Welcome to the Smoking Meat newsletter where we are always smoking up something and showing you exactly how we did it.

This week I decided to step outside of my own box and do something that I have been asked to do many times.. wet, sticky smoked ribs!

I have always preferred the ribs to be dry rubbed and smoked with maybe a little sauce on the side. This method calls for dry rubbing the ribs and then smoking them for about 2 hours. After that, you start layering on the sauce and letting it sort of caramelize onto the ribs. I reapply the sauce about every hour or so until the ribs are done.

I am also cooking the ribs hotter than usual in order to help caramelize the sauce a little better.

You should end up with smoked ribs that are sticky, covered with sauce, sweet and delicious. These are great for the kids.. and for anyone who prefers the ribs to be wet and messy.

.. if you don’t need a lot of napkins with these then you’re not eatin’ ’em right! (
–What I used to tell my nephew when he was a lot younger and eating sticky ribs)


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How to Make Sticky Smoked Ribs

Here’s what you’ll need

How to Prepare Ribs for Smoking

Remove ribs from pan and rinse them under cold water. Place in a foil pan for application of mustard and rub.

Place baby back ribs in a foil pan


Note: I am not removing the membrane this time.. I have been experimenting with leaving the membrane on to see if it changes anything. If you want to remove the membrane then by all means do so.


Apply yellow mustard to the top of the ribs

Apply mustard to top of ribs


Spread mustard all over ribs with your hands making sure to include the sides and ends.

Spread mustard over ribs


Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of rub evenly on each rack, Please note, we are only putting the rub on the top (meaty side) of the ribs this time.

Sprinkle ½ cup of rub on each rack of rib


Leave the ribs sitting for a few minutes while the rub and mustard create a paste. It will get a “wet” look when it’s done. See the difference?

Leave the ribs sitting until you get a "wet" look


How to Smoke the Sticky Ribs

You can make these in ANY smoker whether it’s electric, charcoal, gas or wood. As long as you have heat and good smoke.. it will work. Rather than trying to tell everyone how to smoke these in every individual type of smoker, I am in the process of writing instructions for popular smoker models.

The following list should give you an idea:

I opted to use the Big Green Egg ceramic cooker this time.

Get your smoker going and maintaining about 225-240 degrees before placing the ribs on.

Once the smoker is holding steady and smoke is coming out of the top vent or chimney, place the pan with the ribs in it right on the grate. You can also place the ribs directly on the grate if you wish.

The first 2 hours are all about getting smoke flavor on the ribs. I have found that I can get lots of smoke flavor while still using a pan with the ribs on the egg but this is all personal preference. It does keep the smoker a lot cleaner.

Note: You can pour some juice down in the pan if you like to create a little steam and help them to tenderize.

Place pan of ribs on smoker grate


2 hours later, we are ready to start making the ribs STICKY!

Jeff's sauce


Paint my sauce generously onto the top and sides of the ribs

Paint sauce onto ribs


At this point, let the heat creep up to about 275 if you can and hold that for about an hour. The higher temperature will help to caramelize that sauce a lot better. As an added bonus, the ribs should get done a little faster than usual.

After about an hour, you can move the ribs to the grates to finish up directly on teh grates. I placed a shallow pan on top of the plate setter on my ceramic cooker to catch the drippings and keep things a little cleaner.

Ribs moved to the grates


At this point, you are looking for the sauce to darken and for the ribs to become tender.


How to Tell When The Ribs Are Done?

The best way to check for tenderness is to pick up the ribs on one end with a pair of tongs. If they bend 90 degrees and start to break in half, they are done.

Different folks like their ribs at a different degree of doneness. I get emails all the time asking me how to make the ribs fall off the bone while others email me and chide me for telling folks how to “overcook” them that way.

Folks.. it’s all about preference and if you like them falling off the bone then who am I to tell you that there is something wrong with that.

On the flip side, if you like them with a little tug left on the meat then I’m not going to tell you that there is something wrong with that.

Do the ribs the way that YOU and YOUR FAMILY likes them. They’ll be perfect that way.

