Smoked St. Louis style or Baby Back Pork Ribs
Time for our awesome smoked pork ribs recipe! Who doesn’t love a good smoked pork rib. Tender meat, a perfect sized bone to impart delicious flavor and juiciness, and that perfect level of smokiness. To sauce the ribs or not is up to you, just make sure they are well seasoned.
Easy Smoked Ribs Recipe
Our preferred way is to cook the ribs until either nearly done or to smoke the ribs until fully tender and then add the BBQ sauce at the end. If everything is only going to be cooked in the smoker over indirect heat, then we’ll mop on the sauce over the last 45 minutes. That way it has a chance to caramelize without being overcooked.
However, if you can throw your smoked ribs over direct heat (i.e. directly on the grill over the coals, or on a propane grill over medium-high heat), then we’ll cook the ribs until fully tender. Take them out of the smoker, sauce ’em up, and then sear them with the sauce to barely caramelize it and give a nice little crust. This method works fantastic when you want to cook the ribs ahead of time and then reheat them, or for serving leftovers. We like the texture the best on this second option as well but both ways of finishing with sauce are great.
Video: How to Smoke Pork Ribs Recipe :
What is Best Charcoal to Smoke Meat?
If you want the best smoky flavor, use a good lump charcoal. We usually use a mesquite lump charcoal and have always been happy with the flavors. We smoke the meat in a grill which has an offset smoker box. When filling the box with charcoal, divide the lit charcoal coals from the unlit, not having them all piled up together. Place the lit charcoal closest to the vent and the unlit closest to the cooking chamber. This will allow the charcoal to slowly burn its way towards the grill and not all burn at once.
Smoking wood chips
If you use briquettes, even good competition briquettes, we highly recommend to also use smoking wood chips. Either harvest your own from fruit tree trimmings or other good smoking wood (ie. apple or stone fruit trimmings, hickory, pecan wood) or buy smoking chips. Briquettes alone need a little help to get a decent smoke flavor, but with all of the lump charcoal brands we’ve bought, we’ve haven’t needed to add any extra smoking chips or trimmings. The lump charcoal alone produces a great flavor in the meat.
You don’t have to have an offset smoker to cook great BBQ. Nearly any smoker, even regular grills so long as you aren’t cooking over direct heat will do. The key is to maintain the temperature at a nice 225°F-275°F and have something in there (lump charcoal or smoking chips/wood) to impart a good smokey flavor to the meat. Don’t overdue the smokiness or else it will dominate the taste, but if you have just enough it will be magical.
How Long to Smoke Ribs?
Time factor for smoked pork ribs will vary depending on how thick your ribs are and what cut you are using. Usually you’ll find either St. Louis style ribs or Baby Back Ribs. They are two different cuts with the St. Louis having a bigger bone thus taking longer to cook. Both are delicious and everyone has their own individual preference. The ribs in the photos are a St. Louis cut. For the curious, here’s a great breakdown on the difference between St. Louis style Ribs and Baby Back Ribs.
In regards to timing, if you maintain a smoking temperature between 225°F-275°F, St. Louis style ribs will usually take 5-6 hours to be perfect and Baby Back ribs will take 3-4 hours. Because of the bones temperature varying from the meat, you can’t really use a thermometer to tell when they are done. You have to go old school. Some will pick up a slab and gently bounce it. If the surface cracks it is done. Other’s will cut off a test rib and eat it.
LOVE our Weber Charcoal Chimney Starter – Perfect way to light lump charcoal or briquettes.
Season ribs with salt and pepper
Make it a feast! We smoked a chicken too. Our smoked chicken recipe here.
Brush-on your favorite sauce! We used our easy & kick-butt honey mustard sauce.
LOVE the sauce!
Heck yeah! Super tender, juicy but still with a great bite.
Best BBQs & Tools for Smoking Meat:
Some tools, grills, and smokers make BBQ and grilling all the more enjoyable. Here’s some of the favorites:
Avoid BBQ Tool Sets. We’ve yet to find a set where we love everything in it. Either the spatula or the tongs or the brush is wonky. Or there is stuff in there I never need. Do yourself a favor and just buy what you need a la carte. For grilling tongs, these bad boys are awesome.
Have a grilling or BBQ question, you’ll most likely find an answer here. The most comprehensive grilling & BBQ book we’ve ever found, by far. He breaks down the science and myths, the tools, solid recipes, perfecting techniques, what’s BBQ competition tricks aren’t worth the extra time at home, and much more. You will be grill & BBQ enlightened.
Grilling should never be confined to the daylight. Love this BBQ light. Good brightness, solid magnets plus clamp option. We’ve gone through 1/2 dozen different grilling lights before falling in love with this one. Be ready to grill all night long.
Love this offset smoker. Solid construction. Isn’t perfect, but with a couple easy modifications it will smoke as well as the $1k + smokers. Can use the main chamber also as a regular charcoal grill. Love using it as a regular grill using lump charcoal or briquettes. Huge cooking surface.
One of the best for the money. Solid gas grill! Nothing like the quick convenience of a good gas grill.
Flame Boss Wifi Temperature Control –
A gadget geeks smoking dream. Control your grill and smoker’s temp. from your phone. Adjusts air flow, determines meat temperature. Gadget awesomeness!
This recipe was originally published in 2017 and re-published in 2019 with a new video.
Smoked Pork Ribs
- 1 slab St. Louis Cut Pork Ribs or 1 slab Baby Back Ribs (usually about 2.5 lbs)
- Kosher Salt , to taste (be generous)
- fresh cracked Black Pepper , to taste (be generous)
- your favorite BBQ sauce , optional
- smoker or grill set up for in-direct grilling
- Optional - fruit or nut wood cuttings or chips (if using chips-soak in water for @30 minutes before using)
- Rinse the ribs and if needed, remove the membrane from the underside of the ribs. Here's a link for instruction on how to remove the membrane. Season the ribs liberally with salt and pepper. If using sauce, don't add the sauce yet. You'll sauce them towards the end of smoking.
- Light charcoal (a chimney is our favorite method). If using a side smoker box, place the lit charcoal next to the side vent door (furthest from the grill), then stack the unlit charcoal going towards the grill (not on top of the already lit charcoal). Start with the vents open just a little bit.
- Place the ribs in the smoker and close door. After about 15 minutes, check the smoker's temperature. You'll want to keep the temperature between 225°F-275°F. Adjust the vents as needed (less air to cool the temperature, more to increase the heat).While smoking occasionally adjust the vents to keep the cooking temperature between 225°F-275°F. If using briquettes *see head note, add a handful of wood cuttings or chips on top of the lit charcoal two or three times during the smoking. (Don't do this too much or else the meat will be overly smoky. Once every hour to hour and half is usually perfect).
- Cook for 3-4 hours for baby back ribs, 5-6 hours for St. Louis cut ribs. *see following optional instructions if cooking with a sauce. When finished, the ribs should be tender, but not quite falling off the bone. It is nice for them to have a little bite to the meat.
Cooking ribs with a sauce, two options
- Depending on your setup and preference, Option 1 is nice if you are serving straight from the smoker. Option 2 gives a better crust and is great if you are cooking the ribs ahead of time and then want to re-heat them before serving. Both options you'll cook the ribs mostly without any sauce. It is just used at the end. Option 1: Brush the sauce on the ribs in the smoker when you feel they have about 45 minutes or so left to cook. If desired, brush again when serving. Option 2: Cook the ribs completely without sauce. When ready to serve: Sauce the ribs (individually after being cut or the whole slab) and then quickly sear the coated ribs over direct heat (directly over coals or directly over a gas grill on medium-high).