicy that does not overpower the wonderful taste of the ribs but rather complements it.

promise you’ll love my dry rub/seasoning recipe and my barbecue sauce recipe or you don’t pay!

Reasons to buy: Support the newsletter and the website | Own “the recipes” | Get the email newsletter 100% AD FREE from now on | Includes the Texas style rub recipe

Order the Recipes for Jeff's Rub and Sauce

Prepare the Pork Spare Ribs

After removing the pork spare ribs from the packaging, give them a good rinse under cold water. Then place them on the cutting board for some trim work.

Pork spare ribs on cutting board

Trimming them St. Louis style

This simply means you are cutting off the long brisket bone that runs along one side and you are squaring up the ends. This makes them look more like baby back ribs and is considered to be a more appealing way to prepare them.

To trim them St. Louis style, start by cutting off the big thick piece in the corner of the rack as shown. Use a very sharp knife and bare down to cut through the white cartilage.


You will then cut off the brisket bone that runs along the left side of the rack in the picture below. If you press down on the meat, you can feel where the actual ribs end and the brisket bone begins. Separate the two pieces with your knife.


Finish the St. Louis style trim by squaring up the end.


These are the cuts that you should have made..


They are now beautifully trimmed St. Louis style ribs.


Tip: Season and smoke the pieces that you cut off along with the ribs and then freeze them. The pieces are great added to beans, stews, soups, etc.

Now flip the trimmed pork spare ribs over and let’s clean up the bone side.


Removing the Membrane

There is a thick membrane attached to the bone side. Starting in the middle of the rack, loosen the membrane using a butter knife or other semi-sharp object and then work your hands under it.

Pull straight up on it while holding down the middle of the ribs with the other hand. The membrane will pull loose from both sides and come clean off.

Tip: Use a paper towel or catfish pliers if you need a better grip.


Removing the Flap

Usually there’s also a flap of meat that runs along the bone side of spare ribs. This should be cut off close to the base of the meat to allow for more even cooking. For some reason, these ribs had no flap at all so I assume the butcher removed them for some reason.

Here’s a picture from some other spare ribs that I have done in the past to show you how it’s done. As you can see, these were not trimmied St. Louis style.

2013-IMG_7885 2013-IMG_7887

Seasoning the Ribs

As usual, you’ll need something to help the rub to stick. I like to use plain yellow hotdog mustard. It leaves no mustard taste once it’s all said and done and it works like a charm.

Start by squeezing on a pretty generous helping of the mustard. Feel free to get creative with it. I just usually do a wave pattern. Then rub it in with your hands or use a silicon brush to spread it out.

2014-IMG_2409 2014-IMG_2411

Apply my rub (purchase recipe here) for best results all over the bone side of the ribs. I put the rub in a cheese/rub shaker for nice, even application.


Leave it sitting for about 10 minutes if you have time. Or you can go ahead and turn it over. I like to leave it sitting whenever possible to allow the rub to absorb moisture from the ribs and the mustard causing less of it to fall off when it’s flipped over.


Flip the ribs over to meaty side up. Repeat the mustard/rub process on the meat side


Leave the ribs sitting until they absorb moisture from the ribs and the mustard and get that “wet” look. There was 10 minutes difference between the two pictures below.


Leave the ribs sitting on the cutting board or cabinet while you go get the smoker ready.

Getting the Smoker Ready

You can get great smoke flavor by using almost any wood, charcoal, gas or electric smoker in spite of what your local smoker snobs might tell you. Some smokers work better than others but only YOU know what works best for you in relation to where you live, how much time you have available to spend and how much time you want to spend tending the heat.

Whatever works best for you is the right smoker for you!

For me it depends on the day and I am fortunate enough to have a collection of different types and styles of smokers at my disposal.

Setup your smoker of choice and get it humming along at about 225 degrees. Have some pecan and some fruit wood (50/50 mix is perfect) handy if possible. If not, you can use whatever smoking wood you have available.

Once it’s ready, you are ready to cook!

Here’s Some Information on a Few Popular Smokers

Here’s some information that I have written on various smokers.

Note: In colder weather, it is advisable to preheat the smoker at least an hour or more before you are wanting to use it. Keep the door closed as much as possible and even skip basting if necessary to maintain proper smoking temperatures.

Smoking the Pork Spare Ribs

This is where the magic happens. Everything up to this point has been pretty normal for the preparation of spare ribs.