Here’s my ribs.. done and tender to my family’s liking. If you like them more sticky, go ahead and paint on another layer. This was sticky enough for me.

Sticky smoked ribs.. done

Close up of done ribs


I usually cut the ribs up into a pile and set it in the middle of the table.. it’s messy this time and paper towels are required.

Pile of sticky smoked ribs



  1. Rinse ribs in cold water
  2. Place ribs in foil pan
  3. Apply yellow mustard to ribs
  4. Sprinkle rub on ribs
  5. Prepare smoker for cooking at 225-240 degrees F
  6. Place ribs on smoker either in pan or directly on grate
  7. Smoke for 2 hours
  8. Increase heat to 275 if desired and brush with sauce
  9. Cook for 1 hour then move to grate if they are still in the pan
  10. Cook for an additional hour on grate or until tender


  • An alternate way of making sticky ribs is similar to the 2-2-1 method in that you add the sauce after the 2nd hour and cover the pan with foil for 2 hours. During the 5 hours, they would go back onto the grates uncovered and additional sauce could be added if desired.
  • To super caramelize the sauce, place the ribs meat/sauce side down on a very hot grill for a couple of minutes before serving.


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Folks love the recipes and most of them become raving fans due to how good it is and how well it works on so many things including things like smoked chicken wings.

Tasting is believing and I invite you to prove me wrong.. try the recipes and if it’s not the best rub you ever ate simply ask me to refund your money and I’ll do it right away.

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Did a Ham and using your rub it was as my wife and friends said the best tasting ham they have ever had. We are into our late years so that’s saying a lot .Thanks for sharing ~ Jack


Wow! wow! wow! The best rub and sauce I have ever had. Also did the turkey for thanksgiving and it was the best turkey I ever had. I usually only eat dark meat and this turkey was so good I ate only white meat ~ Andy


I purchased the rub and sauce and I have to say that I love it and so has everyone that has tried it, just like you and others said they would. ~ Matt


Jeff I have to tell you that your rub and sauce recipes are the best. I had never smoked a rib or anything until last weekend and by fallowing your directions on your site I was the RIB KING for a day. Thanks a bunch pal, ~ Harold


Let me say that I’ve been using your Rib Rub for a couple years now. I use it on ribs (obviously), but I also use it on steak, ham, chicken, and everything else I smoke. My family and I absolutely LOVE it! It rocks! ~ Trapper


Jeff, I did a smoked pork roast yesterday and used your recipe both for the pork and for your Smoky Barbecue Sauce. Everyone loved it. My wife said the sauce was the best she had ever tasted and I have to agree. Fantastic. ~ Barry


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About the Author

Long time Industrial Engineer turned self-proclaimed fire poker, pitmaster and smoke whisperer and loving every minute of it!

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

  1. Lee Payan December 26, 2013 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    Great rub and sauce!

  2. Doug Forsyth October 4, 2013 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    Just ordered your recipes sounds good.I have been using a smoker for about 8 years

    mostly fish, lake trout,northern pike,some rainbow trout,good at that! Do you have any

    beef jerky recipes? Tried lots to do it was never happy with it.Would love to hear what

    your thought’s are on this! thanks Doug Cold Lake AB.CA

  3. Dave August 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    ONLY 4 HOURS ???   You sure ?  doesn't seem like enough but i am new to smoking. I thought at least 8 hours at 230 but they are mostly bone. ???

    • Jeff Phillips August 22, 2013 at 5:24 pm - Reply

      Baby backs are usually done in about 4-5 hours while spares will take an extra hour or two depending on the thickness. This is, as you say, assuming you maintain about 225-240 degrees.

      In this particular recipe I recommend cranking the heat up to 275 degrees once you add the sauce which will naturally get them done slightly faster than normal.

      If you find that your ribs are not done in the amount of time prescribed then it is possible that you have some extra meaty ribs or the thermometer on your smoker could be reading incorrectly.

      Done ribs= tender to your liking;)

  4. Rishi April 5, 2013 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    your recipe calls for apple juice, but no where in the steps is it used.

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