3-2-1 Spare Ribs

Spare ribs are the big, meaty ribs that come from the belly of the pig. They have more fat and flavor than back ribs, but also require a bit more time or attention to prepare successfully.

The 3-2-1 method is one of the best ways to ensure that spare ribs give up all of their tender piggy goodness without drying out. It basically involves smoking the ribs as normal for 3 hours, followed by 2 hours of cooking them wrapped in foil, and then 1 more hour unwrapped. This gives the ribs a good, smoky flavor, breaks down the toughness of the meat, and adds a final crispy bark.

Starting with 2 slabs of trimmed spare ribs, marinate them over night in the following mixture:

New World Marinade

The next day, fire up your cooker for an indirect cook that will burn for at least 6 hours at between 225 to 275°F. Once the cooker temperature gets to 300°F, add one fist-sized chunk each of hickory and guava or apple wood right on top of the coals, then fill the drip pan with water, close the lid, and adjust the vents to bring the temperature down to about 250°F.

Remove the slabs from the marinade and season with a light coating of barbecue rub. Put the ribs bone side down in cooker and cook for 3 hours – no peaking, you want them to smoke, not dry out.

After the ribs have been on for 3 hours, remove them from the heat, wrap them tightly in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil to form a tight seal, and return them to the cooker bone side up for 2 more hours. This step braises the ribs, breaking down tough connective tissue and collagens in meat.

After 2 hours, unwrap ribs and return them to cooker bone side down for 1 hour. Increase your cooking temperature to 300°F. After 30 minutes, apply sauce to ribs if you want. My current favorite is Bone Suckin’ BBQ Sauce.
Leave the slabs on for another 30 minutes and check for doneness again. Ribs are done when the meat has pulled back from the bone and a tug on the bones shows that they will come apart easily. I use a thermo-pen to check the meat between the ribs and it should read between 175°F and 190°F at this point. Expect around 6 total cooking time.

Let the ribs rest at least 10 minutes, then cut into 2-3 bone sections and serve – smoky, spicy, sweet and tender – just what rib should be.