Tag Archives: bbq

Totally Smoked! How to Smoke Baby-back Ribs

I’m not a fan of cooking… but over the summer I am just nutty about grilling food on my backyard barbecue.  Two years ago, I got myself a Brinkmann Smoke’N Pit and have had a gloriously fun time since.  Over this summer, I’ve started experimenting with grill techniques and meats to cook.  Most recently, I embarked on smoking pork ribs for the first time.  I have captured all the steps I took to cook these tasty meats and will describe them here for your reference.

I use a technique called 3-2-1 for ribs.  Very simply, the ribs are smoked for 3 hours, cooked in foil for 2 hours, and then basted with barbecue sauce in the smoker for a final hour.  With this framework for cooking the pork, here is how I prepared to cook one on evening last week.


There are two separate things to prepare before I start cooking:  the grill and the food.  I like to start preparing the grill first, as I can start the fire and switch to food preparation while the coals are getting hot.

Grill Prep

I use charcoal briquettes and prefer to light them with a chimney starter.  I will wad up a bit of newspaper and light in the bottom of the starter.  While the coals are lighting, I begin soaking apple wood chips and clean up the cooking surface.  I place empty drip pans under where I will place the ribs, and add a small pan of water to keep the cooking area humid.  You can see photos of these items below, including a picture that shows how the firebox is next to and below my cooking surface.

Food Prep

First thing when preparing meat is to rinse it, ensuring that any loose dirt or debris is clear before I start to dress it.  With pork ribs, there is a membrane on the back of the meat that needs to be removed.  I usually cut a slit down the middle and remove the white membrane with the help of a paper towel.  Next, I have been using a pork rub from McCormick to douse and rub in to the top of the meat.  I also prepare a small spray bottle with apple juice to be used during the three hour smoking time.

The First Three Hours

Once the coals have started turning white in the chimney starter, I dump them into the firebox and place the ribs on the cooking surface to the right.  Next, I sprinkle the apple wood on the coals and close both doors to the grill. 

At this point, I start setting timers.  The first timer is for 30 minutes and the second timer is for three hours.  At the conclusion of 30 minutes, I use the spray bottle filled with apple juice to coat the ribs so that they stay wet.  My goal is to continuously infuse an apple flavor through the smoke and liquid.  Every 30 minutes, leading up to the three hour timer’s expiration, I will spray the ribs to keep them moist.  Photos below of each of the four spray jobs on the ribs. At the three hour mark, I wrap the ribs in aluminum foil and add some apple juice to the inside of the sealed package.  At this point, I usually add more freshly lit coals to the firebox, and  I leave the ribs in the foil for two hours to cook.

Final Steps in Smoking

After cooking in the foil for two hours, I open the foil and expect to see the bones starting to protrude from the bottom of the meat.  This is a sign that they are almost done cooking.  I discard the foil and then cover the top of the ribs with a wet sauce.  This is a major no-no for some in the Southern United States where they prefer dry ribs, but me… I like my ribs with a great sauce on them.  Recently, I’ve taken a liking to Bulls Eye Texas Style sauce.  With a coating of that on the product, I close up the grill and let them cook for another hour. 

At the conclusion of that hour, these ribs look glorious.. and certainly taste that way too.  They should be firm, and not fall apart in your hands. 

if you have any tips for how I can improve my technique or something that I’m missing, let me know in the comments below.   Best of luck to you in grilling this season!