How Long To Smoke Ribs?

Smoked foods, such as ribs, brisket, and turkey, come in many flavors and varieties depending on where they were prepared or what type of wood was used in the smoking process. Regardless of what recipe one uses when cooking meats such as these, proper preparation and time management are essential to ensuring success.

In this article, we will discuss how long to smoke ribs. Smoked food is a big part of the barbecue. The thought of tender meat, falling off the bone with a rich smoky flavor can make your mouth water. However, there are some debates on the best way to do it and even more debate on how long you should smoke them for. Here I will give you my opinions and ways that work best for me!

How Long To Smoke Ribs

What are ribs?

Ribs are the cut of meat that is taken from the upper portion of a pig or cow. They consist of various muscles that connect to the spine and then lead to the loin, which is mostly what you find in your back loin roast. However, they also include the bones and cartilage along with this muscle tissue. Pork, beef, and lamb ribs are usually the ones that you will run into when purchasing at your local grocery store.

There are three main types of ribs. Baby back ribs, spareribs, and country-style ribs. Each one is similar in size and shape but varies when it comes to the different cuts of meat that are on them.

Baby back ribs: These are usually around 1 ½ inch thick and cut from near the pig’s backbone. The bones also stick up a bit more than other types of ribs, which makes them hard to cook properly in some smokers because they get in the way of inserting your meat probe or taking out your meat after cooking.

Spareribs: These ribs come from further down along the ribcage closer to where the belly begins. They have less bones sticking up above them making them easier to prepare for most cooks. 

Country Style Ribs: These are basically the same as spareribs but are cut closer to the belly. You may also find some bone fragments in with them so be careful when you are prepping them for cooking. What’s the best way to cook ribs?

How long to smoke ribs?

The general rule for cooking ribs is around 2 1/2 hours per pound of meat at 225 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. However, this can vary depending on many factors such as; type of smoker you use, how much wood you burn, weather conditions outside and even your personal preferences for how “done” you prefer them to be done. I personally like my beef ribs very well done, but my pork can stand up to medium-well without falling apart.

What are the benefits of smoking ribs?

There are many benefits to smoking your own meats. One of the greatest benefits is that it’s healthier than many other cooking methods. You can control how much smoke you let into your meat by using different types of chips in your smoker. Some will allow more smoke exposure while others won’t release as much.

Another great benefit is being able to save money on cuts of meat that are difficult to purchase at a good price. One of my favorite cuts of beef is called “beef back ribs.” Beef back ribs are not easy to find for sale even at local grocery stores, but if I am lucky enough to get them on sale I can easily cook up 15 pounds of rib meat for around $10-$15 dollars depending on the sales prices in my area! makes for some cheap grilling meat!

Finally, people love the taste of smoked ribs. Nothing tastes better than tender meat that has been flavored with molasses and hickory wood chips for hours on end.

The dangers of smoking meats:

Of all the other hazards you should consider when smoking your own meats, the temperature is definitely one of the most important factors to think about.

The first and most common danger here is overcooking. It’s very easy to cook those nice fat marbled pieces of meat too long and dry them out to an unpleasant state where they begin to fall apart as you chew through them.

The second danger is under-cooking your ribs, but this can be as big as damage as overcooking if not done properly as well. Under-cooked ribs are just as bad, if not worse than overcooked. They can cause food poisoning to occur in your body by leaving bacteria on the meat that may not have been destroyed during the cooking process.

Tips for choosing ribs:

When you go to purchase your ribs try and find a store with a high product turnover. This is usually an indication that the meat is fresh and hasn’t been sitting in a freezer for months on end.

Look at the color of the ribs as well. If they are a dark cherry red then they may be ready to cook, but if they are brown or greyish looking they will most likely be too old and dry out during cooking.

Smell them! You should not be able to smell any sort of off-odors from your ribs even before cooking them, if you do this is usually another sign that they have been improperly stored and need to be passed upon.

Finally, look at how much meat is covering each bone of the ribs. You should not see any bones showing on your spareribs or anything showing on beef back ribs. If you do, they were most likely cut from an older animal and will be tougher as a result.

Preparing ribs for smoking:

So now that you have your ribs from the store or wherever, it’s time to prepare them for cooking.

To start let’s talk about pork ribs for a moment. The first thing you will want to do is pull off the membrane on the backside of your ribs. This membrane can get stuck to your ribs while cooking and cause some problems, so avoid this by removing it before starting.

