How To Smoke Ribs on a Pellet Grill: A Step-by-Step Guide

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It’s hard to find a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than hosting a barbeque for family and friends. To make things even more special, you can serve one of the all-time summer favorites: smoked ribs.

If you do not know how to smoke ribs on a pellet grill, we’ve got you covered. We have outlined everything you need to do from start to finish.

After reading, you will be able to prepare smoked ribs where the meat falls off the bone using your pellet grill. We will also discuss alternative methods for you to get competition-worthy smoked ribs.

What Are the Different Types of Ribs?

There are a few things that you need to get out of the way before you can fire up the grill.

For one, you need to understand that there are different types of ribs in the market. The most popular ones are the baby back ribs, St. Louis style ribs, and spare ribs.

Most people prefer the first two because they have more meat, while spare ribs have lots of fat and cartilage. Some of your other options are the Kansas City style ribs, the rib tips, the riblets, and the country ribs.

Once you have made your choice and taken it home from a supermarket, you can start preparing it.

How To Prepare the Ribs

Most meat products that find their way to the supermarket are clean and safe. However, just to be sure, rinse it with cold water, then pat dry it.

Avoid splashing, so you do not contaminate the rest of the sink or counter. After this, remove the excess fat, connective tissues, or any other part you do not want to eat.

Step #1: Remove the Membrane

Once you have washed and cleaned the ribs, you must remove the silverskin on the bone side of the meat. It is a thin membrane that is very chewy and won’t render down even after cooking.

Some suppliers remove this before selling their meat products, but you should still check before cooking. Take note that this part of the meat is very slippery, and removing it can be tricky.

To improve your grip, use a piece of paper towel. Simply grab one corner or side of the membrane and start pulling.

If you are lucky, you will peel it off in one piece.

If the membrane breaks off, don’t worry. Just repeat the process until you have removed the whole membrane.

Step #2: Apply the Rub

After cleaning the ribs and removing all the extra parts, you can apply the rub.

Most people do not measure how much rub they use, as this would depend on the size of the ribs. The idea is to cover the entire surface of the ribs generously, including all the sides and edges.

If you want, you can apply a thin layer of mustard before you do this. You could also apply a layer of paprika or hot rub after if you want your ribs spicy.

Once you are done seasoning your ribs, cover them up and put them in the fridge. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes to one hour to give the flavor enough time to seep into the meat. In the meantime, you can get the grill ready.

Step #3: Fire Up the Grill

While there is no hard rule for the temperature for barbeques, smoking ribs has a sweet spot.

For most pitmasters, the optimal setting is at 225°F to 250°F. Fire up the grill and wait for it to reach the desired temperature.

Take note that most brands take 10 to 15 minutes to preheat. You must consider this time while you are marinating the ribs.

Also, use wood pellets as much as possible, so you do not leave any toxic taste or smell on the meat. Doing this also helps enhance the flavor.

There are several options to choose from, including apple, hickory, pecan, and cherry. This decision will depend on your personal preference.

learn how to smoke ribs on a pellet grill

How To Smoke Ribs on a Pellet Grill: The 3-2-1 Method

The most popular procedure for smoking ribs on a pellet grill is the 3-2-1 method. Its name comes from the number of hours you cook the meat using three different techniques.

The first step is to smoke the ribs for three hours. After this, you wrap it in foil and continue cooking it for two hours. Finally, you unwrap it, sauce it, then cook for another hour.

If you use this method, you will get smoked ribs that are so tender that the meat falls off the bone. Many people prefer this, but you can tweak the procedure if you want to bite the meat off the bone. 

We will discuss more of this later on.

Step #1: Smoke for Three Hours

Once the grill reaches the proper temperature, you can put the ribs in. Make sure that the meat side is up. Once it is in, all you have to do is wait for three hours.

Some go the extra mile by spritzing the meat every 35 to 40 minutes with a special mixture—usually, one part apple juice or apple cider vinegar and one part water. However, it is entirely up to you if you want to add a bit more flavor to the meat.

Step #2: Cook in a Foil for Two Hours

After smoking the ribs for three hours, the meat should have a dark mahogany color. Take it out and put it on a heavy-duty tin foil. You could also use two layers of foil.

Either way, make sure it is large enough to cover the whole slab. Also, keep the meat side up when you do this.

Next, apply melted butter on top of the ribs using a brush. Follow this up by brushing it with melted honey. Alternatively, you can apply maple syrup then spread brown sugar along the length of the meat.

Flip the meat over so you can do the same thing on the other side. Once you are done, give it one last spritz and wrap it tightly using the foil.

Next, put it back into the grill and smoke again for two hours without changing the temperature setting. Remember that the ribs should be bone-side up at this point.

Step #3: Cook Unwrapped for One Hour

Once the two hours are up, take out the ribs and remove them from the foil. Next, apply your favorite barbeque sauce on the ribs, then put them back in without the wrap. Cook it for another hour.

After this step, the ribs should be tender such that you can easily pull the bones out. Another test for doneness is to pick it up with your tongs and bounce it a little.

At this point, the meat should bend or even slightly split if you do this.

Once the last cooking stage is done, remove the ribs from the grill and cover them with a foil. Let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

This will give you enough time to prepare the side dishes you want to serve with the ribs. The most popular options are coleslaw, cornbread, onion rings, and potato salad. Of course, you can always enjoy it as is.

How To Smoke Ribs on a Pellet Grill: Variations of the 3-2-1 Method

Some people do not want their smoked ribs to fall apart or for the meat to “fall off the bones.”

If you think you are one of them, the 3-2-1 method is not best for you. This cooking process might be too long, and you might feel that it overcooks your meat.

The good thing is that you can achieve the desired results simply by tweaking some of the steps outlined above. You can shorten the second step from two hours to 45 minutes and step three from one hour to 30 minutes.

You could also reduce the first step to two hours and maintain the rest. As you gain more experience smoking ribs, you might even learn to do it by feeling and looking instead of by time.

Make Your Weekends More Memorable

One of the best ways to bond with your family and friends is hosting an outdoor party. You can never go wrong with smoked ribs when it comes to cookouts. You can entertain while cooking, and they can also join you while smoking the meat.

Just follow these tips, and you can have a memorable get-together that will leave lasting impressions on people’s minds and taste buds.

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