Every good rib recipe starts with a good dry rub, and this one is no exception. Smoky, sweet, and juuust right for pork, beef, or even chicken, this dry rub is an all-purpose pleaser. Although this recipe makes enough for a couple of slabs of ribs, I like to mix up a huge batch and put it in an airtight jar to have on hand for grilling all summer long.

The 3-2-1 method is my favorite way to get smoky AND tender ribs, and it’s nearly impossible to screw up. Smoke for 3 hours, wrap in foil and cook for 2 hours, then remove the foil and cook for up to 1 more hour, or until your sauce is set and your ribs are perfect.

Smoking ribs requires very little hands-on time. It’s mostly just letting the grill do the work. You’re going to be the envy of the neighborhood when the smell of these ribs starts wafting through the air!

You’ll need:

For the rub:

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp MSG (optional)

For the ribs:

2 racks of ribs
1/4 C mustard
1/2 C apple or other juice (not citrus)
1/2 C brown sugar
1/3 C honey or maple syrup
BBQ sauce of your choice


Heavy-duty foil

To start, take your ribs out of the fridge and remove the membrane on the bone side. It’s easiest to slide a knife under the edge of this skin towards the middle of the rack, then grab the membrane with a paper towel and pull it off.

Trim off any other fat you don’t want on your ribs (I am pretty aggressive with it, but you can leave as much or trim as much as you like).

Add the rub ingredients to a bowl and whisk them together.

Paint your ribs on both sides with the mustard. A lot of rubs contain dried mustard; here we’re getting a similar effect but using it as a binder to get as much of the rub on the meat as we can. You will not taste mustard in the final ribs, but it does add a pleasant tang.

Sprinkle the ribs with the rub and press it into the meat, starting on the meat side and finishing on the bone side. You want to use ALL of the rub, so if you have some left over, sprinkle and rub in the rest. Let the ribs sit on the counter while you pre-heat your smoker.

Pre-heat your smoker to 180F. Cherry, pecan, or apple wood (or pellets) are great with these, but I’ve done them with hickory and even mesquite and loved them, too.

Once your smoker is heated up, your ribs should have had time to brine a little—the rub will look a little wet. This is what you want!

Add the ribs to the smoker, meat side up, and smoke for 3 hours, or until a thermometer reads 160F

After 3 hours, turn the heat up to 225F and remove the ribs from the grill. They should look like this.

While the smoker heats up, you’re going to quickly wrap your ribs.

Pull out two sheets of foil 6” longer than your ribs. Sprinkle the middle of one sheet (where the ribs will go) with half of the brown sugar, then drizzle with half of the honey.

Lay one rack of ribs on the mix, meat side down.

Bring up the long edges to meet and fold them over. Fold up one short edge, leaving the other edge open. Pour in half of your fruit juice. I used blueberry pomegranate juice because that’s what I had, but apple works great, too. You can even use beer! Just don’t use a citrus juice, because it will make your meat mushy.

Seal up the final short edge of your packet and repeat the process for the other rack of ribs. Put the packets back on the grill, sealed edges facing up (so the meat is now facing down, if you’ve done it right). Grill for 2 hours, or until a thermometer measures 205F.

Take the racks off of the grill, and discard the foil and accumulated juices. They’ll look like this.

Brush both sides with your BBQ sauce (I used half Carolina mustard and half sweet KC sauce).

Add the ribs back to the grill, bone side down. Grill for 30-60 minutes, or until the sauce is set on the outside (not wet and thin anymore).

Let the ribs rest about ten minutes before cutting them up and serving. I like to drizzle mine with more sauce.

When the neighbors ring your doorbell angling for a dinner invite, pretend you’re not home!

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