The temperatures are rising, and summer is quickly approaching. For me and my family, this means that barbecue season is upon us, and our grills and smokers will be utilized more and more. One of my favorite things to barbecue on a Saturday afternoon while the kids play in the backyard is ribs; one of my favorite methods to cook ribs is the 3-2-1 Method.
We have all been to a backyard barbecue where the aroma is to die for, but the finished product leaves less to be desired when you finally get to bite into it. For ribs, this often means that the meat is tough and dry. With the 3-2-1 Method for cooking ribs, you are almost guaranteed to produce tender, fall off the bone goodness. You will be heralded as the block’s grilling genius while everyone digs in to your masterpiece.
The main thing, aside from near perfect ribs, that is incredibly advantageous about the 3-2-1 Method is its ease and predictability. You will not need to stand over your smoker or grill constantly checking your meat thermometer, leaving you more time to play with the kids or enjoy a cold one with your friends. And, you will be amazed at how consistent this method of cooking ribs is.
Let’s get down to the details. The 3-2-1 Method of cooking ribs consists of 3 hours of smoking your ribs (naked), followed by 2 hours of steaming your ribs (wrapped), and then 1 hour of finishing them off unwrapped while basting them with your favorite barbecue sauce. If you prefer a dryer rib, the barbecue sauce is optional; just don’t neglect that final hour.
For this method, you will need a quality cut of pork spareribs, your favorite spice rub and sauce (optional), a smoker, and a big sheet of aluminum foil. To begin, we need to prepare the ribs for smoking. To do so, rinse the ribs thoroughly and then remove the membrane from the ribs. Next, generously apply your favorite spice rub to the entirety of the ribs. When your smoker is ready at about 225 degrees F. (108 degrees C.), place the ribs bone side down and smoke for 3 hours. Although it is not necessary, some people enjoy misting the ribs every hour with an apple juice mist. Other than misting, your ribs should be left unattended during this 3 hour smoking process.
Once the ribs are finished smoking for 3 hours, remove the ribs from the smoker and wrap them tightly with aluminum foil. After wrapping the ribs, place them back on the smoker bone side up for another 2 hours, leaving them unattended. While the first three hours really sets the spice rub into the ribs, the two hours of wrapped cooking provides a glaze on the ribs that really brings out the taste.
Now we are down to our final hour. Remove the aluminum foil from the ribs and replace the ribs back in the smoker bone side down. At this point, I like to baste my ribs with my favorite barbecue sauce. If this is your desire, simply coat the front and back of your ribs with your sauce. Depending on how wet you like your ribs, you might want to add a second coat at the 30 minute mark.
After about an hour, your ribs should be finished. A good way to check whether they are finished is to see if the ribs start to fall apart when you pick them up with your grilling tongs. If you start to see the rib meat tearing away from the bone, they are finished and ready to enjoy!
There you have it – a tried and true method to barbecuing a great set of ribs. If you follow the 3-2-1 Method for cooking ribs, I can assure that you and your guests will be wonderfully satisfied.