To remove the membrane from your pork ribs simply slide a knife under it from one corner and grab hold of it with a paper towel or something similar in order to get a good grip on it before pulling it off towards the other end of the rack of ribs you are working with. You may have to cut any remaining pieces that may be sticking up after removing the rest of the membrane, but this should be simple enough for even an amateur griller.

Then simply season your ribs however you see fit. Most people either choose to use a store-bought barbecue sauce, or they mix up their own special rubs and marinades to apply to their meat before putting it on the grill.

Seasoning your ribs:

The second thing we’re going to talk about is seasoning your ribs and the various types of flavorings and marinades that you can apply to them.

There are many different ways to season your ribs, below I will list a few popular methods for this process:

First, there is dry rubbing. Dry rubs are exactly what they sound like; spices are applied directly without any liquid added such as vinegar or oil. These spices usually contain salt (which not only adds delicious flavor but also pulls moisture from the meat making it more tender), pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper – all common ingredients in most barbecue rubs.

Then there are brining solutions, which are simply saltwater with other spices added to them. These can be used for both pork and beef ribs, but the effects vary quite a bit depending on whether you’re using this method for spare ribs or back ribs. For spare ribs, brining will break down some of the tough cartilage that makes up the rib bones making them easier to eat while allowing more flavor to get pulled into the meat itself. But these same benefits can make beef back ribs very mushy tasting when soaked in the brine too long so use this method sparingly if you choose to apply it at all.

After that, we have marinades, which are similar to brining in that liquids are applied to meat with spices to break down some of the tough cartilage and bring more flavor into the meat itself. The primary difference between these two methods is that marinades are usually applied for shorter periods of time than brines which require hours or even days of soaking in order to work properly. However, if you do soak your ribs for an extended period of time it’s best not to use a strong acidic liquid such as vinegar or lemon juice because they have been known to start the breakdown process of the protein in meats too early causing them to be mushy once fully cooked.

Lastly, there are mops. These are typically water mixed with sweeteners such as molasses, brown sugar, or honey along with various spices such as salt (like most other seasoning’s), pepper, garlic, and onion powder to name a few. This liquid helps build a flavorful bark (or crust) on the exterior of your meat as well as adds additional moisture to it which can be lost through the cooking process.

How Long To Smoke Ribs

Types of smokers to use:

There are many different types of smokers that you can use when smoking ribs ranging from electric units to propane smokers. Each type of smoker has its own unique benefits, but in general, they all work the same way by trapping heat and smoke around your meat while it slowly cooks through.

Knowing what type of smoker will work best for you depends on how much you want to spend, how much room you have available, what kind of flavor profile you’re looking for in the finished product, and probably a dozen other factors as well so keep in mind that this is just a very generalized overview of some popular styles of smokers being used today.

Electric Smokers: Electric smokers are great for beginner grillers who don’t want to deal with the hassle of lighting their firebox or have to worry about airflow adjustments when cooking. They also tend to be very efficient, so you won’t waste a lot of fuel trying to keep your smoker at the right temperature.

But electric smokers aren’t for everyone because they generally don’t produce the smoky flavor that most backyard pit-masters are looking for in their smoked meats. Also, many models have limited flexibility when it comes to being able to remove racks in order to accommodate large cuts of meat such as a whole brisket or pork butts. And without having access to a window you will never be able to see how much wood is left inside your smoker which makes monitoring your smoke levels more difficult if you choose an electric unit over gas or charcoal powered smokers.

Propane Smokers: Propane smokers are generally the most popular type of smoker used by serious barbecue enthusiasts. They are much more efficient at generating smoke than electric or charcoal smokers so you will typically have consistent smoke flavor throughout the cooking process. But this also means they have a bit less flexibility when it comes to being able to remove racks in order to accommodate larger cuts of meat because propane smokers usually only come with 3-4 included racks compared to electric models that normally include 6 or more depending on their size. They also do not have any built-in temperature gauges which make monitoring your grill’s temperature levels slightly more difficult, but one benefit is that many models now come with an attached thermometer that allows you to monitor your smoker’s internal temperature without having to open the door or climb on a stepladder to look inside.

Charcoal Smokers: Charcoal smokers are generally more difficult to set up and maintain than propane models, but they can also produce some of the best results in terms of smoky flavor throughout your meat. Some famous pit-masters swear by charcoal smokers because they have better temperature control capabilities and provide a wider range of cooking temperatures which can be used depending on what type of food you’re smoking at the time. If you’re just getting started then using a charcoal smoker will definitely require a learning curve, but once mastered it will allow you to give great tasting barbecue every single time while enabling maximum flexibility as far as being able to remove racks in order to accommodate larger cuts of meat.

