Maria’s Amazing Smoked Ribs

Easy to make, too, if you have a thermostatically controlled smoker, like a Traeger.

June 18, 2017 Note:

This post has been on this site for more than three years now and it continues to be my top post every weekend. It deserves it. The recipe, which is adapted from the Amazing Ribs website, is easy to make and use. The instructions are absolutely foolproof. In fact, I made four racks of these ribs on Friday to feed 10 dinner guests and got nothing but rave reviews.

Follow these instructions exactly as written and you won’t be disappointed. Check the comments for a link to buy powdered rosemary (which I have since done; you can get it in bulk on Amazon) and suggestions about spraying with apple juice (which I still haven’t tried).

Enjoy!

I picked up my Traeger the other day. I’d stored it in a friend’s garage while I was in California for two months on a frost contract. I wanted to bring it with me, but I couldn’t figure out how to bring it along without either making a mess inside my RV or disassembling it to fit it into the RV basement.

I was back nearly two weeks before I picked it up. I was busy. But once I had it home, I wasted no time smoking up two racks of baby back ribs. Although I took them with me to a pot luck BBQ down on the river that night, I knew attendance would be low so I gave half a rack to the guy who was doing the earth moving at my place in preparation for building to begin. He’s a nice guy and I figured he and his wife could share them for an appetizer before dinner. The next day, he thanked me, said they were great, and told me his wife wanted to know where I got the ribs.

Fred Meyer, I told him, but they could have just as easily been from Safeway or Costco. The meat isn’t what makes them amazing. It’s the preparation.

If you’re interested in buying a Traeger, you can help support this site by starting with this link.

I’ve made ribs at least twenty times on the Traeger since I bought it for my birthday last summer. I thought I’d shared the recipe here, but I couldn’t seem to find an entry for it. I figured that today was as good a time as any to get the recipe out there. As you’ll see, it’s extremely easy to make if you have a decent smoker.

There are two parts to this recipe. In the first part, you prepare the ribs by removing the membrane on the back side and rub them with a good rib rub. Do yourself a favor and make your own. There are a lot of recipes out there and any of them that includes salt and brown sugar as main ingredients will do the job nicely. A list of ingredients for my preferred recipe is below, but I can’t take credit for it. It’s from the Amazing Ribs website, which I highly recommend, and is called Meathead’s Memphis Dust. You really ought to read the recipe on that page since it has a lot of interesting details and useful tips that I won’t repeat here.

(Note: I do want to mention that this is the original version of that recipe, which Meathead no longer shares. He now thinks it’s better to keep the salt out of the rub and to salt the meat in advance. I’ve tried it his new way and frankly, I don’t like it. The meat always ends up too salty. This rub makes rib preparation error-free. Try it and see for yourself.)

The second part of the recipe is where you smoke the ribs. On a smoker. For a long time.

If you insist on boiling your ribs first, stop reading here. You’ll be wasting your time and, frankly, you’re not worthy of the results you’ll get if you follow the instructions here. Ditto if you think the best way is to roast them in an oven, slathered with barbecue sauce and covered with aluminum foil until they’re a soupy mess. (#YouKnowWhoYouAre) Get your mommy to make you one of her Campbell’s soup casserole recipes and a Cool Whip no-bake pie. You won’t appreciate the results of this recipe.

Still with me? Good! Here’s the recipe and instructions.

Rib Rub

Mix together the following ingredients in a medium bowl:

  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar. The recipe calls for dark brown sugar but because I don’t like the taste of molasses I usually have light brown sugar around and that’s what I use.
  • 3/4 cup white sugar. The recipe calls for white sugar but I usually have evaporated cane sugar and that’s what I use.
  • 1/2 cup paprika. If you make rubs often, buy the largest container of paprika you can find because you’ll go right through it.
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt. Although the recipe specifies Morton’s Kosher salt and the amazing ribs website tells you why, I think you can use any coarsely ground salt.
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder. But of course!
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger powder. The Amazing Ribs website warns you not to omit this ingredient. Personally, I would not omit any of these ingredients.
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary powder. I was unable to find rosemary powder but I did find some sort of chopped rosemary leaves which I then tried to ground up a little bit to simulate a powder. What you want to avoid is full-sized pieces of rosemary leaves because I don’t think they’ll blend as well.

If you have any of this leftover after rubbing the ribs — and you should because it makes about 3 cups — put it in a jar with a tight lid and stow it with the rest of the spices in your pantry. It usually doesn’t last me more than a month or two before I use it all up. I really like these ribs.