To start off and before we go any further, I want to explain a couple of things:

The Normal 3-2-1 Method

I mentioned the 3-2-1 method earlier and to make it real easy to understand, for those of you who may not be familiar with it, it is a 3-step cooking process with 225 degree heat applied the entire time. Smoke is only required during step 1:

  1. Place the ribs on the smoker grate unwrapped and let them smoke for about 3 hours at 225°F.
  2. Wrap the ribs in foil or better yet, place them into a foil pan and cover with foil over the top. Place about 1/4 inch of apple juice or other liquid in the bottom just before closing them up. Place them back in the smoker and leave them this way for about 2 hours.
  3. Remove the foil from around the ribs or simply remove the foil from the top of the foil pan that holds the ribs. (it is fine to leave the ribs in the pan as long as the top is open). Continue to cook the ribs this way for about 1 hour with or without smoke depending on what type of smoker you have.

We say 3-2-1 method which indicates number of hours but everyone has their own level of tenderness that they like. Step 2 is where the tenderizing happens and you can easily adjust this number to decrease the tenderness. If you remove say 30 minutes from step 2, simply add an extra 30 minutes to step 3.

It might end up being a 3/1.5/1.5 method if you follow my previous example.

I recommend you try it for the first time at 3-2-1 and then adjust once you see how you like it.

The Advanced 3-2-1 Method

This is the exactly the same as the regular 3-2-1 method except for the fact that we are going to add a few things into the foil in step 2 just before wrapping it all up and putting it back into the smoker.

This is the method I am showing you today and was first introduced to me somewhat by Johnny Trigg on the Barbecue Pitmasters show on TLC. I am simply taking his method very loosely and making it my own.

Now, let’s get started making these smoked pork spare ribs!

Place the ribs directly on the grate, bone side down for step 1.

Just maintain the heat for 3 hours and keep the smoke going during this time.

I don’t mop, baste or even open the lid during this first stage.

Once 3 hours is up, on a large flat surface, lay out a large piece of foil about 36 inches long and 18 inches wide.

Now sprinkle 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 2-3 tablespoons of my rub (purchase recipe here), and about 4 pats of softened butter onto the center of the foil in an area roughly the same size as a rack of the ribs.


Lay the rack of ribs, meat side down, onto this bed of ingredients.


Now, wrap the foil around the ribs carefully so as to not puncture or tear the foil. I fold in the ends first and then the sides but I’m not sure that part matters as long as they are wrapped good.

Tear off another piece of foil of the same size and wrap the ribs in another layer making sure NOT to flip the ribs over. The meat side should remain facing down on top of the brown sugar, rub, etc.


Perform this wrapping operation on every rack of ribs that you have and place them back on the grate of the smoker for about 2 hours at 225°F. (smoke is not required during this step)

At the end of 2 hours, remove the wrapped ribs from the smoker and carefully unwrap them. You may want to save the juices that have collected on the inside so open them without tearing the foil if possible.

I poured the juices into a cup and saved it for later use. You might even consider basting the ribs with it during the last stage if you so desire. These tasty juices need to be used for something!


The ribs will be somewhat soft at this point and the 3rd step is necessary to firm them back up after that super tenderizing effect.


Remove the ribs carefully from the foil and place them back on the grate bone side down for 1 hour at 225°F with or without smoke (your choice).


Once you take them off the smoker, let them rest for about 10 minutes then slice them up.


As you can see, I was able to get a beautiful smoke ring and the flavor was out of this world!


Using a Meat Thermometer on Ribs

When smoking ribs, you are looking for about 185-190°F for the ribs to be at the proper tenderness. Most of us check the bend on the ribs or pull a couple ribs in opposite directions to see if they are done but you can use the Thermapen to check the ribs if you want to be accurate.

The thermapen is highly accurate, reads within just a second or two and has a smaller diameter probe which makes it easy to insert it between the bones and get a good reading.

Other thermometers won’t work quite so well on ribs.

Get the Recipes for Jeff’s Rub and Sauce

jeffs-rub-framed-250x169 jeffs-sauce-framed-250x169
***Note: you get the Texas style rub recipe free with your order!

If I could give these recipes away, I would do that. I really want you to have them! But, then, this is how I support the newsletter, the website and all of the other stuff that we do here to promote the art of smoking meat.

Read these recent testimonies:

Love the sauce and rub
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Love 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
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
..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 rub
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
 Love 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.

You see the raving testimonies and you wonder, "Can the recipes really be that good?"

No worries! Make up a batch and if it's not as good as you've heard.. simply ask for a refund. Now that's a bargain and you know it. Let's review:

  • You decide you don't like the recipes.. you don't pay!
  • The recipes are absolutely amazing!
  • Once you order, there'll be no more recipe ads in the email version of the newsletter
Well.. what are you waiting for.. click on the big orange button below to order the recipes now.

Order the Recipes for Jeff's Rub and Sauce

I really, really appreciate the support from my newsletter friends and be sure to let me know if you have any questions about this.

Order My Smoking Meat Book

smoking-meat-book-cover-275x289The book is full of recipes and contains tons of helpful information as well. Some have even said that "no smoker should be without this book"!

