Welcome to Team Traeger
Login  |  Register

Team Traeger Blog

Traeger's 3-2-1 Baby Back Ribs

Posted by Susie B. on March 12, 2013

smoked pork ribs

If you haven't met yet, let me introduce you to the 3-2-1 Method of cooking ribs. I have a feeling you two will become fast friends. The process is simple to follow and hard to forget.

First cook your ribs for 3 hours on smoke, next for 2 hours wrapped in foil. and last 1 hour sauced and back on the grill.

This method of cooking will produce intensely flavorful and tender meat that will fall off of the bone. The secret to infusing flavor is allowing smoke to permeate the meat during the first step, and then absorb the delicious braising liquid while foiled. If you like your ribs with to stick to the bone, increase the amount of time on smoke and decrease the time spent braising in the foil. 

Have fun with your ribs, Traeger Nation, and a personal lesson learned from experience- cook an extra rack. Your neighbors will start migrating towards your house around mealtime.


3-2-1 Baby Back Ribs


Serves: 4
Recommended Pellets: Oak or Hickory
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours


2 racks baby back pork ribs (about 5 pounds total), trimmed
1/3 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup apple juice (divided use), plus more if needed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
Traeger BBQ Sauce
1/3 cup honey, warmed

PREPARATION 1. If your butcher has not already done so, remove the thin papery 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. When I first started Traeger'ing, I had no idea what the membrane looked like, so if you are a newbie here is a picture tutorial.

pork ribs

removing membrane

2. In a small bowl, combine the mustard, 1/4 cup of apple juice (reserve the rest), and the Worcestershire sauce. Spread thinly on both sides of the ribs; season with Traeger Pork and Poultry Rub. Yes, I am working directly on my countertop. I like having a big area to work and it makes for easier clean-up when there is only one surface to disinfect.

3. When ready to cook, start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes). Smoke the ribs, meat-side up, for 3 hours. Transfer the ribs to a rimmed baking sheet but leave the grill on. Set the temperature to 225 degrees F.

4. Tear off four long sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil. Top with a rack of ribs; 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 of 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’s no leakage. Repeat with the remaining rack of ribs.

 5. Return the foiled ribs to the grill and cook for an additional hour.

Carefully remove the foil from the ribs—watch out for hot steam—and brush the ribs on both sides with Traeger BBQ Sauce. Discard the foil. Arrange the ribs directly on the grill grate and continue to grill until the sauce “tightens”, 30 minutes to 1 hour more. 

Let the ribs rest for a few minutes before serving.

pork ribs smoked

There are a few favorite methods to test for rib "done-ness." We like to slice one of the ribs off and give it a try. There is also the "tear-test" Lift your slab of ribs from the short end with some tongs. The meat on your ribs should start to split where the rack is bending. Next, look at your rib bones. The meat should have pulled back from the bones at least 1/2 an inch (look at the bones in the picture above) Or, insert a meat thermometer between the bones - you'll be looking for 165 to 170 degrees. Ribs can take a few tries before you find what your ideal texture is, but this method is guaranteed to give you the best tasting ribs you've ever had. Enjoy, Traeger Nation!


3/16/2013 8:51:37 PM #

These ribs sound good but the way it is written, the 3-2-1 ribs are using a 3-1-1 plan. Can someone clarify?

6cstevec United States

4/4/2013 7:12:02 AM #

Traeger Rib Rack and Baby Back Ribs with Maple-Bourbon Glaze

Traeger Rib Rack and Baby Back Ribs with Maple-Bourbon Glaze

Team Traeger

4/20/2013 9:15:56 AM #

I don't see an answer to the question about 3 2 1 ribs cooking for 3 1 1 in this recipe - any comments?

dcdooley United States

4/25/2013 3:46:25 PM #

In the cookbook it reads after wrapping the ribs with foil, cook for 2 hours, that's what I've done with great results.

Tilden United States

7/9/2013 6:35:59 AM #

I have found a very distinct difference between competition ribs and "home style" ribs.  Competition ribs are considered over cooked when the meat falls off the bone.  Perfect means seeing a bite mark in the meat without the meat pulling away from the bone.  Home style is what most people are looking for, which is biting into the meat and having large pieces peel off the bone.  If you use the full 3-2-1 method this is what you will typically get.  When you decrease wrap time to an hour or so you are getting into the competition style of ribs.  This is why you will see the 3-2-1 method with variations..  I know some expert smokers cringe every time they hear someone say they love ribs when the meat just falls off the bone while others strive for it.   Different strokes for different folks!

FullSlab United States

8/13/2013 11:21:07 AM #

Traeger's Ultimate BBQ Sauce Guide

Traeger's Ultimate BBQ Sauce Guide

Team Traeger

9/1/2013 5:16:42 AM #

Is the temperature during the smoking phase critical, if so what should it be? As low as possible?  I am thinking of using a smoke tube for additional smoke.

terryk United States

9/27/2013 7:35:32 PM #

Terryk - I go a full three hours on the lowest setting.  I don't know what kind of Traeger you're using but that should provide PLENTY of smoke for your ribs.

fullslab United States

10/28/2013 7:39:49 AM #

The 3-2-1 method is usually reserved for St.Louis or spare ribs.
Baby backs are usually cooked using the 2-2-1 method.

bigjim United States

3/20/2014 2:16:24 PM #

Does your website have a contact page? I'm having a tough time locating it but, I'd like to shoot you an e-mail. I've got some creative ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it expand over time.

Also visit my website:  Dragon City Gems Hack - www.laurelgroveumc.org/users.php

Dragon City Gems Hack United States

Add comment

  Country flag

  • Comment
  • Preview

Please login to leave a comment.