Pellet Smokers: Though the term ‘pellet smoker’ is often used to describe any type of smoker that uses an automated pellet feed system, it can be helpful to think about this in terms of its own unique category. Pellet smokers are typically more advanced than other types of smokers because they have temperature gauges built-in which allows you to monitor your grill’s internal temperature without having to open the door or climb on a stepladder to look inside. This also means you won’t have access to your meat without releasing heat out of the cooking chamber every time you lift up the lid which will result in much longer cook times compared to charcoal or gas-powered smokers.

What tools are needed for smoking ribs?

You don’t need a lot of fancy tools to smoke ribs. The only things that you will need are the following: 

Good quality smoker (see buying guide below) – Make sure the smoker is large enough to hold all of your ribs at once. You can fit 4 racks in a standard size, but you might need more room if you’re cooking for 6 or more people. Some smokers even have an extra rack that you can pull out when it’s time to put on new meat.

Meat thermometer – A good digital meat thermometer will give you much better results than using the supplied temperature gauge on many smokers so make sure to invest in one or get one as a gift for this holiday season! 

Spare pair of tongs – Keep one set of tongs dedicated for use with raw meats and another clean set used only for removing things from the grill. This will ensure that you won’t get any harmful bacteria transferred from the raw beef to your smoked ribs or veggies.

Aluminum Foil – Use it to line the bottom of your smoker so that you can easily dispose of the ashes without having to scour its grates clean. You can also place racks of ribs directly on top of aluminum foil in order to cut down on the amount of meats drippings falling into the fire which could potentially flare up and burn your food.

Long-handled grill brush – This is an absolute must if you don’t want to inhale dangerous, carcinogenic fumes while cleaning out ash build-up or gunk that has accumulated through years of use! Make sure not to press too hard when using this tool because you might damage the grate. Should this happen it’s time to buy a new one because you won’t be able to properly smoke your food.

How to smoke ribs?

Step 1: Remove the membrane

If you’re starting with refrigerated ribs then it’s typically best to remove them from their packaging in order to let them reach room temperature before placing them on your smoker. If you don’t, then the outer layer might not cook properly which could lead to food poisoning. This step is also important if you are cooking ribs that have previously been frozen because ice crystals will form when meat freezes which can cause uneven heating when placed back in your smoker.

To ensure even cooking, experts recommend making an incision between the membrane and flesh so that the fat and juices can drain off during smoking. Otherwise, they’ll end up pooling around the bones which results in less than optimal taste and dryness of your ribs. To remove this membrane, start by gently prying up an edge using your fingers or a dull knife until you get the hang of it. Once you’ve removed the membrane you can apply your favorite BBQ sauce directly to the ribs rather than just on top of it.

Step 2: Apply dry rub

Next, apply a full coating of your favorite dry rub all over the meaty side of your ribs. The best way to apply a dry rub is to evenly sprinkle it across all sides so that you have equal amounts on each rib. When finished, stack the racks together so that they are resting on one another with flesh touching flesh and bone touching bone. If done correctly, this will allow heat to travel throughout all parts equally so that the ribs will be perfectly done by the time you remove them from your smoker.

Step 3: Wrap in aluminum foil

At this point, you should let your ribs sit for at least an hour before placing them directly onto your smoker grates. If you are pressed for time then you can wrap them tightly with aluminum foil after applying your dry rub but make sure not to leave any holes because juices will escape which could result in less flavor throughout. 

Repeatedly opening and closing your smoker during this step could cause too much heat loss which would be why it’s best to leave them on during the entire smoking process.

Step 4: Add wood chips and let the show begin!

Finally, place a single layer of wood chips directly on top of your hot coals for between 1-2 hours or until they have turned white. The number one mistake that first time smokers make is adding too many wood chips at once because you won’t be able to control the overall heat as effectively which could lead to overcooked ribs. Since more heat means less cooking time, start with a thin layer and add a second if necessary. Make sure that your fire is not burning too hot before placing your slabs onto the smoker grates since this can cause flare-ups which would burn off all those tasty flavors that you worked so hard to create.

Step 5: Maintain proper temperature

The perfect way to tell if your smoker is at the right temperature is to use an internal meat thermometer. When using this method, remember that it’s not necessary for the tip of the thermometer to be touching your ribs since slow cooking can cause large fluctuations in temperature reading. For consistent smoking results, experts recommend keeping your smoker between 225°F-250°F. If you are only cooking a few slabs then you should leave them on for 4 hours but if there are many racks resting on top of one another then you might want to adjust this time to about 6 hours instead. Also, make sure that all vents are closed during this step otherwise heat will escape and may not reach your desired final temperature.