With more than 600 reviews on Amazon.com and a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars, it comes highly recommended.

It is also listed as a #1 Bestseller in Barbecueing & Grilling books on Amazon.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble (in stock at most stores)

Digital versions available via Nook | iTunes | Kindle

Note: German version available under the title "American Smoker" at Amazon.de

Amazon.com Orders

If you enjoy the newsletter and would like to do something helpful, then..

The next time you decide to order something at Amazon.com, use THIS LINK to get there and we'll get a small commission off of what you purchase.

Thank you in advance for using our special link: http://www.smoking-meat.com/amazon


Printable Recipe

4.8 from 4 reviews
Smoked Pork Spare Ribs Just Got Better
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Just when you thought smoked pork spare ribs couldn't get any better, I decided to take things up a few notches and you will be amazed when you try this.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Hot Smoking
Serves: 6-8
  • 2 racks of pork spare ribs
  • Yellow mustard
  • Jeff's rub (purchase recipe)
  • Dark brown sugar (light will work if it's all you have)
  • REAL salted butter
  • Plenty of heavy duty foil
  1. Rinse ribs under cold water
  2. Trim the ribs St. Louis style if desired (instructions above)
  3. Remove membrane and flap meat on bone side of ribs
  4. Apply a coat of yellow mustard then a heavy coat of rub to the bone side
  5. Flip the ribs over and repeat the mustard/rub application on meaty side
  6. Prepare smoker for cooking at 225 degrees with pecan + fruit wood
  7. Place ribs bone side down directly on smoker grate and cook for 3 hours
  8. Make a bed of brown sugar, rub and butter onto 36 x 18 sheet of foil
  9. Lay rack of ribs meat side down onto this bed of ingredients
  10. Wrap foil around ribs carefully then wrap with another equally sized piece
  11. Cook at 225 degrees for 2 hours
  12. Remove ribs from foil carefully saving the juice that has collected
  13. Place ribs, bone side down back onto smoker grate for 1 hour
  14. Rest for 10 minutes then slice and enjoy!


28 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Eduardo September 3, 2016 at 11:19 am - Reply

    Once you have wrapped the ribs in butter and brown sugar, do they go bone up or bone down in the pit?

  2. Greg February 14, 2016 at 7:18 am - Reply

    Jeff, I have struggling with deer meat. I’ve cooked it many different ways and it always turns out tough. Also, it does not matter what type of cut, again tough.

  3. keny January 25, 2016 at 1:08 am - Reply

    I think I should buy one digital thermometer, can you recommend one for me, I have just bought a eletric smoker a few days ago, thanks

  4. Charlie January 21, 2016 at 8:18 am - Reply

    I bought your original recipe rub and the book, is the Texas rub you have mentioned in the book?

    • Jeff Phillips January 21, 2016 at 1:07 pm - Reply

      Charlie, The Texas style rub recipe is not in the book but I’d be happy to send it to you since you’ve already purchased the original rub recipe. Check your email:-)

      • Charlie January 28, 2016 at 12:39 am - Reply

        I thought I lost your email regarding the Texas rub, I would really like to get the recipe. How would send it?

  5. Caleb June 1, 2015 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    what do you do with the spare rib trimmings when you turn them into st Louis ribs? Seems like a lot of meat, there must be a good way to cook it.

  6. JOHN PIAR April 9, 2015 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    Smoked Pork Ribs Just got Better—Can this be used for Beef Back Ribs or is it better not to use the bed of brown sugar & buttter

  7. Judy Rhoades February 6, 2015 at 11:09 am - Reply

    Went to friends for ribs he had smoked, he had smoked them for way longer then I would have. The actual bones were like rubber, they were flexible, and yet to me the meat was not very tender, I have never seen this, is this ok, and why would it happen?

  8. Kevin June 11, 2014 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    My pellet smoker really cranks the smoke between 200 – 210 vs the recommended 225. Anyone have an idea of what kind of time that would add to the first cooking window in the 2-2-1 method for baby back ribs?

  9. robyn May 20, 2014 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    I’m doing a bunch of ribs this weekend and bought two rib racks to for the smoker to hold them all. Will this recipe still be ok, even though they’ll be verticle instead of laying flat on the grates – esp for the 2 hrs in foil?

    • Tom Schlak May 23, 2014 at 1:45 pm - Reply

      Hi Robyn – non-pro, non-Jeff here, hope you don’t mind my $0.02 worth. You’ll be fine. I always use a rib rack and they come out perfect. Only thing I do is about halfway through stage 1, I flip them 180 to expose the opposite edge to the heat/smoke the bottom edge got in the first half. Probably not necessary, but it gives me something to do while I await these awesome ribs. Jeff’s rub is AMAZING!!!!

      Good luck!!

