3-2-1 Method Of Cooking Ribs

If you’re entertaining guests and you want predictably good ribs that will pass off as some of the best they’ve tasted then give the 3-2-1 method a try.

This method practically guarantees that you’ll serve ribs that are moist, tender and taste great.

The great thing about this method is that it’s relatively fool proof. So long as you can maintain the temperature of your smoker at 225 degrees you’ll be able to avoid the common complaints made of most smoked and grilled ribs; too dry or too tough.

3-2-1 Method Of Cooking Ribs

Here’s The Basic Premise

  • For hours 1 – 3 you’re going to smoke your ribs uncovered at 225 degrees
  • For hours 4 – 5 you’re going to wrap your ribs in tin foil with a little liquid, normally cider or apple juice
  • For the final hour, you’re going to take the ribs out of the foil, baste them in bbq sauce and  crank the temperature up a little to finish them off

Here’s How It Works

The first 3 hours will slow cook your ribs, create a crust and infuse them with some great smokey flavour.

The next 2 hours (what’s also known as the crutch) tenderises the meat. 

Wrapping your meat in foil prevents internal moisture from evaporating and drying the meat out.

Essentially you’re boiling the meat in it’s own juices and steaming it to tenderness. The final hour of cooking is all about creating a nice glaze by caramelizing the sugar in a BBQ sauce.

The Result 

tender and moist ribs

Tender and moist ribs that will impress most folk.

Watch here how the 3-2-1 method is done using a Traeger Pellet Grill.

It’s worth pointing out that whilst the 3-2-1 method is good, it falls short of competition quality ribs that will wow seasoned pitmasters. This is because really good ribs don’t fall off the bone. Great ribs will have some chew without being dry and tough.

The downside of the 3-2-1 method is that whilst the ribs are wrapped in foil, the steam and braising liquids will draw flavor out of the ribs and potentially cause the meat to turn into mush.

It’s worth experimenting with the time the ribs are in foil. Maybe try wrapping them for 30 minutes instead of the full 2 hours.

Despite its drawbacks, the 3-2-1 method is still a dependable method you can rely on to cook ribs that won’t be too dry.

Perfect for when you need to entertain people without being under pressure at the grill.

About the Author William Clay

William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.