Skip to Main Content
  • Start Enjoying Wood-Fired Flavor Today With 0% APR  |Learn More

The 321 Ribs Method Explained - Smoked Ribs

Jump To Recipe

The 321 Ribs Method Explained

The 3-2-1 ribs BBQ method is easily one of the most popular ways to cook ribs, and in our opinion, it’s the best. However, it has also stirred controversy in the BBQ community due to differing opinions and variations of the method, so we decided to set things straight and show you how to cook ribs.

  • 3 - Hours of Smoke
  • 2 - Hours in Foil
  • 1 - Hour Unwrapped to Finish

It’s as easy as 3-2-1, this classic method for cooking ribs will soon be your new favorite—if it isn’t already.

1) Remove the Silver Skin

Remove the silverskin membrane from the bone-side of the ribs. Use a butter knife and work the tip underneath the membrane over a middle bone. Grab the skin with a paper towel and tear the membrane off in one clean sweep.

2) Season on Both Sides

Next, season both sides of the ribs generously with Traeger Pork & Poultry Rub or with your rub of choice.


3) Smoke for 3 Hours

Let your Traeger do the work: This is where 3-2-1 comes into play, the "3" is for the three hours you envelop your ribs in flavorful smoke.

Set the grill temperature to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Preheat with the lid closed, for 15 minutes.

Place the ribs meat-side up on the grill.

Smoke the ribs for three hours, or when your thermometer tells you that the internal temperature of the ribs has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.


4) Wrap in foil

When you’ve laid some serious smoke on those pork ribs (after 3 hours) it’s time to wrap them up. The "2" is for two hours of low 'n' slow cooking.

You'll raise the temperature slightly, helping the fat and connective tissues in the ribs break down, and adding flavor and juiciness.

Take the ribs off the grill and place them on a rimmed baking sheet.

  • Raise the grill temperature to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Tear off two long pieces of foil.

  • Place the ribs atop one sheet of foil. Sprinkle on some sweet brown sugar and douse them in honey.

  • Pull up the foil edges to prevent liquid from sneaking out.

  • Place the other sheet of foil over the ribs and crimp the edges of the two pieces of foil together tightly to prevent leakage.

  • Return the ribs back on the grill at 225 degrees for an additional 2 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 205℉.


5) Brush with Sauce

After two hours, remove the ribs from the foil and brush both sides with Traeger BBQ Sauce or your sauce of choice. The "1" is for an hour or less where your ribs will develop that rich mahogany color you’ve only seen in your BBQ dreams.

Place those beauties back on the grill for another hour until the sauce tightens.

The sugar in BBQ sauce caramelizes and can burn the ribs if it’s heated for too long so keep an eye out.


6) 321 Variations

Of course not everyone likes to follow the rules and here at Traeger and we celebrate that. Our pitmaster’s even have their own variations of the method. Check out their tips below.

Pit Boss Chad Tip:

I like to start out at 225 degrees for 3 hours, then I wrap the ribs in foil with butter, brown sugar and agave. I then put them back on the grill and turn up the temperature to 250 degrees; I check them after an hour and a half and am looking for a final internal temperature of 205 degrees.

That’s the great thing about BBQ, it’s totally and completely yours. You are the master of your own flavor. Make it great and make it yours.

Get the full recipe for these 3-2-1 St Louis Ribs. This recipe is an alternative recipe based on the original Traeger 3-2-1 Baby Back Ribs recipe.

3-2-1 Ribs

by Danielle "Diva Q" Bennett

Prep Time

15 Min

Cook Time

6 Hr





Our famously easy 3-2-1 ribs will make your rib game the envy of the neighborhood. This super simple recipe takes all the confusion out of making baby back ribs without sacrificing any flavor. Start by smoking your ribs for 3 hours, then cook inside foil for 2 hours. Finish by removing your ribs from the foil, brushing on BBQ sauce, and then cook for another hour.

2 Rackbaby back pork ribs
1/3 Cupyellow mustard
1/2 Cupapple juice, divided
1 TablespoonWorcestershire sauce
To TasteTraeger Pork & Poultry Rub
1/2 Cupdark brown sugar
1/3 Cuphoney, warmed
1 CupTraeger 'Que BBQ Sauce
  • 1

    If your butcher has not already done so, remove the thin silverskin membrane from the bone-side of the ribs by working the tip of a butter knife or a screwdriver underneath the membrane over a middle bone. Use paper towels to get a firm grip, then tear the membrane off.

  • 2

    In a small bowl, combine the mustard, 1/4 cup of apple juice (reserve the rest) and the Worcestershire sauce. Spread the mixture thinly on both sides of the ribs and season with Traeger Pork & Poultry Rub.

  • 3

    When ready to cook, set Traeger temperature to 180℉ and preheat, lid closed for 15 minutes. Smoke the ribs, meat-side up for 3 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 160℉.

  • 4

    After the ribs have smoked for 3 hours, transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet and increase the grill temperature to 225℉.

  • 5

    Tear off four long sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Top with a rack of ribs and pull up the sides to keep the liquid enclosed. Sprinkle half the brown sugar on the rack, then top with half the honey and half the remaining apple juice. Use a bit more apple juice if you want more tender ribs. Lay another piece of foil on top and tightly crimp the edges so there is no leakage. Repeat with the remaining rack of ribs.

  • 6

    Return the foiled ribs to the grill and cook for an additional 2 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 205℉.

  • 7

    Carefully remove the foil from the ribs and brush the ribs on both sides with Traeger 'Que Sauce. Discard the foil. Arrange the ribs directly on the grill grate and continue to grill until the sauce tightens, 30 to 60 minutes more.

  • 8

    Let the ribs rest for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!

This is a carousel. Use Next and Previous buttons to navigate, or jump to a slide using the slider.

Recommended Products

Level up your pork with these products.

This is a carousel. Use Next and Previous buttons to navigate, or jump to a slide using the slider.

Top Ribs Recipes