Barbecue Ribs

A fool-proof barbecue ribs recipe that will rival your favorite BBQ restaurant!  Made with my signature BBQ sauce recipe, these fork-tender ribs are deliciously sweet, savory, smoky and positively PACKED with flavor!

Serve these BBQ ribs with our popular old-fashioned Baked Beans and Creamy Coleslaw and you’ll be all set for a meal that will crown you the pit master!

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We recently took a family road trip down to the Deep South and stopped in Memphis on our way.   Here we were in the “Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll” and the “Home of the Blues” and at dinner time we took advantage of another one of Memphis’ proud accolades as the “BBQ Capital of the World.”  (And yes, I know there are a few other cities that make the same claim, but that’s one heated debate I’m going to avoid!)  And so, as we usually do, we steered clear of the tourist traps and headed for a place where the locals dine.  While our kids chowed down on pulled pork my husband and I dove into some barbecue ribs slathered with the restaurant’s signature BBQ sauce.  They were some finger-licking good ribs and they got us in the mood to fire up our grill when we got back home.

How to Make BBQ Ribs

Whether you’re making them in the smoker, on the grill or in the oven, there are a number of methods for making BBQ ribs.  The method we’re following here has become especially popular for achieving those perfectly fork-tender and juicy ribs is known as the 3-2-1 method.

The 3-2-1 Method

As its name suggests, the 3-2-1 method for making barbecue ribs means 3 hours of smoking dry rub-coated ribs over low heat, 2 hours of cooking them wrapped in foil (this is key to locking in the moisture and flavor), and 1 hour of cooking them unwrapped and slathered with BBQ sauce.

If you prefer your ribs more on the chewy side instead of falling-apart-fork-tender, don’t wrap the ribs in foil and instead add that cooking time on to the first step and then head straight to the third step of cooking them with the BBQ sauce.

For the best flavor use a smoker.  Smoking the ribs very low and slow with wood chips will infuse the meat with that incredible smoky flavor.  If you don’t have a smoker you can use a charcoal or an electric grill.  To get that smoky flavor with an electric grill you can add some wood chips in a metal pan and place it just above the heating elements.  Good choices for wood chips for smoking include applewood, mesquite or hickory.

The Oven Method

Alternatively you can use the oven method.  While you won’t get the same smoky results, the rub that we’re using on these ribs will give you a nice bit of smokiness from the smoked paprika and the overall flavor will still be absolutely finger-licking delicious.  To make oven-baked ribs preheat the oven to 275 F.  Wrap the rub-covered ribs in foil (omit the apple cider) and place them on a baking sheet in the oven.  Cook for 3-4 hours until the meat falls pulls very easily away from the bone or the internal temperature of the meat is between 196 F to 203 F.  Uncover the foil from the ribs, drain off the excess liquid, and slather on a generous amount of BBQ sauce to both sides.  Turn the oven to broil and continue to cook the ribs for a few more minutes just until the sauce has set.

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How to Tell When The Ribs Are Done

The cooking times will vary depending on a number of factors such as your particular grill/smoker, the temperature, the thickness of the ribs, etc.  I strongly suggest using an instant-read thermometer because it takes out all the guesswork and will get you those perfect results.  Bottom line, the ribs are done when their internal temperature is 196 F– 203 F and the meat is super tender and pulls off with little to no resistance.  Note that pork is technically when it reaches 145 F, but for the meat on the ribs to be super fork-tender the temps need to be higher.  The reason is that the tough connective tissues in the ribs don’t start breaking down until they reach 195 degrees F and it’s at that point the the tissues start to melt.  Any temperature lower than that and you’ll have tough, chewy ribs.   So for those perfectly fork-tender, juicy ribs the internal temp needs to hit that sweet spot of somewhere between 196 F and 203 F.  And that instant read thermometer will let you know exactly when they’re done as well as prevent you from over-cooking them.

What to Serve with Barbecue Ribs

Barbecue ribs are a versatile main dish that you can pair with any number of sides.  But here are a few of my favorites:

barbecue ribs recipe baby back bbq smoked smoker grill oven baked method best juicy fork tender pork easy

Barbecue Ribs Recipe

Let’s get started!

Preheat your smoker to 180 degrees F.   

If the membrane hasn’t already been removed from the back of the ribs, remove it by using a knife to lift up the corner of the membrane, grip the membrane and pull it off.  Discard and also trim off any excess fat from the ribs.

Season both sides of the ribs with the rub.  It will look like a lot but use it all.  Place the ribs on the smoker, meat side up, and close the lid.  Smoke the ribs for 3 hours, adding more wood chips around the halfway point.  At the end of the 3 hours the internal temperature of the ribs should be around 165 degrees F.

Place a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil on work surface and place the ribs on it.  Pull the sides of the foil up to keep the liquid enclosed.  Pour the apple cider into the foil packet.  Sprinkle the brown sugar over the ribs.  Crimp the foil tightly together to create a solid seal.  Increase the temperature of the smoker to 225 degrees F, carefully place the foil-packed ribs in the smoker, close the lid, and let the cook for 2 hours.  

rubbing pork ribs down with dry rub

After 2 hours carefully transfer the ribs to a work surface.  Remove the ribs from the foil with tongs (discard the foil and juices) and generously brush each side of the ribs with the BBQ sauce.  Set the ribs back on the grill, meat side facing up. 

Close the lid and continue to smoke for up to another hour, or until the ribs reach 196-203 degrees F and the sauce is set.  Be careful not to over-cook the ribs or the meat will be dry and chewy.

barbecue ribs on grill slathered with bbq sauce

Remove the ribs and let them rest for about 10 minutes. 

Slice them into individual ribs and serve with extra BBQ sauce on the side.   

barbecue ribs recipe baby back bbq smoked smoker grill oven baked method best juicy fork tender pork easy

Serve the ribs with your favorite sides.  See above for some of our favorite serving recommendations.


barbecue ribs recipe baby back bbq smoked smoker grill oven baked method best juicy fork tender pork easy

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