Making Ribs Is as Easy as 3-2-1

Photo by Z Grills Australia on Unsplash

Nothing but time and a fresh rack of ribs on your hands? You’re in luck! 

Today we’re diving into the absolute best way to cook a rack of ribs, using the 3-2-1 method. Keep scrolling for everything you need to know about making the best ribs you’ve ever had.

What is the 3-2-1 Method for Grilled or Smoked Ribs?

Named after the three sets of cooking times, this rib technique is (in our humble opinion) the only way to make ribs. Cooked low and slow, about six hours to be exact, these 3-2-1 ribs will impress even the pickiest grillmaster with the first bite. 

Essentially what you’re doing is breaking the cooking times into three easy chunks; a smoking time, a wrapped cooking time, and a basting time.

Fire up your smoker or grill, we’re breaking down the steps below!

How to Make the Best 3-2-1 Ribs 

If you’re interested in joining the ranks of people who have fallen in love with making their own 3-2-1 ribs, here’s the full rub (sorry, we had to):

  • Set your smoker or grill to 225 F degrees. Sprinkle your ribs generously with a dry rub or brush them with a wet mop sauce, then smoke them on low heat for 3 hours.  
  • Next, (carefully!) wrap your ribs in foil, and add a liquid of your choice, usually an apple cider vinegar blend, then seal it all up and return them to the smoker for another 2 hours. In our recipe we use more of our wet mop for this step.
  • In the last 1 hour, you’re going to baste the meat with a wet mop of your choice, and return it to the smoker or grill. Smoke for one hour, cranking up the temperature the last 15 minutes or so to get slightly “stickier” ribs.

What are Dry Rubs and Wet Mops?

Mop sauces (or wet mops) are used to baste barbecued meats, infusing it with tons of flavor while slowly cooking. Wet mops work really well with dry rubs to create a perfect crust on your meat. Wet mops are added to the meat during the smoking process, to keep it from drying out. This also creates a layering of flavor that’s so unique to a great barbecue. 

Even though traditional Memphis-style ribs are often (but not always) made without a sauce, they are still moist and tender. This is due to the wet mop process. 

Dry rubs are a combination of spices, herbs and sugar that are mixed together and used for flavoring and coating meat. Some of the must-haves for the perfect dry rub are paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.

Photo by Z Grills Australia on Unsplash 

Tips & Tricks for the 3-2-1 Rib Method 

Plan Ahead 

The 3-2-1 rib technique takes a full six hours from start to finish. If time management isn’t your forte, this tip is for you: make sure to start the ribs well before you’re scheduled to eat. There’s nothing worse than letting your sides get cold while you wait for the meat to be done. Allocate at least 30 extra minutes for the in-between steps and prep work/clean up. 

Protect Your Hands

The slow-and-low cooking method for ribs is typically done at around 225F-275F, but even though this is a much lower cooking temperature than you might be used to, the sizzling meat (that has been cooking for six hours!) will leave a hearty burn if you’re not careful. When you’re handling your piping-hot ribs, make sure to use gloves or pot holders to protect the most important grilling utensils of all: your hands!

Before You Go…

Have you given the 3-2-1 BBQ ribs method a shot? What did you think? We’d love to see how your ribs turned out! Tag us on Instagram, and make sure to follow along for more grilling tips and tricks!