  10. Steph D May 4, 2014 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    Honestly, I don’t like pork and ribs aren’t worth the mess… BUT these totally are! A million times over. I would cook this all the time if I could afford it. This made me happy!

  11. Jason February 6, 2014 at 9:20 am - Reply

    Jeff, my Super Bowl baby backs using this method turned out…pretty good. At the very least they didn’t *look* quite as nice as yours did.

    For the 2-hour wrapped up portion of the technique, I had mine meat-side down in the smoker, which I realized afterward may have been wrong. Was that wrong? Your instructions are very clear that the should be wrapped with the brown sugar-butter mix meat down, but wasn’t sure about placement in the smoker. Thanks!

  12. Jason D February 2, 2014 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Jeff…I tried out this recipe two weeks ago after the newsletter came out. Used a disposable foil container for part 2. Unfortunately the foil top “popped” (which I didn’t realize until it was too late. Had to baste the last hour since they looked a little dried out. All in all, the ribs did come out ok in the end.

    Trying again today, this time wrapping in foil instead of the pan. Will let you know the outcome!

  13. Deb February 2, 2014 at 10:55 am - Reply

    I have not done too much with ribs however, I have bookmarked this page will definitely give the 3-2-1- technique a whirl..TY Jeff!

  14. Hector Castro February 1, 2014 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    I have used the 3-2-1 technique many times and I get really great compliments. Every time that i smoke ribs I ‘m told that those are the best BBQ Ribs that they’ve ever had. It really works! Thanks Jeff!!!

  15. Will January 26, 2014 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    Jeff, good stuff. We bought some pork belly for bacon today and when we got home we realized that the ribs were still attached. So now we have some spare ribs to eat as well (at least I think they'd be spare ribs…?).

    Keep up the good work.

    Will @ SMaT

  16. Jason January 22, 2014 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    Jeff, I will be using this method with my Super Bowl baby backs. It’s taking A LOT of will power to wait until then.

    On the subject of baby backs…would you say a 2-2-1 (ish) approach is probably right?

    • Jeff Phillips January 22, 2014 at 12:48 pm - Reply

      Yes, 2-2-1 will get you started on the right foot with baby backs. As with the 3-2-1 on spare ribs, you may decide to adjust the times a little bit depending on how tender you want them to end up.

      I guess a practice run wouldn’t hurt anything;-)

  17. royce crone January 19, 2014 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    why do you use brown sugar? i'm worried that it will give the meat(ribs) too much of a candy flavor or hide the flavor of the rub.

  18. Anonymous January 18, 2014 at 9:56 am - Reply

    When I first started smoking on my ECB I actually used the 3-2-1 method because I saw Trigg do it on Pitmasters. In fact, Pitmasters is the reason I got into smoking. I was like hey, this is awesome and I strongly believe I am capable of doing this. I am happy to read that the 3-2-1 method is your prefered way because I have read some people absolutely hate it, and as a new smoker at the time I was a little worried I was not putting out the best product. I must say, I am loving your website and forums.

  19. Tom S. January 17, 2014 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    I also use the Maverick.  It is great as a thermometer but trying to set temp limits, alarms, and timers on it is not  intuitive and a waste of time.  Also, the standard probe cables are too short although longer ones are available at a cost.

  20. Tom S. January 17, 2014 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    I've mentioned this before, but I have been successful using heavy plastic  wrap (freeze-tite) in lieu of foil on your rib and brisket recipes.  It is easy to manipulate and holds up just fine at 225 degrees.  It is much cheaper, and I don't feel bad throwing it away like I do with a huge piece of foil.

    Keep up the good work.

  21. Denise H. January 16, 2014 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    I have been using your 3-2-1 method since summer, and I absolutely love it!  It is so easy and so delicious.  I have been named the designated "rib maker" for all future family parties.  Thanks so much.  I'm considering buying your rub recipe.

    Denise H.

    • Toni ONeil January 18, 2014 at 6:15 am - Reply

      Denise, I highly recommend the rib rub receipe and also the BBQ sauce receipt. They are both fantastic!

  22. eric mayle January 16, 2014 at 12:07 am - Reply

    i am wondering if there is a digital thermometer that will display the meat temp and the smokers temp at the same time. 

    • Jeff Phillips January 16, 2014 at 12:23 am - Reply

      Eric, I use the Maverick ET-732 which is a remote, dual probe, digital meat thermometer.

      It has one probe for the food and one for the smoker that clips to the smoker grate right next to where the food sits.

      It also has a unit that stays with the smoker and one that you carry with you into the house, on the mower, etc. and gets the signal up to 300 feet away.

      It is nice to know the condition of the meat and the smoker without having to stay out there the entire time.

      It retails at Amazon for about $60 and is well worth it in my opinion.

Leave A Response

Rate this recipe: