This is my tried and true method for the best pellet grill spare ribs! If you’re new to smoking meats or cooking on a Traeger (or any pellet grill), you’ve come to the right place! We will walk you through the 3-2-1 method for making some of the best smoked ribs you’ve ever had!
What is the 3-2-1 method?
Simply put, the 3-2-1 method is a “best odds” process for making delicious BBQ ribs that remain moist and tender after a long cooking time. It breaks down like this:
3 hours of smoking time.
2 hours wrapped in foil (or butcher paper) and placed back onto the pellet smoker.
1 hour unwrapped, place back onto the grill and sauced. This portion of the cooking time is completely subjective. If your ribs are the right temp and feel after 20-30 minutes, remove them.
A total cook time of 6 hours.
*Barbecue has few rules and these times are averages, not an exact. Keep a close eye on ribs as they cook and adjust the time and temperature as needed.
Tips for Pellet Grill Ribs:
- Fuel: Have enough fuel to get you through a 6 hour cook time. There is nothing worse than running out of fuel right in the middle of cooking.
- Flavor: What flavor profile are you looking to achieve? Do you want a smokier rack of ribs or something more mellow? And, would you like these ribs sauced or served without BBQ sauce?
- Smoke: We recommend using apple, maple, mesquite or pecan pellets for this recipe.
What you’ll need to make pellet grill spare ribs:
- 2 racks of St. Louis cut spare ribs ( you can use baby back ribs, but you will need to shorten the cooking time)
- 2/3 cup of my Pitmaster BBQ Rib Rub OR my Pitmaster Honey Rub
- 2 tablespoons of either: mustard, margarine, or oil for each rack of ribs
- 3/4 cup Apple juice (1/4 cup for wrapping each rack of ribs, 1/4 cup for spritzing)
- Cider vinegar (1/4 cup for spritzing)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, or 1/4 cup for each rack of ribs (for wrapping)
- 1/4 cup butter, or 2 tablespoons per each rack of ribs (for wrapping)
- Aluminum foil
- 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce or rib candy (if planning to sauce the ribs)
Pellet grill pork ribs step by step guide:
Heat your pellet grill for 225 degrees F., keep the lid closed until it comes to temperature. I recommend using cherry, apple, maple, or mesquite pellets for this recipe. You can also use hickory or pecan wood pellets as well.
Place spare ribs on a large cutting board and remove membranes from the bone side of the spare ribs. Use a butter knife to separate it off the edge, get a good grip, and carefully pull it away. Use a paper towel if it becomes too slippery. Trim off any large knobs of fat or loose meat hanging off of the ribs.
Flip the ribs over so that the flesh side is exposed. Combine rub ingredients and set aside. You’ll need 1/3 of a cup of my Pitmaster rib rub per rack of ribs.
You have a few options here. You can brush 2 tablespoons of oil, margarine, or mustard on each rack of spare ribs before applying the rub, or you can skip this step entirely and apply the rub directly onto the meat. I like to use mustard because it adds a nice layer of flavor to these pellet grill spare ribs. Don’t worry; it won’t make the ribs taste like mustard once they cook!
Remember to season both sides of the ribs.
Place the ribs bone side down onto the grill grates, close the lid, and let them cook for 3 hours at 225 degrees F.
Combine apple juice with apple cider vinegar and pour into a clean, food-safe spray bottle—Spritz ribs after 2 hours of cooking time. Do not spritz ribs before then. We want a nice bark to form, and spritzing too early can prevent this from happening.
After 3 hours of cooking time:
- Remove spare ribs from your pellet grill, and place each rack onto a large sheet of aluminum foil.
- Add a 1/4 cup apple juice, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons of chopped butter to each rack.
- Seal them up in the aluminum foil and return them to the grill for another 2 hours, at 225 degrees F.
After the 2 hours are up, unwrap your pellet grill spare ribs, and place them back onto the grill as pictured above. Finish cooking for another 60 minutes. If you plan on saucing the ribs (purely optional), this is the time to do it. Apply a thin layer of sauce to the ribs every 15 minutes until the ribs are done. The sauce will be good and caramelized.
Rest and Carving:
Remove ribs once they reach an internal temperature of 205 degrees F.
Place the smoked ribs onto a clean cutting board, tent with foil, and let them rest for 20 minutes. Slice into individual ribs with a sharp knife. Keep in mind that these pellet grill pork ribs will be quite tender, so cutting them might take a little patience, but that it’s well worth it! Tender and infused with smoke flavor, these ribs are simply amazing!
What About Baby Back Ribs? Baby Back Ribs are smaller and cook faster. The general rule for these ribs is to go with a 2-2-1 method where the initial cooking and wrapping times are reduced by one hour. Read our pellet grill baby rib recipe guide for more information.
Pellet Grill Spare Ribs
- 2 racks pork ribs St. Louis cut preferred
- 1/2-2/3 cup Pitmaster BBQ Rib Rub
- 1/4 cup softened margarine, yellow mustard, or oil optional (2 tablespoons per rack)
- 3/4 cup apple juice 1/4 cup for spritz, 1/2 cup for wrapping
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar for wrapping (1/4 cup per each rack of ribs)
- 1/4 cup butter or margarine for wrapping (2 tablespoons per each rack of ribs)
- Small spray bottle
- Aluminum foil 2 large sheets
- Gather your ingredients.
- Set the pellet cooker for 225 degrees F., keep the lid closed until it comes up to temp. I recommend using cherry, apple, maple or mesquite pellets for this recipe.
- Place ribs on a large cutting board and remove membrane from the back. Use a knife to separate it off the edge, get a good grip, and carefully pull it away. Use a paper towel if it becomes too slippery. Trim away large knobs of fat or loose pieces of meat.
- Combine rub ingredients in a small bowl. You'll need 1/2-2/3 cup for both racks of ribs.
- You have a few options here. You can spread 2 tablespoons each of either margarine, yellow mustard or oil on the ribs before applying the rub. You can skip this step entirely and apply the rub directly onto the meat. Either way, season the rib well!
- Place ribs bone side down in the grill and let them go for 3 hours at 225 degrees F.
- Optional step: Combine apple juice with cider vinegar and pour into a clean, food safe spray bottle—Spritz ribs after 2 hours into cooking time.
- After 3 hours of cooking time, remove ribs and place each rack onto a large sheet of aluminum foil. Add 1/4 cup of apple juice, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons butter to each rack of ribs, seal them up and return them to the grill for another 2 hours.
- After the 2 hours are up, unwrap ribs, place them back onto the grill, and let them finish cooking for an additional 60 minutes. If you plan on saucing the ribs, this is the time to do it. Brush a thin layer of sauce to the ribs every 15 minutes until done. The sauce should be nice and caramelized.
- Remove ribs once they reach an internal temperature of 205 degrees F. Place them onto a clean cutting board, tent with foil and let them rest for 20 minutes. Cut into individual ribs with a sharp knife and serve.