3-2-1 ribs (Baked Or Smoked!)

3-2-1 ribs (Baked Or Smoked!)

These low and slow cooked ribs fall-off-the-bone and truly melt in your mouth. Use the 3-2-1 method or oven bake them! 

3-2-1 ribs.

This 3-2-1 ribs recipe yields tender and flavorful ribs every single time. If you have always thought you need special skills to make succulent and rich-tasting ribs, this recipe will prove you wrong. 

What is the 3-2-1 method on ribs?

The name 3-2-1 ribs comes from the timing used in this cooking method for ribs. It implies three hours of smoking the ribs, two hours of cooking them wrapped in foil, and one hour of cooking them in sauce unwrapped. 

The 3-2-1 method for ribs takes quite a bit of time- you need at least 6 hours to cook the ribs using this method. Furthermore, most 3-2-1 rib recipes call for a smoker. 

I have come up with my own way of making ribs inspired by the 3-2-1 method. It takes less time, but the ribs turn out just as delicious and tender. 

Ingredients needed

You will need to make a dry rub and a marinade for these 3-2-1 ribs. Here’s everything you will need for this recipe. 


  • Ribs. Use a rack of spare ribs. 
  • Mayonnaise. To help the rub mixture stick to the ribs. 

For the rub:

  • Brown sugar. To add sweetness to the spice. 
  • Smoked paprika. For smokiness. 
  • Garlic and onion powder. To create a rich flavor. 
  • Chili powder. To add moderate heat. 
  • Sea salt. To taste. 

For the marinade:

  • Pineapple juice. To tenderize the ribs and add a mild tangy flavor. 
  • Butter. To make the ribs juicy. 
  • Brown sugar. To create a nice caramelized layer on the ribs. 
  • Honey. To add sweetness. 
  • BBQ sauce. For a smoky and tangy flavor. 

How to bake the ribs 

As I have already mentioned, my 3-2-1 ribs don’t take hours to cook. Here’s how you get tender ribs in less than three hours. 

Step 1- Make the rub

In a small bowl, mix the rub ingredients–including garlic and onion powders, brown sugar, smoked paprika, chili powder, and sea salt. 

rib rub ingredients.

Step 2- Season the ribs and bake

Rub mayonnaise all over the ribs.

mayonnaise on pork ribs.

Season the ribs with the dry rub on both sides. Place the ribs on a baking rack with the rib side up. Cover the rack with tin foil. Put the ribs into the oven preheated to 135C/276F degrees and bake for 2 ½ hours. 

dry rub on pork ribs.

Step 3- Prepare the marinade 

While the ribs cook, prepare the marinade. For the marinade, whisk together the pineapple juice, honey, brown sugar, barbeque sauce, and softened butter. 

Step 4- Bathe the ribs in the marinade 

Remove the cooked ribs from the oven. Remove the tin foil wrapping and generously brush both sides of the ribs with the marinade.  

marinade on pork ribs.

Step 5- Broil the ribs

To give the ribs a nice charred look, turn on the broiler setting of the oven and cook the ribs uncovered for 4 minutes. Remove the ribs from the oven and serve. 

3 2 1 ribs.

How to make 3-2-1 ribs-the original way

If you are not short on time and have a smoker, you can cook the ribs following the original 3-2-1 method. Here’s how to make 3-2-1 ribs the original way. 

  1. Rub the ribs with mayonnaise, followed by the dry rub. 
  2. Smoke the ribs uncovered for 3 hours. 
  3. Cover with foil and steam the ribs for 2 hours. 
  4. Finally, remove the foil and brush the ribs with the marinade. Cook the ribs on the grill at 225 degrees for 1 hour applying the marinade every 10 to 15 minutes. 

Tips to make the best recipe 

  • Allow the ribs to rest. Cover them with foil and let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes once you remove them from the oven. This helps redistribute the juices in the meat and make the ribs tender. 
  • Don’t increase the heat to cut down the cooking time. Ribs turn out good only when they are cooked low and slow. 
  • Use St. Louis style ribs if you prefer fattier ribs. The higher fat content of these ribs makes them juicier and more tender. 
  • Spritz the ribs while smoking them if you think they look dry. You can use apple juice or a mixture of apple juice and apple cider vinegar to spritz the ribs. 


The beauty of these ribs are just how easy they are to customize with other sauces, cooking times, and the marinade itself. Here are some ideas: 

  • Use mustard. You can use mustard to cook ribs in a few different ways. You can use it instead of mayonnaise to make the dry rub stick to the ribs easily. Another thing you can do is add mustard powder to the dry rub. 
  • Use a 4-1-1 method for even smokier ribs. If you like your ribs to be smokier, smoke them for 4 hours. Then cook the ribs covered in foil for 1 hour and uncovered for one last hour. Don’t forget to baste the ribs with the marinade during the final hour of cooking. 
  • Play around with the marinade. You can use any marinade you like for these ribs so long as you know it will caramelize nicely. You need to have some type of sugar in the marinade for caramelization to happen. If you don’t have time to make your own marinade, use BBQ sauce. 

Storage instructions 

To store: Cooked pork ribs can last up to 4 days in the fridge. 

To freeze: Place the cooked and cooled ribs in a shallow container and store them in the freezer for up to 6 months. 

Reheating: To reheat leftover ribs, place them in an oven-safe pan and cover them with foil. Reheat the ribs at 250 degrees until heated through. 

traeger 3 2 1 ribs.

What to serve with Traeger ribs

As these ribs are an impressive dish in itself, we like to keep the sides simple, and air fried vegetables are always a safe bet. Here are some ideas:

Frequently asked questions 

Are 3-2-1 ribs fall-off-the-bone?

While some people like their ribs to be slightly chewy, others prefer them to be fall-off-the-bone tender. If you belong to the second group of people, the 3-2-1 method of cooking ribs is for you. The long cooking time makes the juicy meat fall off the bone. 

Why did my ribs turn out tough?

Tough ribs are usually the result of fast and high-heat cooking. The ribs should be cooked at low temperatures and long enough for the meat to tenderize.

Do ribs get more tender the longer they cook?

As a general rule, ribs do get more tender the longer they cook. However, this is the case only if you cook them on low heat.

3 2 1 ribs recipe.

For the rub

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt

For the marinade

  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons bbq sauce
  • Preheat the oven to 135C/275F. Line a large baking tray with tin foil.

  • Mix the rub ingredients together.

  • Rub the mayonnaise all over the ribs. Season with the rub on both sides.

  • Place the ribs on a baking rack, rib side up. Cover the rack with tin foil and bake for 2 ½ hours.

  • While the ribs are baking, whisk together the marinade.

  • Once the ribs are cooked, remove them from the oven and discard the tin foil. Generously brush both sides with the marinade.

  • Turn the broiler setting on and broil the ribs for 4 minutes.

TO STORE: Cooked pork ribs can last up to 4 days in the fridge. TO FREEZE: Place the cooked and cooled ribs in a shallow container and store them in the freezer for up to 6 months.  TO REHEAT: To reheat leftover ribs, place them in an oven-safe pan and cover them with foil. Reheat the ribs at 250 degrees until heated through.

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 384kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 27g | Sodium: 987mg | Potassium: 425mg | Fiber: 2g | Vitamin A: 1960IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 2mg | NET CARBS: 15g

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