Step 6: Check for doneness

When checking for doneness, it’s best to use a pair of tongs to pick up the ribs and test the flesh with your fingers. If you notice that the meat is starting to pull away from the bone then congratulations! Your ribs are almost finished and ready to enjoy. However, if they feel very firm or tough then just place them back on for another hour before testing again. When you’re satisfied with their tenderness, remove them from your smoker grate and let them sit in aluminum foil for at least 30 minutes so that all those delicious juices can come together. You can save these leftover juices if you’d like but remember that their quality won’t be quite as good since they have already been cooked.

Step 7: Cut them up! 

Finally, remove the bones and slice your ribs into bite-sized pieces so that it’s easier to eat. To achieve a professional look, trim all visible fat from the sides before serving – this will ensure that all your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed! Lastly, don’t forget about those meaty back-straps either because they are equally delicious when cut into thin strips.

Mistakes you should avoid:

Smoke them too long because they’ll end up tasting bitter instead of sweet.

High heat is your worst enemy when it comes to smoking ribs so keep that heat low and slow! Just remember, patience is a virtue.

Make sure not to overcrowd the firebox with charcoal during this step otherwise, it will be impossible to maintain a consistent temperature which could lead to under-cooked or overcooked ribs. Try cooking for half an hour with the vents closed before opening them back up again just to be on the safe side.

Resist the temptation of using lighter fluid since this can ruin all those delicious wood flavors that you are trying to achieve by removing any harsh chemical tastes in the process. Also, try not to use starter cubes unless necessary because it can add a chemical aftertaste to the final product.

Use any water pans on top of the main grates since moisture from these pans can keep your ribs from developing that delicious brown crust that makes them taste even more amazing! Instead, place your rib racks directly onto the charcoal grate and you’ll thank us later.

Good sides for ribs:

To complement your perfect rack of ribs, here are a few pairs that you can choose from:

Baked beans: If you like baked beans then this is good news for you because those beans will form a harmonious marriage with your ribs after spending some time together on the smoker grate. Just make sure not to overcook them or they’ll end up tasting mushy and bland.

Biscuits: You can create a delectable feast by serving up a batch of buttermilk biscuits before tackling those smoky slabs of rib perfection! Not only does this bring out the flavor in the meat, but it also complements its tenderness as well.

Coleslaw: This crunchy cabbage dish makes a perfect addition to any barbecue since it’s packed with healthy nutrients that are great for digestion while helping lower cholesterol at the same time. So, what are you waiting for? Once your ribs are done cooking, just try taking a bite out of this tasty treat!

Mashed potatoes: Don’t forget to save some room in your stomach because delicious mashed potatoes pair well with almost everything! Just remember to use rich cream, butter, and garlic when making them so that they taste buttery-smooth instead of bland along the way.

Safety Tips for smoking ribs:

Prevent kitchen fires: One of the best ways to avoid kitchen fires and ruin your food in the process is by using a water heater pan since this can catch any grease that falls from above. If you don’t have one then simply use aluminum foil to line your smoker grate instead.

Use oven mitts: Make sure to keep those hands protected at all times because accidents happen when we least expect them to! Don’t forget that there are various types on the market so choose some that are tough or flame-resistant just in case.

Be prepared for flare-ups: Although they may seem scary, these sudden bursts of flames are not harmful if you know how to handle them properly. What you need to remember is that oil and grease tend to accumulate at the top of the grill which can ignite when exposed to high heat. So, what do you need to do about this? Just open up the lid and spray them with a water hose in order to extinguish any flames that might be burning after that!

Remain vigilant: Ribs take time and patience since they need around 9-11 hours of low heat in order to bring out their best flavor so don’t leave them unattended for too long since this is when accidents happen. Furthermore, make sure your propane tank is full before adding anything into the smoker so you don’t run out of fuel when cooking is almost finished! Don’t forget about those wood chunks or chips either these add even more delicious flavors to each slab on the inside.



What is the 3 2 1 method?

The 3 2 1 method is a step-by-step set of instructions that shows people how to smoke the best rack of ribs they have ever had. On average, most people follow these guidelines when preparing their barbecue pork ribs:

3 hours of dry rub smoking at 225 degrees Fahrenheit using hickory wood chips or chunks.

2 hours of cooking covered in foil with apple juice or another type of sweetener along with some dry rub seasoning sprinkled on top.

1 hour uncovered so the meat can brown which creates that delicious crust we’ve been looking after.

How many pounds are in a slab of baby back ribs?

