The 3-2-1 Method

Photo by Erik Abderhalden
Photo by Erik Abderhalden

There is nothing as good as sitting down to a juicy, well seasoned, rack of ribs. Conversely, there are very few things that are as frustrating as sitting down to a plate of ribs only to find them dry and tough. In response to this, the 3-2-1 method was designed. The goal of this method is to allow you to prepare smoked ribs that are so tender the meat just falls off of the bone. There is no extra effort required on your part when it comes to eating these delicious ribs.

In order to take advantage of this technique, you will need a few things. First, you will need a large sheet of aluminum foil. From there, you are going to use the tools and instruments that are traditionally associated with smoking ribs. The 3–2–1 method of smoking ribs breaks down like this. Three hours smoking ribs like normal. Two hours having the ribs cooked while being wrapped in aluminum foil. Then, one final hour of the ribs cooking while unwrapped.

The reason why this process works is that during those first 3 hours the ribs are going to be sucking up flavor of the smoke. Then, during the next 2 hours of the ribs being wrapped in aluminum foil, they are enveloped in steam. This makes them tender. This is what causes the meat to pull away from the bone. Finally, during that last one hour, the ribs are cooked under dry smoky heat. This allows the ribs to form a nice crunchy exterior.

So let’s spend a few minutes breaking down the steps that are involved in the 3–2–1 method.

First, you are going to want to get the ribs prepared. Do this by taking off the membranes and putting on your rib rub.

Next, you are going to take the ribs and put them with the bone side down in a smoker that has been set at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. This is going to be done for 3 hours.

For the third step, you will take the ribs and tightly wrap the aluminum foil around them. You want the aluminum foil to make a seal around the ribs that is airtight. Put the ribs back into the smoker, but this time, do it bone up. Smoke them for 2 hours.

For step four, you will remove the aluminum foil from the ribs and put them back into the smoker, bone side down. This step will last for approximately one hour.

Step five is optional. If you want sauce on your ribs, apply it during the last half an hour that the ribs are cooking.

There are variations to the 3–2–1 method that can be applied when cooking certain types of ribs. This method has been designed specifically for pork spareribs. However, if you prefer to use back ribs, then you will adjust your method to the 2–2–1 method. If you do this, you will prevent the ribs from getting too dry.

The only downside to this method, if you could call it that, is that the meat might be to tender and fall off the bones too quickly for some people’s taste. Now for those people, the ideal smoked rib is one that has meat that falls off the bone on its own. However, there are other individuals who feel that a good rib is one that is cooked to the point where the meat still stays connected to the bones but doesn’t stick to the bones. What this means is that when they bite and pull away on the rib, all of the meat comes off cleanly.

So, if you or your friends are individuals who want ribs that requires just a touch of biting for it to remove from the bone, then maybe this method is not for you. However, for everyone else who likes delicious ribs that have meat that is just falling off the bone, the 3–2–1 method is definitely right for you.

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