How to Smoke Pork Ribs; Perfect Pork Ribs

You can't beat a rack of perfectly smoked barbeque pork ribs. Whether you like them dry or wet, the trick is to monitor time and temperature.  Maintain a steady temperature around 250 degrees F, and cook them for about 5 hours. When you cook barbeque you cook to achieve an certain internal temperature more and worry about less time. For example, I cook ribs until the thickest part is 170-180 degrees F.  If you follow the recipe below, you won't really have to worry about the internal temperature.  When you can twist a bone out of the rack of ribs, they are done.  Tip:  Foil is your friend!  Wrap the ribs in foil during the last hour of cooking, and it will help you create a super tender rack of melt in your mouth ribs.  This BBQ rib recipe shows exactly how to do it.

Smoked Pork Ribs

Most of the ribs I smoke are dry, meaning no barbeque sauce is applied during the cooking process. For this BBQ rib recipe, I describe exactly how I do it. I will usually have a sauce available for people who like barbeque sauce on their ribs, but I do not typically apply the sauce while I am cooking the ribs.

I do apply a mop when cooking the ribs to keep the ribs moist and add a little flavor. A great mop for ribs is to use 60% apple cider vinegar and 40% cooking oil. This type of mop can be applied with a small bottle sprayer found at your local grocery store.

To smoke a perfect rack of ribs, follow the simple process described below. You will have great results every time.


1. Choose a rack of ribs from your grocery store that is pink in color, and has not been frozen. I prefer St. Louis style ribs, which are pre-trimmed. Your local butcher may also be of assistance to you if you need help trimming your ribs.  Like a brisket, you want to find a rack of ribs that has good marbling, but watch out for ribs that have too much fat within the meat.  Fat on the outside of the ribs can be trimmed.

2. The night before you are going to smoke the ribs, remove the membrane off of the rack of ribs. The membrane is a thin, plastic like liner on the back side of the rack of ribs. If you leave the membrane on, the the ribs will not be as tender. To remove the membrane, use a sharp knife to separate the membrane from the ribs at the narrow end of the rack. I like to use a boning knife like the Victorinox 47513 6-Inch Flex Boning Knife with Fibrox Handle because it is a sharp, small blade and makes seperating the membrane from the bone very easy.  When you have enough of the membrane separated where you can grab it, use your thumb and index finger to pull and separate the rest of the membrane from the ribs. I pull and cut with my knife at the same time to insure I remove all of the membrane. With a little practice, you will get the hang of it.

3. Apply a thin layer of mustard or olive oil to the ribs. This will help the rub stick to the ribs. I like to use mustard because it helps to form a great crust.

4. Apply a rub to the ribs. Rub recipes can be found on the left navigation menu under Mops, Rubs, and Sauces.  I personally like to use a commercial rub that many BBQ competition teams use like Pitmaster Harry Soo's Slap Yo Daddy BBQ Rubs - ALL NEW (All Purpose Championship Rub - Love Meat Tender, 6 oz)

5. Let the ribs sit in the refrigerator over night or at least a couple hours.  The sugar in the rub will melt, and create a sauce like consistency on the ribs.

6. Remove the ribs from the refrigerator about 1 hour before you are going to smoke them. They will be closer to room temperature by cooking time.

7. Heat your smoker to 250 degrees F. Many smokers have thermometers on them, but they are not accurate.  Heat rises, so the temperature where the smoker temp gauge probe is can be much hotter than the temperature around the ribs when they are cooking.  I have seen as much as a 50 degree difference!  I always recommend to use a thermometer, which is placed next to the meat you are smoking, to insure that the temperature is 250 degrees at the cooking surface. My favorite thermometer that I use at home and especially during competitions is the Maverick ET-735 Bluetooth 4.0 Wireless Digital Cooking Thermometer.  This model actually has a bluetooth feature so you can monitor the internal temperature of the smoker from your phone while you sit inside your house and enjoy a nice cold beverage.  I have found that 250 degrees F is the ideal temperature to smoke ribs at, and I try to maintain that temp the whole time I am smoking them.  Smaller pits can be harder to control, so try to stick as close to 250 F as you can. I use a mixture of Kingsford charcoal and mesquite wood, but other types of wood may be used including hickory, apple, cherry, pecan, etc. It just depends on what flavor you are looking for. Using charcoal, and adding the wood will allow you to control how much smoke you are cooking with.  You will find an ad on the right side of the page titled Mark's Tree Farm.  He will ship you just about any type of BBQ wood you want, and sells only high quality stuff.  Many people use his products when the compete in BBQ competitions.

8. Smoke the ribs for about 5 hours, applying your mop about every 45 minutes. The thickest part of the rack of ribs should be about 170-180 degrees F if a constant temperature was maintained while smoking. During the last hour, I wrap the ribs in foil after applying my mop, and I put them back on the smoker. This will make them very tender. Make sure your exhaust damper is wide open. You do not want to trap any of the smoke in the smoker. This can produce a very bitter taste.

And that is it. Enjoy your smoked pork ribs. Please visit our site for other BBQ rib recipes.

Tip:  Slicing the Ribs

Once you cook the beautiful rack of ribs, make it easy on yourself when slicing by using a high quality slicing knife like the pros do: Victorinox 12-Inch Granton Edge Slicing Knife with Fibrox Handle.

This kinfe will also slice briskets with ease.  I use them to slice my competition briskets and ribs.

If you have any questions, send an email to