3-2-1 Smoked Ribs

Partially finished rack of glazed pork ribs sitting in foil.

If you’ve never smoked ribs at home before, this is a great starter recipe. Once you master this technique, it can become the foundation for your own secret rib recipe as you adjust times and flavors.

The recipe is called 3-2-1, as there are three important steps to learn: smoking, wrapping, and finishing. Each of these steps takes the time indicated: 3 hours, 2 hours, and 1 hour. However this is based on standard rack size and a smoker at 125 degrees F, if this isn’t how you are cooking the times need to be adjusted.

The flavors are quite sweet and lean towards a Memphis style which complements the pork. They can be adjusted to personal taste with more salt and heat in the rub and replacing the juice with stock or alcohol.

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Finished glazed pork ribs sliced and displayed in a row on a wooden cutting board.
Rest the finished ribs for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Finished rack of glazed pork ribs sliced to show the succulent interior of the cooked meat.
The ribs are finished after a final coating with BBQ sauce and additional time in the smoker.
Partially finished rack of glazed pork ribs sitting in foil.
The foil wrapped ribs are returned to the smoker for additional cooking time.

3-2-1 Smoked Ribs Recipe

Partially finished rack of glazed pork ribs sitting in foil.
If you've never smoked ribs at home before, this is a great starter recipe. Once you master this technique, it can become the foundation to your rib recipe.
Preparation 15 minutes
Cook 6 hours 20 minutes
Ready in 6 hours 35 minutes
Servings 2 Servings


3 – Smoking

  • 1 rack pork ribs
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt

2 – Wrapping

  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter

1 – Finishing Glaze

  • 1 cup BBQ sauce
  • ½ cup apple juice


  • hickory chips
  • smoker


3 – Smoking

  • Preheat a smoker to 225 degrees F (105 degrees C). Add 3 good-sized chunks of hickory or wood of choice.
  • Trim any messy flaps or similar of the ribs and remove the membrane. Rub the mustard into the ribs, then leave to rest while preparing the rub.
  • Combine the chili, paprika, brown sugar, sea salt, and garlic salt, then mix well. Transfer to a shaker. Sprinkle the rub evenly over the ribs then leave to sit, for 45 minutes to 2 hours. Place in a cooler to keep cold.
  • Place the ribs on the smoker meat side up then smoke for 3 hours.

2 – Wrapping

  • Layout two sheets of foil to wrap the ribs.
  • Place the ribs on the foil meat side down, then cover with the apple juice, brown sugar, and butter. 
  • Wrap the ribs and return to the smoker to cook for an additional 2 hours.

1 – Finishing Glaze

  • Combine the BBQ sauce and apple juice then heat until very warm.
  • Remove the ribs from the foil and paint on the apple BBQ sauce.
  • Return the ribs to the foil meat side up and fold to create a boat holding the liquid and ribs out of the foil, do not re-wrap.
  • Return to the smoker until the apple BBQ sauce glaze is set, about 10 minutes. For a deeper and shinier finish, this step can be repeated.
  • Remove from the smoker and rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 1751kcalCarbohydrates: 92gProtein: 74gFat: 121gSaturated Fat: 42gPolyunsaturated Fat: 19gMonounsaturated Fat: 43gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 394mgSodium: 4562mgPotassium: 1743mgFiber: 5gSugar: 75gVitamin A: 3199IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 179mgIron: 7mg

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About Saffron Hodgson

Outdoor cooking has been Saffron’s passion since she was young, often choosing to go camping and cook hearty meals over fire rather than stay inside, watch TV, and eat take-out. Today she is the driving force of Bush Cooking bringing the skills of cooking outdoors to thousands of people.

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    1. In some parts of the world chili powder is pure ground chilis (if this is used it will be far too spicy and lack flavor), American chili powder is a blend of spices, Mexican chili powder is a slightly different spice blend and different chilis, however, the American blend can easily be used without negatively impacting the outcome.

  1. 5 stars
    Excellent!! I’ve don’t this twice in the last 3 weeks. The ribs are very tender and tasty. I thought the rub may be a little spicy w the amount of chili powder but it wasn’t…just a little bite that was tempered by a mild BBQ sauce. My wife can’t handle anything spicy and she loved them.