My Process for Smoked Ribs… 3,1,½

Smoked Ribs!

Ribs have been a go-to of mine since I started smoking. as far as cuts of meat, Ribs are by far the thing I’m most likely to smoke. Like a lot of backyard cooking enthusiasts I’ve tried many different methods with varying results.

3, 2, 1?

I would say the 3/2/1 method is one of the most used techniques out there. 3 hours unwrapped, 2 hours wrapped, 1 hour unwrapped. I know this produces good results… for other people. I’ve done it dozens of times and personally struggle to make a consistently good rib, bouncing around between not tender enough and more often way too tender. With the latter, it’s common for me to have rendered most of the fat out of the ribs only to be left with fall apart meat that’s lost most of it’s flavor.

I think the two hours wrapped is generally too long, again for me… I have know it works for some and if it works for you that’s great!

3, 1, 1/2…

After a lot of playing around, I’ve finally settled on a 3, 1, 1/2 method. A lot of the credit for this goes to Aaron Franklin – Amazon author page. I have made some adjustments based on my equipment and tastes. Additional resources at the end of this write up.

The basics of this method are 3 hours unwrapped, 1 hour (or less) wrapped and 1/2 hour unwrapped. This is actually a hotter faster method compared to what I used to do.

Walk-through of this method…

Trim and Apply Rub

This is a batch of trimmed St Louis style ribs. I also used this same method for baby back ribs. Some pictures of baby back cook are later in this write up. For baby backs, trimming may or may not happen, but St Louis style ribs definitely need some work. More on that later.

I’m a big fan of Rubbermaid’s Commercial’s utility tubs. I literally have a stack of these, in different sizes, for different things around the house.

I use the 4.625 gallon size to thaw meat, trim, apply rub, carry around cook day tools and more. These are NSF rated and big enough to hold larger cuts of meat. They catch excess rub and drips and make clean up easier. With handles on every side, they’re easy to carry and move. You can also spin it around as you’re trimming or applying rub for easy access.  See my Hands on Review of these great tubs.

Rub applied

Tip: wrap your rub shaker in food wrap when it comes to applying. This allows you to grab it with meaty/contaminated hands. When prep is done, discard the food wrap and

 My BBQ Rub Recipe

3 Hours Unwrapped

Hour 1: Smoke at 200 degrees F for 1 hour. I like to do the first hour at a lower temperature to get a good smoke ring and smoke flavor

Ribs on the smoker

Hour 2: Spritz and increase temperature to 260 degrees F for 2 hours

Spritz at the beginning of hour 2

Hands on Review: Bar5F Food Grade Spray Bottles for Spritzing – I typically use 50% apple juice/50% water for spritzing.

Hour 3: Spritz at the beginning of hour 3

Wrap for 1(ish) Hours

Hour 4: Wrap at the beginning of hour 4

At 260 degrees the ribs don’t need wrapped for long. I start checking them at 45 minutes for pliability. Picking up with tongs at one end the rack should easily slump down.

In the cook pictured here, the right-most rack of ribs was nice and pliable at my 45 minute check, so I unwrapped that rack and started it’s final 30 minute timer to finish out.

Unwrap for 30 Minutes

Hour 5: Unwrap, add sauce if you’d like and smoke for another 30 minutes. Reduce temp to 225.

This 30 minutes is about setting the bark back up. I like to reduce the temperature to 225, because the ribs are typically done and I like increase to the smoke again to catch some of that flavor in the sauce. This rack has a light coating of Tuffy Stone’s Cool Smoke Spicy BBQ sauce

Baby Back Ribs…

Same process with a quick run through of a baby back rib cook.

Rubbed and ready for the smoker.  My BBQ Rub Recipe + Utility Tub Hands on Review

Starting a smoke tube. If I have room on the smoker, I usually use a smoke tube to add some extra smoke to the mix. This is also super handy if you want to use different type of wood to add another layer of flavor. I’m using this one – LIZZQ Premium Pellet Smoker Tube 12 inches but loads of options are available. Search Amazon for “smoker tube”

On the smoker

Hands on Review: Bar5F Food Grade Spray Bottles for Spritzing – Spritz at the beginning of hour 2. This time around I’m using 50% pineapple juice/50% water.

The ribs after the first spritz

Ribs after the second spritz

Ready to be wrapped


Final product!

Procedure Recap

  • Hour 1: Unwrapped 200 degrees F, add smoke tube
  • Hour 2: Spritz at the beginning of hour 2, increase temp to 260 degrees F
  • Hour 3: Spritz at the beginning of hour 3
  • Hour 4: Spritz at the beginning of hour 4, wrap.
  • Hour 4 + 45 Minutes: Check the ribs for pliability
  • When pliable (at about hour 5): Unwrap, sauce, decrease temp to 225 degrees F for 30 minutes


I’ve been super happy with this method. It’s quicker than the methods I’ve previously used and produces more consistent results. Great flavor and an easy way to control tenderness.

A lot of the credit for this goes to Aaron Franklin – Amazon author page. I have made some adjustments based on my equipment and tastes. This video outlines Aaron’s process including some great info on trimming pork ribs.

My BBQ Rub Recipe

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