Welcome friends to this edition of the Smoking Meat Newsletter! I am still pumped about the 1st Annual SMF Roundup in Clinton, MO where a large group of folks from SmokingMeatForums.com got together for a long weekend of smoked meat and more fun than anyone should be allowed to have;-)

I am already looking forward to our 2nd annual Gathering to be held in 2008 and the only thing you have to do to go is to register at the forum (free) and do what members do which is talk about smoking meat. Once the plans are made for the next event, it will be posted at the forum.

At this event we had RV's, Tents and a few of us stayed at the local motel but we all SMELLED LIKE SMOKE and were darn proud of it!

More on that later..

The big buzz word on the forum is 3-2-1 ribs and if you have not had them, you don't know what you've been missing! In this issue I am removing the shroud on this amazing way to obtain extremely tender ribs straight from your smoker.

For your pleasure… my step by step guide for 3-2-1 ribs is just ahead.


The Nuts n' Bolts of 3-2-1 Ribs

In this issue we are going to go over some fairly well known but misunderstood concepts concerning the smoking of ribs.

It seems to me that ribs are what most people enjoy the most but seem to have the most trouble with.

It is daunting to try and turn out great ribs if you are used to the restaurant variety fall off the bone style.

That ain' t a bad thing and it can be achieved in the smoker but you will have to follow a method that allows this to happen while still having access to the smoke for at least part of the cooking process.

Let me stop here and throw up a big caution light…

Do not, for any reason, boil, parboil or crock pot the ribs before you smoke them!

The flavor stays in the pot and all you are left with is some extremely tender and tasteless ribs that no amount of barbecue sauce will help.

If you like them that way then I will try not to hold it against you… just don't call it barbecue cause it ain' t!

What I am trying to tell you is.. you CAN have the most tender ribs you have ever had, without pre-boiling, if you will follow the prescribed method that I am going to outline in this article.

The official name for the method that achieves such tender ribs that you can literally suck the meat off the bone is "3-2-1 ribs" for spares and "2-2-1 Ribs" for baby backs.

I am going to go over the steps with you real slow and easy so settle back and get ready to learn one of the best lessons of your life in smoking meat.

In my neck of the woods, the spare rib is king. Baby backs may be the king where you live, especially if you are in the northern part of the United States.

A lot of folks are quite fond of baby backs but, because of their high price, most of us go with the less expensive spare ribs if they can be found.

There is a bonus to using spares over baby backs.. spares have more fat deposits on the meat and between the ribs which tend to melt and keeps the meat basted during the smoking process.

The fat is also extremely high on flavor as with any pork fat and this basting also causes the flavor of spares to be much richer in many cases than baby backs.

There are lots of pros and cons and some folks will argue both sides but regardless of which you choose, ribs are just dang hard to beat.

And if they are smoked ribs, well you might as well just hear the truth as it is..


In this article we will use the spare rib as our model since that is the kind that is most difficult to get tender.

This method known as 3-2-1 ribs is basically a 3 step process with each step being somewhat subjective so let's begin at step 1.


Step 1

I am assuming you have removed the membrane, rubbed the ribs down with a thin layer of mustard and some tasty rib rub and the ribs are ready to go onto the smoker.

The smoker is prepped and cruising right along at around 225 degrees or so.

I like to lay the ribs meat side up directly on the rack.

If you have a small smoker such as the ECB, you may have to get creative.

You can use rib racks or you can roll the ribs into a barrel shape and stick a skewer through both sides to hold it in place.

This will allow you to accommodate more meat than you could otherwise in a size-challenged smoker.

If you are using a horizontal offset smoker that has not been baffled to help disperse the heat better then I recommend that you lay the ribs directly on the rack but a little ways from the side where the heat enters.

We don't want nothing burning or getting too hot..

Once the ribs are on the grate, your only job is to let them lay there for around 3 hours and to keep the smoke flowing so that you can barely see it coming out of the smoker..

This is called the "Thin blue Smoke" or TBS.

You can also spray them with apple juice every hour or so if you are so inclined.

Why spray?

Great question and I am so glad you asked!

Spraying gets the juice on the ribs without disturbing the rub.. it is that simple.

If you brushed it on or even poured it on, it could wash the rub right off the ribs and that just would not be a good thing!

If you are maintaining around 225 degrees, then it should take about 3 hours for the meat to pull back 1/4 inch from the bone.

This "pulling back" is the cue for starting the 2nd step so if it happens earlier than 3 hours then go ahead and proceed to step 2.


Step 2

Using heavy duty foil and a good sturdy table close to the smoker preferably.. pull the ribs quickly from the smoker and place them on a sheet of heavy duty foil large enough to completely enclose the rack.

Spray on about 1/4 cup of apple juice and close the foil around the rack of ribs.

If you are smoking multiple slabs then repeat this until they are all wrapped.

Place the ribs back in the smoker and walk away.

The only job at this point is to try and maintain your 225 degree temperature in the smoker throughout this 2 hour process.


Step 3

OK.. the ribs have smoked on the grate unwrapped for 3 hours, they have tenderized in foil for 2 hours, now it is time to unwrap and finish them up.

Remove the ribs from the smoker and carefully remove the foil and place the ribs back onto the grate just like they were in the first step.

This last step will firm up the ribs on the outside a little to give that nice crust.

This is also the time to glaze with sauce, jelly, honey, whatever.. if you so desire.

I personally like them naked with just my rub on them but that is entirely up to you.

Let the ribs stay on the grate for an hour and then pull them off.

Resting Time

Not for you! for the ribs;-)

During cooking.. the juices tend to move toward the outside of the meat and as long as you don't poke any extra holes the juices will not escape but will stay on the outer edges of the meat just below the surface.

As the ribs cool, the juices will naturally redistribute themselves throughout the meat.

This is why resting is so important for meat and especially ribs.

Let them sit on the counter for 20 minutes or so before slicing to allow this natural process to happen.

To slice the ribs.. place them bone side up on the cutting board so you can see what you are doing and slice away.

Pat yourself on the back for a job well done… well, maybe you should wash your hands first;-)

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If you enjoy this website and the forum at www.smokingmeatforums.com along with all of the perks like this free monthly newsletter then be sure to tell all of your friends about it!

We are the fastest growing Smoking Meat network online and we are NUMBER #1 in Google for the keyword "Smoking Meat" for more than a year now..

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Be contagious and tell everyone about it!


Closing Remarks

I am so happy that you are a subscriber.. please send all correspondence to my email address at jeff at smoking-meat dot com using the form at the bottom of this page and be sure to check out the forum at smokingmeatforums.com for answers to all of your smoking meat questions and more.

Have a wonderful Day and God Bless!



Note: This newsletter can be freely reprinted or used without permission as long as it stays intact, as is and is not changed in any way from the format in which it was set by the author and/or editors of this publication.

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  1. Mary May 3, 2015 at 10:50 am - Reply

    i cant find recipe we used. Ribs are in the smoker now. we put the rub on last night. my husband put them meat down but everything you say says bone down. We have made them before. I think they were in they cooked on grates for 3 hours, alternating grates every hour, then we take them out cover in your bbq sauce and wrap in tin foil. but was it for a half hour or hour????

  2. Stacy Pancoast March 6, 2013 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    Great article ,very helpful . With the 3 portion of the method do you have a pan of water in the smoker . It seems like this wouldn't be part of the process , even with the 2 portion /

    Thanks for your input on this .

    All the best ,

    Stacy Pancoast 

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