Smoked Baby Back Ribs are tender and delicious when slowly smoked. Get amazing, flavorful, and rich BBQ ribs following these easy steps.
If you’re looking for 3-2-1 Ribs, check out this post.
What are Baby Back Ribs
There are two basic pork ribs you can buy for smoking, baby back ribs and spare ribs.
- Baby Back Ribs – The baby backs are curved ribs that come directly off the spine of a pig along the back. The ribs are less meaty than spare ribs and don’t require as much time to cook.
- Spare Ribs – Spare ribs continue from the back ribs and run along the side of the pig. They are flat and will have both bone and cartilage in a full spare rack. When the spare ribs have been trimmed to remove the cartilage, they are called St. Louis Cut Spare Ribs, or St. Louis Ribs. These are a great rib to smoke using the 3-2-1 method with more meat. They take slightly longer to smoke.
What to Look For When Buying Ribs
Fresh ribs should be pink in color and have marbling throughout. The marbling is what we want to render out when smoking baby backs.
We love using Snake River Farms Ribs for our smoked baby back ribs. Also check out local ranchers in your area because you will find some amazing local pork with great marbling.
This step involves removing the silver skin off the bone side of the ribs, and trimming off any excess fat on the flesh side of the ribs. Note that some butchers may have removed the silver skin.
- Starting on one corner of the bone side of the ribs, use a sharp knife to remove a small corner of the silver skin.
- Grab the corner of the silver skin with a paper towel and slowly lift away the silver skin in one pull.
- If the skin doesn’t come off all at once, lift the corner of the silver skin that did not come off and repeat using a paper towel.
- On the flesh side of the ribs, remove any excess fat. Typically there is not a lot, so only worry if it’s slightly hanging off.
- Pat dry with a paper towel and season.
Start with a slather of mustard (or any liquid). Dijon mustard is a great flavor and allows the dry rub to adhere to the baby back ribs which is the point of a slather for the ribs.
We use our Ultimate Dry Rub for all our pork ribs. It has the right blend of sugar and savory.
The sugar helps with caramelization when the baby backs smoke and the savory component adds a nice flavor.
How To Smoke Baby Back Ribs
- Smoke – Smoke the ribs at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours, unwrapped. During this phase the smoke will flavor the ribs and slowly start to render out the fat.
- Wrap – Remove ribs from smoker and place them onto sheets of foil. Add honey and butter to the flesh side of the ribs and then tightly wrap the foil around the ribs. Place back onto smoker for additional 2 hours. The wrapping will allow the butter and honey to add flavor and the ribs will braise in the foil.
- Unwrap – Unwrap the baby backs, and glaze the flesh side with a small amount of your favorite BBQ sauce and smoke for an additional 30 minutes. The sauce will tack up and turn a nice mahogany color.
- Rest – Remove, let rest for 15 minutes, and then slice and serve with your favorite sides.
Monitoring Temperature: We are not as concerned about the internal temperature of the ribs because it will cook so long and we know it will be done. We are still using a Thermoworks Smoke Unit to keep an eye on the ambient cooking temperature of the smoker.
Best Wood for Smoking Baby Back Ribs
Fruit wood is best for smoking baby back ribs. Apple and cherry burn sweet and add amazing flavor. Oak is another alternative as well and will have a slightly meatier flavor, but not too campfire like.
How Long to Smoke Baby Back Ribs
- At 225 degrees F plan on 5 hours of cook time.
- At 250 degrees F plan on 4 hours of cook time.
We know the ribs are done when we remove the foil wrap, and we probe the meat in between the bones with an instant read thermometer like a Thermoworks Thermapen MK4. We do not worry about the internal temperature of the meat because we’ve cooked it so long. We are seeing how easily the probe goes into the meat. It should easily slide in like inserting into room temperature butter.
This is the sign the ribs are done, tender, and ready for the last step of being sauced. Likely the temp of the ribs will be around 205 – 210 degrees. The bones should not just fall out when tugging on them.
Other Smoked Rib Recipes
- 3 2 1 Ribs
- Smoked Beef Ribs
- Spare Ribs with Asian Spice Rub
- Sugar Free Smoked Pork Ribs
- Blueberry Bourbon Baby Back Ribs
Smoked Baby Back Ribs Recipe
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Randy Donoho says
The quality of the rack is of utmost importance. Opinions differ on types but the closer to the backbone the higher the quality. Be sure you’re ribs are pork not beef.. Ever have a rack refuse to tender and come off the bone?
Poor quality and cooking duration won’t improve the experience..
I made these yesterday although I only took certain parts of the recipe since I didn’t have all of the ingredients. It was my first time smoking on my new smoker/grill combo and thought ribs would be an easy thing to make for the first run. We just moved into a new house and aren’t unpacked/stocked up on ingredients yet, so for the first step I used a garlic/mustard aioli from Trader Joe’s plus salt & pepper. Put them on for two hours, then just dotted with the butter and wrapped in foil. Once the two hours in foil were done, I went to flip them so brush with bbq sauce and finish cooking, but they were already fall-off-the-bone tender! I opted to just forgo the rest and we just doused them in sauce. They were SO good. Seriously, we were all raving. I think they’d be even better with a rub, then a bit of sauce cooked in, but we have no complaints at all. I see no reason to ever make them any other way again. Thanks so much!
Sean Martin says
Kristy – thanks so much for your feedback and for sharing your experience!
jon didier says
Ribs turned out great. Apple chips and great smoky flavor. Made the baby backs at the recommended times and they were tasty…..
I was looking for a good recipe for pit boss smokers, but at first glance, you impressed me and I fell in love with this recipe as I went down. I’m going to make this great recipe with Pit Bass Smoker.
Thanks for this awesome recipe, Cheer
William Ness says
Best baby back ribs ever!
Sean Martin says
Thank you William! Baby backs are so tender and delicious.
Baby backs are a fad that are more expensive because they are a fad, and St. Lous style are by far the preferred cut by expert BBQers.
Sean Martin says
Not sure where you are referencing your data but in fact BBQ experts love cooking baby back ribs. And while they have less meat than a St. Louis style trim they are also used in competitions as well. As for fad – I’ll let those cooking decide because experts from Myron Mixon to All Things BBQ love cooking baby backs.
I accidentally left out the salt from the rub, but you know what? It was still awesome!
Sean Martin says
That is great to hear!!! And all good on the salt since you still made it taste amazing!
Receipt looks great. Can I assume that you cooked indirectly for the first 4 hours?
Sean Martin says
Yes, the entire cook is indirect.