Smoking Baby Back Ribs 2-2-1: An Easy Method For Beginners

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Baby back ribs are a great cut of meat because they are very tender and flavorful. They are also relatively inexpensive. In addition, they can be smoked at home without special equipment or training. This recipe uses a simple technique that yields delicious results every time.

For a beginner, it can be scary to smoke baby back ribs. You are aiming to get the perfect balance between smoky flavor and tender and juicy pork.

In this article, will help any beginner to smoke baby back ribs using the 2-2-1 method. 

Smoking Baby Back Ribs 2-2-1 An Easy Method For Beginners

What Are Baby Back Ribs?

The name can be quite misleading, but baby back ribs don’t actually come off piglets. Instead, they come off the upper part of an adult pig’s rib cage.

However, what gives these ribs their baby name is due to the fact that baby back ribs are much smaller when compared to spare ribs. Sometimes these ribs may also be sold as back ribs and loin back ribs. They are all the same thing. 

Smoking baby back ribs is a daunting task for a beginner. This is due to these ribs containing very little fat, due to where they come in the rib cage and pig.

With baby back ribs, you often need to use a slow and low cooking method to stop you from drying the meat out. As there is little fat to render down and to keep the meat moist. 

Hence, this is why the 2-2-1 method is such a good choice when it comes to smoking baby back ribs. 

What Is The 2-2-1 Method?

If you have never heard of this method before, it may just look like a bunch of numbers. However, for those of you who are experienced in the smoking and rib world, this is a very common and popular method to use. 

In essence, the numbers are referring to a different cooking time during the whole cooking application. With this method, you will cook the baby back ribs uncovered in a smoker or on a girl for 2 hours.

Then, after 2 hours, you will wrap the ribs up in baking paper or foil. By wrapping the ribs, you are helping to encourage and quicken the overall cooking process. 

Once the ribs have been covered, then they need to cook for another 2 hours. After these 2 hours are up, then you can unwrap the foil and let the ribs cook for 1 final hour.

By removing the foil, you are allowing the meat to crisp up to make them more enjoyable to eat. 

However, it is important to note that the bigger your ribs are, the longer the cooking time will become. Thus, the cooking time can exceed 5 hours depending on the side of your ribs.

Also, if your smoker drops below the desired cooking temperature, this can also increase the cooking time as well. 

This is a popular method, which you can also use on St Louis or spare ribs. However, with spare ribs, the ribs should be cooked 3 hours instead of just 2 to begin with.

This method is named the 3-2-1. The extra hours allow the connective tissue and fat the chance to render down, before you wrap the ribs up. 

St Louis and spare ribs are the same thing. The main difference between them is St Louis ribs are trimmed to remove all the cartilage, which makes them look more appealing.

However, spare and St Louis ribs both taste the same, the only difference is their appearance. 

What are the Best Smoking Methods for Pork Loin Ribs?

When it comes to cooking pork loin ribs vs baby back ribs, the best smoking method is low and slow. Whether using a charcoal or electric smoker, maintaining a consistent temperature of 225-250°F is key. For added flavor, consider using wood chips or chunks like hickory, apple, or cherry.

The Basics Of Smoking Ribs

The Basics Of Smoking Ribs

We have created this short guide to give you a better understanding of what goes into smoking ribs. You need to consider all of these points when you next come to smoking some ribs. 

Group Size

You need to think about how many people you will be feeding. Typically, the average baby back ribs will contain around 8 to 13 ribs. However, these ribs are much smaller than St Louis or spare ribs. 

A typical rule of thumb is half a rack of baby ribs per serving. However, your serving sizes may depend on multiple other factors.

Will these ribs be served alongside other side dishes or what kind of people are turning up to your gathering.

Children won’t eat that many and if there are multiple side dishes, this will cut down how many ribs you need for each person. 

Choose The Right Wood

You want to choose the right type of wood, as the wood you choose will affect the flavor of your ribs. Ideally, you should try to use wood that creates a mild flavor for smoked ribs.

As baby ribs are naturally very lean, therefore they need a mild wood flavor that won’t overwhelm the pork. 

A strong wood flavor like mesquite and hickory will overpower the natural pork flavors. Strong wood flavors can cause the ribs to taste acidic and bitter.

Therefore, you want to choose pecan, apple or cherry wood. If you like the sweeter taste, then you can try testing with maple pellets or wood chips.

