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3 2 1 ribs served on stone platter

3 2 1 Ribs - Breaking the Rules

Course: Main
Cuisine: American
Keyword: BBQ, Comfort Food, Family Friendly, Grilling, Party, Smoked, Tailgating
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours
Resting Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 536kcal
Author: Marilyn
When you want foolproof barbecue ribs, 3 2 1 Ribs is the ideal recipe for amateur or experienced grillers alike. This method for smoking ribs requires 5 hours, most of which is hands off. For this, you will be rewarded with moist, tender and delicious smoked baby back ribs.
Print Recipe


  • Smoker or Grill


  • 2 racks baby back ribs 2-½ to 3 pounds each
  • ¼ cup yellow mustard
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Dry Rub

  • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup paprika
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin


  • 1 12 ounces can of beer ale, lager or wit beers work best
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest

BBQ Sauce


  • Preheat the smoker, according to manufacturer's directions, to 225°F.
  • Remove the thin membrane from the bottom of the ribs. (see tip) Pat ribs dry with a paper towel.
  • In a small bowl, combine the yellow mustard and apple cider vinegar. Lightly brush the mixture all over the ribs.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, paprika, kosher salt, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and cumin. Generously pat the rib rub all over the ribs.
  • Arrange the ribs, meat side up, on the grill racks. Close the grill and smoke for 3 hours.
  • Meanwhile, turn up the edges of 2 large sheets of heavy duty foil and place side-by-side onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Pour ¼ cup (4 ounces) of the beer onto each foil section and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest each. Discard or drink the remaining beer.
  • Using tongs, carefully transfer the ribs, meat side up, to the center of the foil. Wrap the ribs into flat foil packets. (see tips) Place the packets back on the smoker, seam side up, for 60 minutes.
  • Carefully open the foil packets a little at a time to let the steam escape. Using a fork, test the tenderness of the meat in between the ribs. (If more cooking time is needed, roughly close the foil and cook another 15 minutes.) Using tongs, remove the ribs from the foil packets and place back on the grill.
  • Brush the ribs with your choice of barbecue sauce. Cook, occasionally brushing with sauce, 45 to 60 minutes or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the rib meat registers at least 190°F and the ribs are tender. To test for tenderness, slightly turn 2 ribs opposite each other. If the meat gives easily, the ribs are done. If not, close the grill and continue cooking for 15 minutes or until tender.
  • Transfer the ribs back to the sheet pan, cover with foil, and let rest 15 minutes.
  • Cut ribs into individual ribs. Serve with additional sauce on the side.


To remove the membrane - Check the bottom of the ribs to see if there is a thin clear membrane attached. Sometimes this is removed by the butcher. If not, take the tip of a knife to loosen one end. Using your fingers pull the membrane off of the ribs in one big piece. The movement is similar to removing tape. 
Mustard Vinegar mixture - Brushing the ribs with this mixture prior to adding the rub not only adds flavor and tenderizer to the ribs, but helps the dry rub stick to the ribs.
How to make a foil packet - 
Step 1. Place the ribs lengthwise in the center of the foil. Add the apple cider vinegar to the bottom of the packet. You may need to turn up the edges of the foil.
Step 2. Wrap the foil lengthwise over the top and fold the edges tightly to seal.How to make a flat foil or parchment packet for cooking en papillote Step 2
Step 3. Fold the ends of the foil packet 2 to 3 times and seal tightly.How to make a flat foil or parchment packet for cooking en papillote Step 3
These packets are what we call flat packs. They do not have the big domed top that results more in steaming than tenderizing. You don't want to push the foil onto the ribs, just make sure the pack is flatter.
How to make a flat foil or parchment packet for cooking en papillote Step 3


Calories: 536kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 130mg | Sodium: 2621mg | Potassium: 693mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 2280IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 114mg | Iron: 3mg