Prepping the Ribs

You need to prep the ribs before you start the smoker. I don’t think it needs to be done the night before. I’ve done it as little as 30 minutes before placing them in the smoker and they always come out fine.

The kind of ribs you buy depends on your taste. I always buy either baby back or St. Louis style ribs. I used to like baby backs better, but I think St. Louis are usually meatier and juicier. They take a little longer to cook, too, so that might be a deciding factor.

  1. Remove the membrane on the back side of the ribs. This is a sort of skin that will prevent the rub from getting into the meat and possibly leave a stringy, chewy bit that really isn’t that good. The best way I’ve found to remove it is to use a butter knife to get the corner started, then grab it with a paper towel (which will give you a good grip with your fingers) and peel it off.
  2. Rinse and dry the rack of ribs.
  3. Sprinkle 1 to 3 tablespoons of rub evenly on each rack and rub it in. I use a lot because I really like it coated — almost to the point that the finished ribs are crusty. Do both sides and the ends and edges. The Amazing Ribs website recommends oiling the ribs first and then rubbing them, but I forgot the first time and they came out fine so I never do now. Why add fat, especially to the St. Louis ribs, which always seem to be fatty enough?
  4. Set the ribs aside until you’re ready to put them in the smoker. If that’s more than 20-30 minutes, put them in the fridge.

Smoking the Ribs

This is the easy part; your smoker does all the work.

  1. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to get the smoker started and prepped. I always replace the aluminum foil from the drip pan, run the smoker up to a high temperature, and rub down the grill with a wire brush to clean it.
  2. Set the thermostat for around 225°F. You don’t want the temperature below 200°F or above 250°F.
  3. Lay the rack(s) of ribs on the grill surface, bone side down.
  4. Close the smoker cover.
  5. Go do something else. For at least 3 hours.

Amazing RibsThat’s an exaggeration. You might want to check on the grill periodically to make sure the thermostat is keeping it at the right temperature. My Traeger is a Junior and has a small hopper so I usually have to add pellets after a few hours. Don’t let it go out!

And don’t try to rush it by upping the temperature. Ribs need to cook slowly.

As the ribs cook, they’ll form what the Amazing Ribs guys call a “bark.” Yum.

The ribs are done when they pass the “bend test.” That’s when you grasp one half of the ribs with a pair of tongs and use them to lift the other end. The ribs should bend. If the bark cracks, they’re done. Yes, cooking them longer will make the meat fall off the bone, but that isn’t necessarily better. It’s just drier.

Expect 3-4 hours for baby back ribs and 5-6 hours for St. Louis ribs.

This recipe is so good that even though I overcooked the baby backs the other day, every single person who had them said they were “the best ribs” they’d ever had. Everyone. And I screwed up!

The Last Step

If you like barbecue sauce, now is the time to brush it on. Raise the temperature of the smoker or, better yet, thrown them on a direct heat grill. (Yes, it’s true: I don’t currently have a home, but I have two grills. I guess that tells you a bit about my priorities.) Cook on both sides until sizzling, but be careful not to burn them.

And you’re done.

As far as the barbecue sauce goes, you can also make your own. If I get it out of a bottle, it’s usually Jack Daniels original. Otherwise, I really like the honey barbecue sauce I blogged about the other day.

What Do You Think?

If you try these, let me know how they came out. But I warn you now: I won’t listen to any nonsense about boiling before cooking. Seriously: don’t even go there with me.

And if you don’t have a smoker but love ribs, this recipe will give you plenty of reason to go out and buy a smoker. Really.

I do so love my Traeger.

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46 thoughts on “Maria’s Amazing Smoked Ribs

  1. I had some ribs at my daughter’s home that she fixed using your recipe and they were DELICIOUS!! I loved them and she sent me this web site to get the recipe. Thanks!! I don’t have a smoker but know it will be good fixed in the oven.

    • Glad you liked them! I make this very often. It’s a great way to lure visitors to help me around my place. No such thing as a free meal here, but no one seems to mind being paid with ribs! Enjoy!

      For a smokey flavor out of the oven, try using Smoked Paprika in the rub recipe. You can get it at Costco and elsewhere.

  2. I also stay in an RV and have the Treager Junior. Get the tailgater kit for it and it packs real nice in the basement. Trying your rib recipe as I type this.

