Traeger 3-2-1 Ribs are so freakin simple!!!! Like – why did I not make these 2 years ago when I got my Traeger grill???? And all you need is a dry rub, a little sauce and a little juice. I will walk you through the process and you’ll be amazed at how simple it is – even if it’s your first time! And don’t worry -they’re delicious ribs too!!!
These ribs are tender and so juicy – I can tell you – my dogs were drooling watching me devour them all on my own! (Ok – they got a bite or two). The best part is you can use spare ribs or back ribs – whichever you prefer. I used spare ribs for this recipe – but the recipe is the same. 3-2-1 Ribs are a labor of love – so you’ll need 6 hours to chill and grill.
And hey – if you don’t have a Traeger pellet grill and want to do ribs like this in the oven – check out my Oven Baked Spare Ribs recipe! (But – smoking ribs does take good ribs and makes them GREAT ribs!)
What are 3-2-1 Ribs
The 3-2-1 ribs method for cooking tender ribs is a fool-proof method and easy recipe to cook ribs low and slow. It’s a great way to start with them if you’ve never cooked ribs before. They work with spare ribs or baby back ribs. When your ribs are done – you can see the meat pulling away from the bone a bit – and the bones will show more on the ends. (And yes – it’s 6 hours of smoking! 3+2+1!)
Ingredients for the Best Ribs
- Pork ribs – spare ribs are my choice because they’re the meatiest
- Dry Rub Seasoning – everybody has a drawer full of seasonings – use your favorite! If you’re looking for a great one to try – check out Historic BBQ Red seasoning – it’s my favorite and I use it weekly!
- If you’d like to make your own – you’ll want to have brown sugar, paprika, black pepper, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper – those are the most common ingredients in a dry rub
- Liquid – you just need a half cup of apple juice, grape juice, apple cider vinegar, soda or beer – some type of liquid to keep the juices flowing
- Barbecue Sauce – again – everyone has a personal preference on sauce – I like a light sauce with lots of seasonings – and always use Williamson Bros. BBQ sauce
How to Smoke Ribs on a Traeger
The 3-2-1 Ribs are a simple process! Let’s walk through it:
- Peel the membrane off the back of each rack of ribs.
- See my tip above for using paper towels to make it easier!
- Set your rack of ribs on a rimmed baking sheet and generously rub your favorite BBQ spice rub all over the ribs – season ribs on both sides and don’t forget the sides of the ribs.
- My favorite rub is Historic BBQ Red – it is always perfect!
- Set the smoker to 225F and be sure your pellet hopper is full! I use hickory and cherry most often. Place the ribs in the smoker and smoke for THREE hours.
- Lay out 3-4 sheets of aluminum foil. Remove the ribs from the smoker and lay on your aluminum foil. Fold the sides up to make a “boat”. Pour a 1/4 cup of beer, pop or apple juice with each rack of ribs. (I used Cherry Dr Pepper Zero!) Add a piece of foil on top and fold over and pinch all the edges to ensure that it is sealed well to allow steaming.
- Some sites may say to put the ribs meat side down in the juice – I did not and they turned out great – but feel free to do so!
- Place foil sealed rib boat back in the smoker for another TWO hours.
- The final step is to remove the ribs carefully from the foil and place directly on the grill grate. Generously coat the ribs in your favorite BBQ sauce. Smoke them at 225 for ONE final hour!
- I’m not a huge fan of sauce on ribs – so I like to use Williamson Bros. Sauce – it’s one of the lightest – and most flavorful – sauces I’ve found! And you can get it online at Walmart!
Tips, Tricks & FAQs
Who’s to say what’s the best? I found it to be super simple – there’s no spritzing and watching – it’s just set it and forget it. It works.
I recommend Hickory, Cherry and Apple – but I tend to get the Signature Blend which has Hickory, Maple and Cherry – yum!
Spare ribs come from the belly, St. Louis style ribs are “cleaned up and trimmed” spare ribs and Baby Backs come from the loin. Baby back are smaller and more expensive. So I like Spare ribs but you can use any type of ribs you like.
Well – you might have not had your foil boat sealed tightly enough. If you check your ribs and they’re looking a little dry – spritz them every 20-30 minutes or so with liquid (apple juice, beer, soda).
You can – I didn’t with this recipe and they all turned out great – but feel free! You can spritz every 30 minutes with something such as apple juice in a spray bottle.
My favorite is always Historic BBQ. They’re a championship bbq team here in the Cincinnati area and I’m obsessed with them!
I’m not a huge fan of thick, sweet sauces – but I came across Williamson Bros a few years ago. They’re out of the Atlanta area but you can get the sauce on Walmart.com. It’s a very light, thin sauce but with tons of seasonings – it’s my absolute favorite! I buy big jars of it once a year and use it ALL THE TIME!
I would say, you’ll use 1/2 bag of pellets – so be sure you have some on hand. I had to run to the hardware store to grab some halfway through!
Pork is done and safe to eat at 145 degrees but with ribs – you want them to be fall off the bone tender which is about 200 degrees internal temp.
If you want more smoky flavor – you’ve got a couple of options! Both of these options work on a regular charcoal or gas grill – or will ADD MORE smoke to your smoker.
* Wood chips – Soak them in water for 30 minutes before starting the grill. One cup of wood chips will last for about 20 minutes. Keep adding chips to the grill throughout the process.
* If you use a charcoal grill, light the coals, when the coals are ready, place them on one side of the grill. Place some of the wood chips on top of the coals. Place your food on the side without the coals to cook it with indirect heat.
* Smoker Tubes – My friend Nick introduced me to the wonderment of a smoke tube! It’s a metal tube with holes – fill that tube with Traeger pellets and then light it with a butane lighter. Once the pellets catch fire – let them get started – then blow the flames out. Set them in the grill and shut the lid. The smoke flavor is all those tubes will leave behind!
What to serve with BBQ Ribs?
- Ribs and Rolls go great together – especially with Texas Roadhouse’s Famous Butter!
- Throw the corn on at the end of your smoking! Or follow this recipe for Grilled Corn on the Cob
- You can never go wrong with Macaroni Salad and this Jarlsberg Dip Mac Salad is a sure-fire winner!
More Traeger Recipes
Traeger 3-2-1 Ribs
- Peel the membrane off the back of each rack of ribs.1 rack pork spare ribs
- Generously rub the BBQ spice rub all over the ribs.1 rack pork spare ribs, 1/2 cup Historic BBQ Red seasoning
- Set the smoker to 225F and be sure your pellet hopper is full! Place the back ribs in the smoker and smoke for THREE hours.
- Take the ribs out and wrap the rack with aluminum foil. I used 3-4 layers on the bottom so it wouldn't tear. Pour a 1/4 cup of beer, pop or apple juice into the foil. Fold over and pinch all the edges to ensure that it is sealed well to allow steaming.1/2 cup liquid
- Place the ribs wrapped in foil back in the smoker for another TWO hours. Check your pellet hopper – make sure there are enough pellets!
- Remove the ribs carefully from the foil and place back directly on the grate. Generously coat the ribs in Williamson BBQ sauce. Smoke for ONE more hour at 225.1/2 cup Williamson Bros. BBQ sauce