Meaty, juicy, and fall-off-the-bone tender, Traeger 3-2-1 Ribs is the way to go if you’re cooking ribs on your pellet smoker. Turning out perfectly every time, give your racks of ribs the royal treatment with this smoker recipe!

Smoked racks of ribs on a platter with slaw and bbq sauce on the side ready to be served.

This Traeger 3-2-1 Ribs recipe is just about as easy as smoked ribs get, and with this tried-and-true no-fail method, you’ll be ready to tear into meaty and oh-so-delicious tender ribs with a great smoky flavor.

I love using my Traeger pellet smoker for smoking ribs. Accurate temperature control and the perfect amount of smoke make these some of my favorite pork ribs, and I love ribs! You can’t go wrong with this recipe. It starts with meaty ribs, a spice blend that’s so good you don’t need any brown sugar, and my secret ingredient for keeping the ribs moist and tender throughout the long smoking process. 

What Ribs Are Best For Smoking?

We love baby back ribs. No, they’re not from baby pigs, and they’re called baby back ribs because they’re smaller than the other rib bones and are cut from near the top of the back where the ribs meet the spine. 

Baby back ribs smoke nicely and we like not paying for a huge amount of bone. However, you can also smoke St. Louis-style ribs, which are larger and meatier, or any cut of spare ribs. This recipe is scaled and timed for baby back ribs.

Ingredients for baby back ribs set out on a baking sheet.

What you need for 3 2 1 Ribs

  • Baby back ribs – 2 racks of pork ribs will feed about 6 people.
  • Salt – we always use kosher salt
  • Paprika
  • Mustard powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Black pepper
  • Oregano – Dried.
  • Chili powder
  • Mayonnaise – we’re changing things up an using mayo as the binder, but feel free to stick with the more traditional yellow mustard.
  • Butter – Unsalted
  • Maple syrup – Use the real stuff!
  • BBQ sauce – I love a sweet and spicy sauce, but you can use your favorite.

How to make 3-2-1 Smoked Ribs

There are a few steps in making 3-2-1 ribs, but never fear, I’ve got it all broken down for you.

1. Prep the ribs:

  • Remove the thin membrane on the back of the ribs by cutting a corner of it away from the backside of the ribs, then grabbing it with a paper towel and giving it a good pull. The membrane should pull away from the ribs. Another pro trick is using a butter knife to slide under the membrane and gently pull back. From there, you can grab it and pull the silver skin off.
  • Whisk the salt, paprika, mustard powder, garlic and onion powders, pepper, oregano, and chili powder together. 
  • Rub both sides of the ribs with the mayo, then sprinkle them evenly with the dry rub.
  • Refrigerate the ribs until ready to use, or for 1-4 hours.

2. Prep your Traeger pellet grill:

For the first 3 hours, you smoke the ribs.

  • Set your Traeger grill temperature to 225 F.
  • Place the ribs on the smoker, bone side down, and smoke for 3 hours.
Racks of baby back ribs on a Traeger smoker.

3. Wrap the ribs:

For the second 2 hours, you wrap the ribs.

  • Lay a large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil on a counter or work surface. Place three 1 tablespoon dollops of butter in a line down the center of the sheet, a few inches apart. 
  • Drizzle the syrup over the butter and bbq ribs.
  • Lay the ribs, meat side down, onto the butter, and fold the foil up around the ribs. 
  • Repeat for the second rack of ribs.
  • Return the ribs to the smoker and cook for an additional 2 hours, meat side down.

4. Sauce the ribs:

For the final hour of the 3-2-1 method, you set the sauce.

  • Remove the ribs from the smoker and let them rest for 5 minutes before unwrapping. 
  • Place the ribs back onto the grill grate of the smoker and brush with your favorite BBQ sauce. We love our homemade keto bbq sauce.
  • Smoke for 1 hour or until the barbecue sauce is set and tacky and the internal temperature of the ribs is anywhere from 190 – 205 F for bite-tender ribs or 205 – 210 F for fall-off-the-bone ribs.
  • Rest the ribs for 5 minutes before cutting and serving your juicy ribs!

Girl Carnivore Expert Recipe tips

  • 3 hours smoke time, 2 hours wrapped, 1 hour sauced – that’s the 3-2-1 method for smoked pork ribs!
  • You can use your favorite BBQ rub for ribs; just watch that it isn’t too salty.
  • Heavy-duty foil is what you need for wrapping ribs so that the rib bones don’t tear the foil.
  • Add wood chunks to the pellet smoker in the hot corners to add extra smoke flavor to your ribs.
  • To make this a low-carb easy 3-2-1 ribs recipe, use avocado mayo, Choczero syrup, and sugar-free BBQ sauce.
  • For an in-depth tutorial on how to smoke ribs on a traditional charcoal grill, check out this article by Girls Can Grill!
Hands picking up a smoked rib over a platter of them.

How to serve 3 2 1 Ribs 

I love having extra sauce on the side for dipping my ribs, and cool and creamy coleslaw goes so well with hot and meaty smoked ribs. Or, while you’ve got the smoker going, make this creamy and spicy Smoked Jalapeno Mac and Cheese or Smoked Potato Salad.

Showing 2 racks of ribs with 3 ribs sliced for serving.

Storing Traeger 321 Ribs

If you’ve got leftover ribs, package them in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Warm them in the microwave or oven to heat them, or nosh on them right out of the fridge!

Recipe FAQS

How long does it take to make Traeger 3-2-1 Ribs?

The 3-2-1 refers to how long the ribs cook in each stage of the process, so in total, these ribs will take 6 hours on your smoker.