A typical rack of pork baby back ribs weighs about 2 lbs, but if they are St. Louis cut then they’ll weigh about 1 lb. Keep in mind that this may vary depending on how much meat has been left behind during the butchering process since some racks have more bones than others do! Just remember that there are two slabs in every rack in general.

Can you microwave ribs?

Although it may be tempting to pop open your microwave when in a rush, this is actually not the best way to cook BBQ ribs since they won’t become tender enough that way. Instead, what you need to do is place them into a foil-lined pan and cover it with another layer of foil before putting them into the oven for around 20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

How long do boneless baby back pork ribs last?

If stored properly, then boneless baby back pork ribs can last up to 5 days in the refrigerator or 2 months in the freezer so don’t worry about having too much food on hand. Just remember to keep them separate from other items by using separate airtight plastic bags which allow them to stay fresh for longer.

Cooked ribs can last up to 3 days in the fridge so don’t let them go to waste since they’re comfortable enough to eat whenever you feel hungry. Just remember that any leftovers need to be stored within 2 hours of cooking and covered tightly too!

How do you know when ribs have gone bad?

You might not want to eat ribs anymore once they have passed their expiration date or gone bad so try checking for mold on them which appears as a greenish color. Furthermore, the meat should appear gray instead of pink and be tough too! Just remember that any type of food poisoning is an indication that something has gone wrong since you need to consult your doctor right away.

How do you thaw ribs?

You can place frozen meat into cold water or in the microwave if they are partially frozen which is ideal for big cuts. For smaller pieces, just place them within your refrigerator overnight so they have time to defrost naturally without being exposed to high temperatures. Just don’t use hot water since this creates an unfavorable environment for bacteria growth!

How do you store smoke ribs?

Smoked ribs need to be kept in an airtight container or plastic bag in order to prevent them from becoming dried out. You can choose to eat them cold, but make sure they are microwaved for around 2 minutes which is enough time for them to heat up without drying them out.

Can you re-freeze ribs?

Yes, you can re-freeze ribs if they have been properly frozen the first time around which means that there is no danger of contamination. Just remember that any type of food poisoning can be avoided this way since it does not create favorable conditions for bacteria growth!

How long do ribs last in the freezer?

Ribs can stay in your freezer for up to 6 months if stored properly, but make sure you keep them away from other food items since they need to be kept separate. Don’t forget about placing them into airtight plastic bags before putting them into the freezer too! Furthermore, try thawing pork ribs in cold water or within your refrigerator overnight which cuts down on cooking time. This way, they’ll be fresh and ready to eat whenever you are!

How many ribs do you need per person?

For baby back ribs, it is recommended that one rack feeds two people which is pretty generous considering the price. If you want to make sure everyone gets their fair share of meat, then you should definitely purchase a whole rack for this occasion! Just remember that each slab contains 13-14 bones and 1/3 lb of meat which adds up to around 22 oz. in total!

Do ribs need to rest?

Yes, do not eat ribs right away since they need to rest for around 5 minutes in order to seal in all of their juices. This way, you won’t lose any flavor when you take the first bite which is why it is recommended that you leave them alone until then.

Do all pork ribs have the same amount of meat?

There are different types of meats on each rib and some will end up being tougher or larger than others depending on your personal preference. However, one rack contains 22 oz. in total so don’t worry about getting an uneven amount! Just remember to use separate plastic bags when placing them in your freezer so each piece can stay fresh for longer.

Can you overcook ribs in a smoker?

Yes, ribs should be placed in a smoker and cooked for around 3 hours at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. If you cook them too much and for too long, the meat will become tough and dry which is why it is important to keep an eye on your fire throughout the process!

How many calories do ribs have?

A regular portion of baby back ribs contains between 600-700 calories since they are pretty fatty due to their high-fat content. The good news is that they provide enough energy to compensate without adding any excess weight to your body. However, make sure you don’t weigh yourself after eating this type of food or before starting your workout routine!

Should I rub ribs the night before?

Yes, it is recommended that you marinate your ribs for one night prior to cooking them even though the recipe might not call for this. Just place them in a refrigerator until they have defrosted naturally and then apply your favorite marinade before placing them back into the freezer. This way, you’ll have a fantastic flavor going through your meat which makes it incomparable to anything else!


Ribs are a great food for those who want to prepare a meal. However, you do need to be careful with the cooking process since it is easy to overcook them and lose all of their flavors! Follow our tips and remember these simple rules in order to cook your ribs safely and more efficiently than ever before!

We hope this article answered your question about how long to smoke ribs and you’ll be able to apply this knowledge when preparing the perfect meal!


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