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Wet, Sauced Up, Sticky Smoked Ribs

sticky smoked ribs

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I usually prefer the ribs be simply dry rubbed and smoked with maybe a little sauce on the side but sometimes you just want some sticky, messy smoked ribs and this recipe is all about that.

This method calls for dry rubbing the ribs with Jeff's original rub recipe (purchase recipes) and then smoking them for about 2 hours. After that, you start layering on Jeff's barbecue sauce (purchase recipes) and letting it sort of caramelize onto the ribs as they finish cooking in the smoker. I reapply the sauce about every hour or so until the ribs are done.

Wear a bib and make sure you have plenty of napkins.. you're gonna need them!

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4-5 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 225-240°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: 180-190°F or Tender
  • Recommended Wood: Pecan and/or Cherry
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 did not remove the membrane this time but, normally I do. I experimented with this batch to see if leaving the membrane on changes anything.. it made no noticeable difference other than to get in my way when I was eating. My recommendation: always remove it.

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

You do not have to worry.. the ribs do not end up tasting like mustard.

Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of Jeff's original rub (purchase recipes) evenly on each rack, Please note, we are only putting the rub on the top (meaty side) of the ribs this time due to the membrane still being attached but normally, I add the rub to the bottom first and then the top.

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 give you the heat and time recommendations and ta-da.. it works in any smoker.

Here's some instructions for popular smokers:

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

Get your smoker going and maintaining about 225-240°F 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 barbecue sauce (purchase recipes) generously onto the top and sides of the ribs

Paint sauce onto ribs

At this point, let the heat creep up to about 275°F 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 the grates. I placed a shallow pan on top of the plate setter on my Big Green Egg 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.

If you want to use a thermometer, use one that has a very thin probe such as the Thermapen that will easily get between the bones. Tender ribs usually read around 180-190°F.

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 Jeff's rub (purchase recipes) onto ribs.
  5. Prepare smoker for cooking at 225-240°F.
  6. Place ribs on smoker either in pan or directly on grate.
  7. Smoke for 2 hours.
  8. Increase heat to 275°F 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 barbecue sauce after the 2nd hour and cover the pan with foil for 2 hours. The ribs would then go back onto the grates for an additional hour uncovered and more 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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  1. 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

  2. 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. ???

    1. 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;)