Can you do 3-2-1 ribs in an electric smoker?

Yes, you can use any smoker, even electric smokers or any other pellet smoker, as long as it can hold the heat at a consistent temperature. Running the grill too hot changes the timeline of this cook, so make sure to check the internal temperature more than cooking time.

What is the final temp for smoked ribs?

Ribs should have an internal temp of 190 – 205 F for bite-tender ribs or 205 – 210 F for them to be perfectly tender and fall off the bone delicious.

2 racks of baby back ribs with a few ribs sliced from the rack to be eaten.

MORE PELLET SMOKER RECIPES

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Traeger 321 Ribs

5 from 30 votes
Prep: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook: 6 hours
Resting Time: 5 minutes
Total: 7 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 6
Two racks of ribs with a few ribs sliced out.
For tender ribs that are guaranteed to turn out right every time, try the 3-2-1 method. It's a simple formula to the time and method for perfect ribs. 3 hours on heat, 2 hours wrapped, 1 hour basted in sauce and finished!

Ingredients  

For the ribs:

  • 2 racks baby back ribs

For the spice mix:

  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp Paprika
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • ½ tsp Garlic powder
  • ½ tsp Onion powder
  • ½ tsp Black pepper
  • ½ tsp Oregano
  • ½ tsp Chili powder

For the binder:

  • 1/2 cup Mayo or yellow mustard

For the Wrap:

  • 6 tbsp butter unsalted
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup

Serving:

  • 1 cup BBQ Sauce

Instructions 

Prep the ribs:

  • Remove membrane by carefully using a butterknife to lift up the membrain. Then grab it with a paper towel in your hand and gently pull back.
    2 racks baby back ribs
  • Whisk spices together in a small bowl.
    1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp Paprika, 1 tsp mustard powder, ½ tsp Garlic powder, ½ tsp Onion powder, ½ tsp Black pepper, ½ tsp Oregano, ½ tsp Chili powder
  • Rub the ribs with the mayo evenly all over.
    1/2 cup Mayo
  • Sprinlke the baby back ribs with the rub.
  • Place the ribs on a baking sheet and set in fridge until ready to grill, 1 to 4 hours

Prep the pellet smoker:

  • Pre-heat your smoker to 225F.
  • When the smoker has come temp, place your ribs on the smoker, bone side down.
  • Close the lid and allow the ribs to smoke for 3 hours

Wrap the ribs:

  • Carefully remove the ribs from the smoker.
  • Arrange a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil on a clean work surface and place 3 tablespoons of butter along the center, with a few inches between each.
    6 tbsp butter
  • Drizzle the syrup over the butter.
    4 tbsp maple syrup
  • Arrange the ribs, meat side down, onto the butter and fold the foil up around the ribs to secure.
  • Repeat for the second rack of ribs
  • Wrap in another layer of foil, with the seal on top.
  • Return the wrapped baby back ribs to the smoker and cook for another 2 hours meat side down.

Sauce the ribs:

  • Carefully remove the ribs from the smoker.
  • Allow the ribs to sit for 5 minutes before unwrapping.
  • Using caution, unwrap the ribs. The steam can be very hot.
  • Place the ribs back onto the smoker and brush with sauce.
    1 cup BBQ Sauce
  • Let the ribs smoke for 1 more hour, or until the sauce is set and tacky and the ribs have reached an internal temp of 190 – 205 F for bite-tender ribs or 205 – 210 F for fall-off-the-bone ribs.
  • Remove the ribs from the smoker.

Rest & Serve:

  • Rest the ribs for 5 to 7 minutes before slicing the meat along the bones.
  • Serve with coleslaw and additional bbq sauce if desired.

Notes

Add wood chunks to your pellet smoker. Place them in the hot corners and allow the chunks to add extra smoked flavor to your grill.
An instant read thermometer, like the one I use from Thermoworks, will go a long way to making sure your ribs are progressing correctly through this cook. If you cook them too far, the meat will actually fall off the bone. You want a good bite, and tender meat, but not bones that pull out of the ribs. 
This recipe was tested in a Traeger pellet smoker but will work in any pellet grill. The 3-2-1 ribs method also works on any grill.
To Cook 3-2-1 Ribs on a Gas grill or Charcoal grill, set the grills to maintain a temperature of 225. Check the grill’s internal temp and use a thermometer with an ambient temperature probe to make sure you are holding heat. Swings in temperature will cause these ribs to cook longer or faster. 
We used Cowboy Charcoal & Hickory Pellets for a deeper smoked flavor. 
Keto substitutions and what we use for ourselves:
Avocado mayo
Choczero syrup
True organics Texas Style BBQ Sauce

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 565kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 41g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 11g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 103mg | Sodium: 1950mg | Potassium: 423mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 1117IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 73mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: barbeque
Author: Kita Roberts

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Well, Hey, Y’all.

Kita is a multi-talented individual, boasting numerous accomplishments such as being an award-winning recipe developer, world-traveled professional photographer, and journalist. As the lead creative force behind Girl Carnivore®, she is widely recognized as an authority on all things meat.

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5 from 30 votes (25 ratings without comment)

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I’m not very experienced with larger cuts of meat so your instructions were so, so helpful, and the ribs turned out just amazing! Can’t wait to make them again.

  2. 5 stars
    These ribs were fall off the bone delish!! Appreciate how straightforward your recipe was to follow with all the steps and tips. We’ll definitely make this again!

  3. 5 stars
    Love your easy step by step instructions for these smoked ribs recipe! I made your pellet smoker recipe and it turned out perfect!! My family asked me to make this recipe again.