Prepare With Mustard

In a lot of recipes, they ask for the ribs to be prepared using a yellow mustard. Not everyone likes the taste of mustard as it can be quite strong and bitter, but the mustard isn’t applied for its flavor.

Instead, before you add the ribs to the smoker, by applying mustard to the meat it helps to keep all of your seasonings on and in place.

If you don’t apply mustard to your ribs and then add the seasoning, then the spices or flavors you wanted to season your ribs with won’t stick to the meat and will just fall off. Having no effect at all. 

When it comes to the flavor of the mustard, the mustard smooths out during the cooking process. Thus, by the time the ribs are done, you won’t even taste the mustard on them at all.

It’s good to note that a simple store bought mustard will work perfectly, you don’t need to use a fancy or expensive mustard, especially as the flavor will be disposed of anyway. 

Add The Sauce At The End

You may want to add a sauce, like a BBQ sauce, to your ribs, to give them more flavor. However, don’t be persuaded to add the sauce too soon to the cooking procedure. 

A lot of store bought barbecue sauce contains large amounts of sugar. This sugar will burn up when it faces high heats. Thus, applying the sauce too early could cause your ribs to end up with a bitter and unpleasant flavor. 

Unlike the mustard, you want to choose a good quality sauce to add to your ribs. Yet, the sauce should only be applied during the final 30 minutes of cooking.

Or you can wait until the ribs are fully cooked, and the sauce can be served on the side. 

Is Falling Off The Bone A Myth?

Falling off the bone is a common phrase used when talking about cooking the perfect ribs. However, you don’t want the pork to be actually dropping off the bone. If it is, then the meat may be overcooked, and then it will be dry as well. 

Instead of cooking the ribs until the meat falls off, you want to cook the ribs until the meat easily slides off the bone when slight pressure is applied.

When the ribs reach this stage, the meat will be moist and tender, which works well with the flavor from the smoke.

2-2-1 Method: Smoking Baby Back Ribs

2-2-1 Method Smoking Baby Back Ribs

Step 1

If it hasn’t already been removed, remove any of the remaining membrane from the rack of ribs. This is also the point to trim away any unwanted fat that you don’t need.

Step 2

Rinse the ribs under some cold water and, with a paper towel, pat the ribs dry. 

Step 3

Set your smoker to around 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Charcoal grills need a low to medium fire with an area charcoal free in the chamber. 

Step 4

Using a bowl, combine brown sugar with onion powder, kosher salt, garlic powder, cumin, and ground black pepper. 

Step 5

Apply a fine layer of mustard onto your prepared ribs. Then add your seasoning mixture you created in step 4. 

Step 6

With the bone facing down, add your ribs to the smoker and shut the lid. Let your ribs smoke for around 2 hours.

Step 7

Lay a sheet of foil out, big enough to cover your ribs. Then add a few teaspoons of chili sauce, melted butter and honey to the foil. 

Step 8

After 2 hours, take your ribs out, and put them onto the prepared foil. The bone should still be facing down, like it was in the smoker. 

Step 9

Wrap the foil around your ribs and create a tight seal. Then you can put the ribs back into your smoker. 

Step 10

Allow your ribs to cook for 2 more hours.

To test if the ribs are done, then slide a toothpick into the ribs. If you find any resistance, then the ribs need a little longer to cook.

Step 11

Once the ribs are cooked, then carefully uncover the ribs, avoiding the steam. It is recommended that you wear oven or silicone gloves at this point. Also try to keep the juices that have been left behind from the ribs. 

Step 12

Once uncovered, place the ribs back into the smoker.

Step 13

If you like your ribs to have a crusty exterior, then this is the point where you can increase the smoker’s temperature to around 350 degrees. In a charcoal grill, you can add more coals to bump the temperature up. 

Step 14

Cook your ribs for another 30 minutes, while you baste them with the remaining juices every 10 minutes. For the last 30 minutes, you can add a layer of any sauce that you like. 

Step 15

Once the time is up, take the ribs out of the grill and let them rest for up to 15 minutes. Then you can serve. 


The 2-2-1 method is a very common method that is used on a large variety of ribs. Thus, it is the perfect method for smoking baby back ribs, where you don’t have to worry about drying the ribs out during cooking.

As baby back ribs have such little fat content, you need to be careful on how you cook them. Thus, a low and long method works best.

We hope you have enjoyed this article, and now you know how to smoke baby back ribs easily using the 2-2-1 method.

Julian Wells

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