  3. Followed the cooking directions and they came out AWESOME ! wish u could post a pic. No more messing around with foil ecc ecc…. Love my traeger! Last 2 hours I sprayed with apple jiuce and had a yummy sweet crunchy bark and fall apart tender inside ! Thanks

  4. I just put my ribs into the Traeger. I have been wanting to try St Louis ribs without the foiling process. My wife always is concerned that the ribs will be dry if they are cooked too long without being steamed/foiled.
    I hope this turns out as well as expected!

    • Your timing is remarkable. I’m making a batch of 4 racks of Baby Backs today. One of the previous commenters suggested spraying the ribs with apple juice and I hope to try that today (if I can get my hands on some apple juice and a clean spray bottle).

      The key to keeping them from drying out is to keep the temperature to 225°. That’ll cook them slowly but not dry them out. St. Louis ribs are far less likely to dry out anyway because they’re fattier. DON’T BOIL THEM IN ADVANCE. Really. Follow these instructions and you really can’t go wrong. Let us know how they turned out.

    • I should add that my wasband liked to make ribs in the oven. He’d put them in a pan, smother them with sauce, cover them with foil, and bake them for hours. The result was a disgusting soupy fatty mess that tasted fine, but weren’t nearly as good as these. In his defense, he didn’t have a decent smoker to work with and his technique was easy. But once you make ribs like this on a smoker, you’ll NEVER go back to any other technique. And you’ll likely be a lot pickier when you go to a “barbecue” restaurant.

    • The ribs turned out great! I was so happy. They were the easiest ribs I have ever made and a favorite of the family. Amazingly, Costco sometimes sells pre dry-rubbed St Louis ribs, so all I had to do as turn on the Traeger. It never varied above 240 or below 215. Very pleasantly surprised that the seasoning was quite good.

      Before dinner, my wife grabbed a bottle of sauce (!???!) when she realized I was cooking dry-rubbed ribs. She did a taste-test before putting anything on the table and realized she didn’t want the sauce. Yay. This sparked a conversation with my 16 year-old boys about the two methods of preparing ribs. One of them commented that he never really liked eating ribs since they tend to be sloppy and wet. He has changed his opinion!

      I have always wanted to find the support to try a no-foil no-sauce, 1-step cooking technique and it is amazing how hard it is to find the declaration that 225 degrees is your best friend!
      Thanks!

    • So glad they turned out good! I’ll be putting mine on in a little while — if I can dig the Traeger’s cord out of the snow on my deck! — and I did get the apple juice for them. Looking forward to seeing how they come out with that modification.

      As for sauce, I honestly prefer them without sauce or with a very light coating of sauce. The ribs I make today will be wrapped in foil and transported to AZ with me on a flight tomorrow. We’ll unwrap them and finish them with some sauce over a mesquite campfire. With luck, they’ll survive the journey (and TSA inspection) and impress my friends in Arizona. I’m hoping to make some of my Honey barbecue sauce to bring along with me.

      You should check out the AmazingRibs.com Website. Lots of good advice there.

  5. Long-time reader; first-time comment. If I may contribute, I have a junior. I bought a little steel hopper extension from a fan shop in Oregon. The balance goes out the window, but I’m enabled to run a brisket without refilling. I use an almost identical technique for ribs. Instead of apple juice spraying, I’ve found success in leaving two glass bowls on the Hot side. Each contains half a can of Dr. Pepper.

    The effect is very confusing to the palate. None of my guests have been able to speculate as to my secret weapon.

    • Wow! Thanks for sharing this. I will definitely look for a hopper extension. That’s my only complaint about my Traeger: it won’t hold enough pellets to let it operated unattended for more than 3 hours.

  6. I am trying your recipe for the first time, the only thing I did was add a little dry mustard….I have started them on a rib rack (6 racks) but may see if I can get them all to lay flat on my Traeger. I always spray with apple juice periodically, but this time placed two shallow aluminum pans underneath the cooking rack filled with apple juice for more humidity. I will let you know how they turn out. Many thanks for this simple recipe!

    • Oh, don’t thank me. Most of it is from AmazingRibs.com. I highly recommend the site. This is the old version of the rub, though. They currently recommend omitting salt and salting the ribs in advance. I’ve tried that and have had NO success so I continue to do it this way. I’ve never tried that apple juice spray, but I did buy apple juice. Maybe I’ll do up a rack for Memorial Day and include the juice spray. Best of luck with your ribs!

  7. Made these tonight, only did the brown sugar. They were soooo delicious. My husband and two sons loved them as well. Next time I need to make more! Thanks!

    • What a coincidence! I made them last night, too. Used St. Louis ribs.

      Curious to know why you omitted the white sugar and whether you substituted brown sugar (in other words, increased brown sugar). Just trying to keep white sugar quantities down?

