Smoked baby back ribs recipe

This smoked baby back ribs recipe is one of my secret weapons, and I think you should have it in your arsenal as well (because it will make you a hero at your next barbecue!). The easy technique creates fall off the bone, sticky ribs with the most incredible flavor. This is my family’s favorite summertime meal. I’m going to show you step-by-step how it comes together, as well as share my favorite side dishes to pair with the ribs. I also include oven instructions below, if you don’t have a smoker! [Don’t miss the step-by-step VIDEO!]

Close up of smoked baby back ribs on a serving platter.

From scratch… slow

First of all, I should mention that this recipe is not a “scratch fast” recipe, since the ribs need to smoke for several hours. However, the hands-on time is under an hour (and sometimes you need to throw your own rules to the wind…er, smoke). If you watch my Instagram stories you probably know that I love my smoker with a passion usually reserved for babies and puppies. I had a ton of people ask me for this smoked baby back ribs recipe, so I figured it was time to share (and if you want to see more smoker recipes, please let me know in the comments below!).  

Smoked ribs on a cutting board.

Traeger rib recipe

You will need a smoker for this recipe—you can use any model or brand you own. I have a Traeger pellet smoker, which is definitely an investment, but which I love like a family member.  

Best way to smoke ribs

  • Dry Rub: Rub baby back ribs with a dry rub (see below)
  • Start uncovered: Cook rib racks directly on the smoker grates for several hours (this will infuse them with smoke flavor)
  • Wrap in foil: Brush the ribs with barbecue sauce, dot them with butter, wrap them tightly in foil, and continue smoking until the ribs are ultra tender 
Barbecue ribs on a smoker.

Smoked baby back ribs dry rub recipe

The first step in making amazing smoked ribs is to rub them with a dry rub. This spice rub recipe is easy, and chances are you already have all of the ingredients on hand, including:

  • brown sugar
  • kosher salt & black pepper
  • chili powder
  • granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
  • granulated onion (or onion powder)
  • smoked paprika
Hand pulling the membrane off the back of a rack of baby back ribs.

How to remove the membrane from ribs

Before you apply the spice rub, you’ll need to remove the membrane that runs over the back (bone side) of the rib racks. The membrane will not soften during cooking and will turn papery and hard to eat if it’s not removed. To do this, use a small sharp knife to separate the membrane from the bone. Then, using a paper towel to help you grip, pull back the membrane, removing it completely. It’s easy to do, but you could also ask your butcher to do this for you! Now you can rub the ribs with the spice mix.

Process shot showing a hand sprinkling a spice rub on ribs for the smoked baby back ribs recipe.

Can you apply the dry rub ahead?

Yes! For the most flavor, rub the spice rub over the baby back ribs and refrigerate them overnight (or for up to 2 days). That will allow the salt, sugar and spices to permeate into the meat. However, if you don’t have time or if you forget, you can smoke the ribs directly after rubbing them. 

Baby back ribs on a smoker.

How to smoke ribs

  1. Rub baby back rib racks with the spice rub. If you have the time, let them sit overnight in the fridge (see above).
  2. Smoke the ribs at 225˚F directly on the smoker grates for 3 hours.
  3. Place the ribs racks on large pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil, brush them with barbecue sauce and dot them with butter, then wrap them tightly and continue smoking at 225˚F until the ribs are succulent and tender, 2-3 hours longer. 
  4. Open up the foil packs and brush the ribs with a bit more barbecue sauce. Cook 15 minutes longer, or until  the barbecue sauce turns sticky and glazes the meat. Drizzle the ribs with the juices from the foil packets before serving.
Process shot showing how to wrap ribs in foil for the smoked baby back ribs recipe.
Overhead shot of smoked ribs after they come off the smoker.

Can you smoke ribs ahead?

Yes! Let the ribs cool, then refrigerate them in the foil packs (with their juices). Before serving, bring the ribs to room temperature, then reheat them in the foil packs in a 350-400˚F oven or grill until warmed through.

What barbecue sauce to use on smoked ribs?

You can use any brand of barbecue sauce you like on these smoked ribs (or use a homemade sauce!). As far as easy-to-find store-bought brands go, I like Stubbs Original Bar-B-Q Sauce, which doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup and has a robust, peppery flavor (it’s also gluten free). 

Smoked baby back ribs on a serving platter

How to cook ribs in the oven

If you don’t have a smoker, you can cook these ribs in the oven! Rub the ribs with the spice rub as directed. Wrap each rubbed rib rack tightly in aluminum foil and arrange them on a baking sheet. Bake the ribs in a 300˚F oven until they are very tender but not falling apart, about 2 hours. Let the ribs cool (reserve the juices in the foil). Pour the juices into a bowl or measuring cup, and whisk in the barbecue sauce, apple cider and apple cider vinegar. When you’re ready to eat, grill the rib racks, brushing them with the barbecue sauce mixture and turning them often, until they’re heated through and caramelized in spots (about 10 minutes). Cut the racks into portions, arrange them on a serving platter, and drizzle with more of the barbecue sauce mixture to taste.

