I am so excited to share this 3-2-1 smoked spare rib recipe!

If you haven't used the 3-2-1 method to get smoked spare ribs to that coveted “fall off the bone” tenderness, juiciness in every bite and a crust on the outside that will tantalize your tastebuds, then you haven't had ribs at their best.

With easy to follow instructions and my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) in hand, it's a win-win situation!

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 225-240°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 185-190 or until tender
  • Recommended Wood: Cherry

What You’ll Need

Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats-- you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.

Prep the Meat

Place the spare ribs bone side up on a cutting board or down in a pan.

Remove the Skirt

First we have to remove the flap of meat called the skirt.. this piece is best removed and cooked alone to allow a more even thickness of the ribs and to allow more smoke to get to the back side of the ribs.

Using a sharp knife, hold it up vertically with one hand and slice it off as close to the bone as you can get.

Remove the Membrane

If you look closely, you will see a thick plastic-like membrane on the outside of the bones. Very carefully, get your fingers under this and with a good grip, pull it clean off. If you need a better grip, you can use a paper towel or some catfish skinning pliers.

It's not important that you get it all off in one piece or even that you don't leave any. Get as much of it as you can.

The one on the left still has the membrane, one on the right has been removed already.

All removed.

Remove the Brisket Bone

There is a odd shaped bone that runs sort of diagonal on one side of the rack of spare ribs. You don't have to remove it but it does make the ribs much easier to slice when they are done smoking.

I call it bone, but really it's mostly cartilage so a good sharp knife and it will come off with relative ease.

Mustard and Rub

While the meat is still laying bone side up, it's a great time to go ahead and season up this side.

To help the rub to stick really good, apply a good coat of yellow mustard all over.

Generously apply my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) to the bone side of the ribs giving preference to the more meaty areas and less preference to the bones themselves.

Leave them sitting there for about 10 minutes to let the rub draw moisture from the mustard and the ribs. You will see a visible change in the rub once they are ready to turn over.

Flip the spare ribs over to meaty side up, bone side down.

Apply a coat of yellow mustard to the top and sides of the ribs to make sure the rub will stick really well.

Generously apply my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) to the meaty side of the spare ribs.

Leave them sitting there for about 10 minutes to let the rub soak up the some of the moisture.

The rub will get a sort of “wet” look to it when they are ready to go on the smoker.

Note: if you have a smaller smoker such as the Smokin-it 2D Electric smoker, it may be necessary or simply advantageous to cut the rib racks in half. This will help them to fit better and as an added benefit, will make them easier to handle.

Set Up the Smoker

Set up your smoker for cooking at about 225-240°F using indirect heat. If your smoker has a water pan, fill it up.

If it is cold out, consider allowing your smoker to preheat for an hour or more so the metal can warm up and help reduce the heat recovery time when you open the door to insert the food.

Once your smoker is ready, the spare ribs can be placed in the smoker.

I used the Smokin-it 2D electric smoker on these but any smoker will work just fine.

The First 3 Hours

I recommend using cherry wood for smoke but pecan, hickory, apple, etc. will work fine. Use the smoking wood that you have available.

In the Smokin-it 2D electric smoker, I placed 3 small chunks (about 6 ounces) of cherry wood in the smoke box.

Place the spare ribs directly on the smoker grate or if you cut them in half, you can place the halves on cooling racks or a Weber grill pan to help transport them to the smoker.

Maintain 225-240°F with smoke during this first 3 hours and keep the door/lid closed for better heat retention.

Wrap the Spare Ribs in Foil

At the end of 3 hours, wrap the spare ribs in a double layer of heavy duty foil. It is best if they are not wrapped extremely tight but it is important that the foil is sealed pretty good so the steam can stay inside and help to tenderize the meat.

Some folks add juice or some liquid to the foil before closing up the foil.. I have done this as well but in my most recent experience, I get better results from omitting the extra liquid.

Once the ribs are wrapped in foil, place them back into the smoker and continue cooking them at 225-240°F for about 2 hours.

Finish in the Smoker or on the Grill

At the end of 2 hours wrapped in foil, the ribs will be really tender but the outside will be soft and mushy. To form a good crust it is essential to give the ribs another hour or so in the smoker, unwrapped.

Remove them from the foil and place them back on the smoker grate for 1 hour.

You can also throw them onto a hot grill and get this done quicker. The grill is also a great place to add some sauce and let it caramelize.

I made a delicious mustard sauce by mixing my original barbecue sauce (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled sauce) with equal parts yellow mustard.

I then placed them back into the smoker for about 1 hour to let the sauce caramelize and to let the crust firm up.

Rest the Ribs

Once the ribs are finished, place them on the counter with some foil tented over the top for about 20 minutes to let the juices redistribute throughout the meat.

Slice and Serve

Slice the ribs between the bones and serve right away.

Tip: place the ribs bone side up when cutting so you can more easily see where to make the cuts.

Notes and Comments
  • It is ok to season the ribs with my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) the night before and it may even make them better.
  • Be sure to season the skirt and brisket bone and cook them right along with the rest of the ribs, I usually do not wrap these but let them go for an hour or two and they make great snacks.
  • If you decide to do baby back ribs instead, the steps are 2-2-1 instead of 3-2-1.. just one less hour in the beginning.

Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats– you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.

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Thank you for the great advice. Followed your rib recipe and everyone loved them. Used your rub and sauce. On point!  -Charles W.

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.

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.

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Printable Recipe

Print Recipe
4.75 from 4 votes

3-2-1 Spare Ribs for Super Bowl

If you haven't used the 3-2-1 method to get smoked spare ribs to that coveted "fall off the bone" tenderness and juiciness then you haven't had ribs at their best.
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time6 hrs
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Hot Smoking
Servings: 6
Author: Jeff Phillips

Ingredients

  • 2-3 racks of pork spare ribs
  • Yellow mustard
  • Jeff's original rub
  • Jeff's original barbecue sauce
  • Heavy duty foil 18-inch

Instructions

  • Place the ribs on a cutting board or into a pan bone side up.
  • Remove the flap of meat called the "skirt" using a sharp knife.
  • Remove the brisket bone at the top edge of the ribs.
  • Remove the plastic-like membrane using a paper towel or catfish pliers for better grip.
  • Apply a coat of yellow mustard to the bone side of the ribs
  • Generously apply Jeff's original rub to the bone side of the ribs.
  • Leave the ribs sitting until the rub gets a "wet" look showing that it has absorbed moisture from the mustard and the meat juices.
  • Flip the spare ribs over to meaty side up.
  • Apply a coat of yellow mustard to the meaty side of the ribs
  • Generously apply Jeff's original rub to the meaty side of the ribs.
  • Leave the ribs sitting until the rub gets a "wet" look showing that it has absorbed moisture from the mustard and the meat juices.
  • The ribs are now ready for the smoker.
  • Set up your smoker for cooking at about 225-240 °F using indirect heat and cherry wood for smoke.
  • Once the smoker is ready, place the ribs directly on the smoker grate and cook for 3 hours.
  • At the end of 3 hours, wrap the spare ribs with 2 layers of heavy duty foil to allow the ribs to steam and tenderize.
  • At the end of 2 hours wrapped in foil, unwrap them once again and place them back into the smoker at 225-240°F to firm up the crust and finish cooking.
  • You can also place them on a 300°F grill for about 5 minutes each side. This is a great time to brush on sauce if you like.

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