  8. Your my hero lol. Made them for work today. Used a different rub but came out amazing! I tried ribs once on my traeger and failed! But thanks to your post success!

    Semper Fi!

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. Glad you liked it! This recipe really is foolproof, especially if you follow it exactly as written. And could it be any easier? I made 3 racks on Wednesday for some dinner guests. I still haven’t gotten around to trying the apple juice spray a few people have recommended, although I did buy apple juice and a food-safe spray bottle. Next time.

    • I ‘m obviously doing something wrong , bought a Trage and tried rib”S twice , using the 3-2-1 they recommend, 3 hours at 225 on grill, wrap in foil Back on grill 2. Hours, unwrap, back on grill for one hour, they are ok but dry, kind of rubbery
      What am I missing

    • You’re missing the instructions in my recipe above. Try it. You don’t have to use the rub I use; you can use a store-bought rub. Skip your foil step. 4-5 hours for baby backs, 5-6 hours for St. Louis. 225°F the whole time.

  9. When you “smoke” them do you put your Traeger on “Smoke” or do you put it at 225*? Reason I ask is you are saying to cook them between 200* and 250* but I don’t think my “smoke” setting gets up to 200*.
    Thanks!

  10. Oh my goodness! These were beyond amazing. Everyone raved about them! I’m throwing away my Treager recipe, this ones for keeps! Thanks for sharing!!

    • So glad you liked them! Easy, no? Make a big batch of rub, store it in a tightly lidded jar in your pantry, and it’s always ready to use. As I think I mentioned in the post, my biggest challenge is making sure my little Traeger doesn’t run out of pellets. Enjoy and thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

    • Well, if you had read the entire blog post you would have noticed that I not only gave credit to Meathead at Amazing Ribs, but I linked to the site several times and even recommended that people visit the site. So I honestly don’t know what you’re griping about.

  11. Amazing!! Ive been using Traegers 1-2-3 method. Hate the foil and mess!!! This is soo easy and delicious. I fresh saved the remaining rub (Vacuum packed) and put it in the pantry Thanks so much for this!

    • You’re welcome! I agree that it’s super easy. The recipe makes enough rub for at least 8 racks. I keep mine in a tightly sealed jar in my pantry. What I’ve also discovered is that I can vacuum seal and freeze smoked ribs and laster defrost and finish them on a grill with sauce.

  12. I made your recipie this past weekend and loved it. Thank you so much! We have a bunch of folks coming this weekend and only one Traeger. Is it possible to smoke ribs the day before and then finish them off the next day? I find that the Traegar Jr. can only hold 3 racks. We need to cook more than that.

    • I’m in the same boat as you with a Jr. Traeger. I bought a rib rack that lets me cook four racks if I cut each one in half and stand it up.

      But in answer to your question, yes. You CAN do that. I’ve even smoked them in advance, vacuum-sealed them, and then froze them for finishing off MUCH later on. Although I think they’re a little better if you can cook and eat them the same day, I suspect your guests will not notice. Good luck!

  13. These are the best! I’m making again tomorrow (4th of July) Thank you being the first recipe to pop up on a Google search when I was looking for the best way to make baby backs on my new Traeger.

  14. I loved your recipe but made one change, lightly basting the ribs in a 2:1 water:apple juice mix to keep the ribs from getting too dry… otherwise, wonderful. Thank you.

  15. This recipe sounds amazing. Perfect timing as well! We are having a large group over for ribs and burgers next weekend so I was looking for a recipe for a rib rub. We are having a practice smoke today using this rub. I will let you know how it turns out. The only change I made was to use 1/2 regular paprika and 1/2 smoked paprika (I didn’t have enough regular paprika). It smells amazing!

  16. I found a small Treager in the ally the other day…. I have never owned one and did a quick pinterest search for the best Treager rib recipe. Up first was this recipe and not only did the ribs turn out fantastic!!!!!!, but I am from a helicopter crop dusting family down in San Diego!! SO double points for Maria! Thank you!!

    • You found a Traeger?! Lucky you! They’re pricey — even the small ones.

      Glad you liked the recipe. The rib rub is the old version (with salt) from Amazing Ribs. The key, though, is that low temperature cooking. I still use this recipe all the time when I make ribs; these days, I’ve been making 3 racks at a time (which barely fit on my Junior), vacuum sealing them in 1/2 rack packages, and freezing them. Then, when I want ribs for dinner, I take out a pack, defrost it, brush it with BBQ sauce, and finish it on my grill.

What do you think?