Tips for smoking ribs:

  • You will need a smoker for this recipe. You can use any brand or model you have, as long as you’re able to monitor and maintain the cooking temperature. I own a Traeger pellet smoker
  • For the best flavor, rub the baby back rib racks with the spice rub 1-2 days before smoking. 
  • Be sure to use heavy duty aluminum foil when wrapping the ribs, and double up on the foil to create airtight packets.
  • You can use any barbecue sauce you like on these ribs. My favorite store-bought brand is Stubbs Original Bar-B-Q Sauce, which doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup and has a robust, peppery flavor (it’s also gluten free). 
  • I serve these ribs with my Jalapeño Cheddar Muffins or Herbed Oven Fries. Below are some of my other favorite pairings with smoked ribs!
Close up of a smoked BBQ rib on a serving platter.

FAQ

What temperature should ribs be smoked at?

There are several different methods for smoking ribs, but the easiest approach is to smoke them at 225˚F, which will yield rich, flavorful and tender meat.

How long does it take to smoke ribs at 225?

It will take 5-6 hours to smoke baby back ribs at 225˚F.

Do you have to remove the membrane on ribs before smoking?

Yes, it’s best to remove the membrane on the underside of the ribs before smoking, otherwise it turns papery and tough. You can do this easily or ask your butcher to do it for you!

What to serve with smoked ribs:

Don’t forget about dessert!

Other recipes you might like:

Watch the video!

Get the recipe!

Easy Smoked Ribs

This easy smoked baby back ribs recipe results in the most succulent, tender and juicy ribs ever!! For the most flavor, rub the ribs with the spice rub a day or two before smoking (if you don’t have the time you can smoke the ribs directly). Be sure to use heavy duty aluminum foil when wrapping the ribs, as you don’t want any of the juices to escape. I love to serve these smoked ribs with jalapeño cheddar cornbread muffins or roasted oven fries (and plenty of paper towels 😉). Check out some of my other favorite serving suggestions above. If you don't have a smoker, I've included instructions on how to cook the ribs in the notes below!
Prep Time1 d 30 mins
Cook Time5 hrs
Total Time1 d 5 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy smoked ribs, smoked baby back ribs recipe, smoked ribs recipe
Servings: 4 -6 people

Equipment

  • Smoker
  • Heavy duty aluminum foil

Ingredients

Ribs

  • 2 racks baby back ribs

Spice rub

  • 3 tablespoons packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
  • 2 teaspoons granulated onion (or onion powder)
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Sauce

  • 2/3 cup barbecue sauce, divided
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes

Instructions

  • Loosen the membrane on the back of each rack of ribs by slipping a small sharp knife between the rib bone and the membrane. Using paper towels for grip, hold the membrane tightly and pull it off (check out the video above to see how I do this, or you can ask your butcher to do it for you). Discard the membrane.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, salt, pepper, chili powder, granulated garlic, granulated onion and smoked paprika. Rub both sides of the ribs with the rub. If you have the time, cover the ribs and refrigerate them overnight (or for up to 2 days).
  • Preheat your smoker to 225˚F.
  • Place the rib racks on the smoker, meaty sides up, and cook for 3 hours.
  • Pull the ribs off the smoker (keep the smoker on with the lid closed). Arrange each rack on a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil. Brush the ribs with with 1/3 cup of the barbecue sauce (reserve the rest for later). Drizzle the apple cider and vinegar around the edges of the ribs. Dot with the top of the ribs with butter.  Tightly wrap each rack in a double layer of foil to create a leak-proof packet. Return the ribs to the smoker and cook until tender when pierced with a knife, 2-3 hours longer. 
  • Carefully unwrap the foil to expose the meat (be careful not to let any of the liquid in the bottom of the packets drip out—you will use it later!). Brush the racks with the remaining 1/3 cup barbecue sauce, and cook 15 minutes longer, or until the sauce turns sticky.
  • Transfer the rib racks to a cutting board (reserve the juices in the foil packets) and cut them into portions. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with the reserved juices. Serve with plenty of paper towels!

Notes

Do Ahead: The uncooked ribs can be refrigerated with the spice rub for up to 2 days. The smoked ribs can be cooled then refrigerated in the foil packs (with the juices). Before serving, bring the ribs to room temperature, then reheat them in the foil packs in a 350-400˚F oven or grill until warmed through.
Tips:
  • You will need a smoker for this recipe. You can use any brand or model you have, as long as you’re able to monitor and maintain the cooking temperature. I own a Traeger pellet smoker
  • For the best flavor, rub the baby back rib racks with the spice rub 1-2 days before smoking. 
  • Be sure to use heavy duty aluminum foil when wrapping the ribs, and double up on the foil to create airtight packets.
  • You can use any barbecue sauce you like on these ribs. My favorite store-bought brand is Stubbs Original Bar-B-Q Sauce, which doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup and has a robust, peppery flavor (it’s also gluten free). 
  • I serve these ribs with my Jalapeño Cheddar Muffins or Herbed Oven Fries. Below are some of my other favorite pairings with smoked ribs!
  • If you don’t have a smoker, you can cook these ribs in the oven! Rub the ribs with the spice rub as directed. Wrap each rubbed rib rack tightly in aluminum foil and arrange them on a baking sheet. Bake the ribs in a 300˚F oven until they are very tender but not falling apart, about 2 hours. Let the ribs cool (reserve the juices in the foil). Pour the juices into a bowl or measuring cup, and whisk in the barbecue sauce, apple cider and apple cider vinegar. When you’re ready to eat, grill the rib racks, brushing them with the barbecue sauce mixture and turning them often, until they’re heated through and caramelized in spots (about 10 minutes). Cut the racks into portions, arrange them on a serving platter, and drizzle with more of the barbecue sauce mixture to taste.

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