How Long To Smoke Ribs?

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By: Tom Valenti


Ribs are the quintessential food of summertime barbecues, football tailgates, and family get-togethers. Whether you’re a novice grill master or an expert pitmaster, knowing how long to smoke ribs is a crucial part of the process of creating succulent and perfectly cooked ribs.

In this blog post, we’ll answer all your questions about smoking ribs, like what temperature should they be smoked at and how long should they stay on the smoker? We’ll also provide some tips on preparing and seasoning them so you can make delicious smoked ribs every time!


About Ribs

About Ribs

Smoked ribs are a popular BBQ dish where pork ribs are cooked using the smoking method. The ribs are seasoned with a dry rub or coated in BBQ sauce, then cooked slowly over low heat in a smoker with the addition of wood chips to give the meat a smoky flavor.

Choosing the type of ribs is an important first step in deciding whether your dish is good or not. There are two main types of pork ribs: baby back ribs and spare ribs. Baby back ribs are smaller and leaner, while spare ribs are larger and fattier. Consider which type of ribs you prefer before making your selection. Look for ribs that have a deep, rich color and are well-marbled with fat. The meat should look moist and juicy without any signs of drying out.

It’s important to consider the amount of fat in the ribs when smoking them. Ribs with higher fat content require more attention during the long, low-heat cooking process to prevent them from drying.

How Long to Smoke Ribs? 

Now, you got the knowledge about ribs, let’s find out how long to smoke ribs. The time it takes will depend on the type of ribs you’re cooking, the temperature at which they are cooked, and other factors such as weather conditions.Generally speaking, spare ribs take about 4-6 hours, and baby back ribs take about 3-5 hours on average.

The most important thing to remember is that ribs should not be cooked at a temperature higher than 225-250°F (107-121°C). It’s important to use a meat thermometer to check the rib’s internal temperature to ensure they are fully cooked.

What Temperature to Smoke a Rack of Ribs?

What Temperature to Smoke a Rack of Ribs

The ideal temperature for smoking a rack of ribs is between 225-250°F (107-121°C). This low and slow cooking method allows the ribs to cook evenly, become tender, and absorb the flavors of the smoke.

Maintaining a consistent temperature throughout the smoking process is important to ensure the ribs cook evenly and don’t dry out. It’s also important to note that the ribs’ internal temperature is a better indicator of doneness than the cooking time. The internal temperature of the meat should reach around 195°F (90°C) for tender, juicy ribs.

3-2-1 Method For Smoking Ribs

The 3-2-1 method is a popular technique for smoking ribs involving a specific timing sequence. The numbers in the name refer to the amount of time that the ribs are smoked, wrapped, and then finished, respectively:

Start by smoking the ribs for 3 hours with your preferred seasoning or dry rub. After 3 hours of smoking, wrap the ribs in foil with a bit of liquid, such as apple juice or beer. This helps to tenderize the meat and prevent it from drying out. Return the wrapped ribs to the smoker and continue cooking for an additional 2 hours. Take the ribs out of the smoker and apply a generous amount of barbeque sauce to both sides of the meat. Then, place the ribs back on the smoker racks and cook them for 1 hour.

How To Smoke Ribs? 

Smoked Ribs Ingredients:

  • Two Racks of pork ribs (baby back or spare ribs)
  • Six Tablespoon Melted Honey 
  • Four Tablespoon Melted Butter
  • Dry Rib Rub 
  • BBQ sauce, either homemade Jack Daniels Sauce or traditional BBQ Sauce

Gear for Smoking Ribs:

  • Smoker:  This can be either a charcoal smoker, electric smoker, or gas smoker.
  • Wood Chips: Hickory is a popular choice for pork ribs.
  • Charcoal/Briquettes: For charcoal smokers only.
  • Aluminum Foil: For wrapping ribs before smoking.


  • Time required for preparation: Two hours and fifteen minutes
  • Time required for smoking and cooking: Four hours
  • Time required for resting: Fifteen minutes
  • Overall time required: Six and a half hours.


  • Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs by using a butter knife or a paper towel to loosen the membrane and then pulling it off with your fingers.
  • Rub the ribs with a dry rub or coat them with BBQ sauce. Ensure to cover both ribs’ sides thoroughly.
  • Prepare your smoker by preheating it to 225-250°F (107-121°C) and adding your desired wood chips to the smoker box or directly to the coals.
  • When the smoker has heated up, put the ribs on the smoker rack with the bone side down. Close the smoker lid and let the ribs smoke for 3-4 hours for baby back ribs or 5-6 hours for spare ribs.
  • Check the ribs’ temperature using a meat thermometer. When the ribs’ internal temperature reaches 195°F (90°C), they are ready to be removed from the smoker.
  • Once the ribs are done, remove them from the smoker and let them rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting into them. This allows the juices to redistribute and results in more tender and flavorful meat.
  • Slice the ribs between the bones and serve with additional BBQ sauce on the side.

Tips for Smoking a Rack of Ribs

The Wood Matters

Choosing the right wood when smoking a rack of ribs is important because it greatly affects the flavor of the meat. Different types of wood produce different levels of smoke, which can create a range of flavors in the meat. Some woods are strong and bold, while others are mild and sweet, and each wood type can impart its own unique flavor profile to the ribs. 

For example, hickory is a popular wood for smoking pork ribs because its strong, smoky flavor complements the rich flavor of the meat, while applewood is a good choice for adding a subtle, fruity sweetness to the ribs.

The Common Myth

Most people are familiar with the expression “fall off the bone,” which describes ribs cooked to perfection and are very tender. However, it is important not to interpret this phrase too literally, as ribs that actually fall off the bone are probably overcooked, resulting in dry meat. The true indicator of well-cooked ribs is when the meat separates easily from the bone with a gentle tug.

Little Known Mustard Trick

One little-known trick that many pitmasters use when smoking ribs is to apply a thin layer of yellow mustard to the ribs before adding the rub. The mustard acts as a binder, helping the rub to adhere to the meat better and resulting in a more even coating of seasoning.

In addition, the acid in the mustard can help to tenderize the meat and break down some of the connective tissue, resulting in more tender and juicy ribs. The mustard itself does not add any significant flavor to the ribs, so it won’t alter the final product’s taste.

The Sauce

The use of barbeque sauce is an optional step in the smoking of ribs, but it can be an important one for those who enjoy a saucy finish to their ribs.

When using barbeque sauce, it’s important to apply it at the right time. If the sauce is added too early, it can burn and create a bitter taste. On the other hand, if the sauce is added too late, it may not have enough time to meld with the meat and fully develop its flavor.


Should Ribs Be Flipped When Smoking?

Yes, it’s a good idea to flip ribs at least once during the smoking process. This helps to ensure even cooking and helps to prevent the meat from sticking to the smoker racks.

Do You Put The Ribs Meat Side Up or Down?

When smoking ribs, placing them on the smoker racks with the meat side facing up is generally recommended. This allows the smoke to penetrate and flavor the meat while the fat drips and bastes it as it cooks.

Why Are My Ribs Not Pulling Back From Bone?

If your ribs are not pulling back from the bone, it could indicate that they need more time to cook. The meat should be cooked until it has pulled back from the bone by about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch, indicating that it is tender and ready to be eaten.

What Is The Best Temp to Smoke Ribs?

The ideal temperature to smoke ribs is 225°F. At this temperature, the collagen in the meat breaks down slowly, resulting in tender, juicy ribs that are full of flavor.

What Temperature Do Ribs Fall Off The Bone?

Ribs that are cooked to the point of falling off the bone break down the collagen and fat that makes them so tender and meltingly delicious. The ideal temperature for tender, juicy ribs is between 190°F and 205°F.


Cooking ribs the right way takes patience and practice – but it’s well worth it! If you’ve been wondering how long to smoke ribs, the short answer is 4-6 hours for a rack of ribs. To make sure your ribs are perfectly cooked, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature at 4 hours. For the best flavor and tenderness, try to keep your smoker’s temperature around 225°F throughout the process.

Although smoking ribs can take up to an entire day, there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of biting into perfectly cooked rib meat with all its smoky flavor. So, fire up that smoker, grab some sticky barbecue sauce, and get ready for the best (and longest) cooking experience ever!

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Tom Valenti

Chef/Owner of both Ouest and ‘Cesca, and the Executive Chef of Le Cirque, Alison on Dominick, and Butterfield 81.

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