321 Ribs

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321 ribs are a foolproof way to get fall-off-the-bone ribs. The 321 rib method is based on smoking the ribs for 3 hours, wrapping them with liquid for 2 hours, and saucing them for the final 1 hour.

321 ribs on a wooden cutting board with text overlay - 321 Rib Method.

What is the 321 Method for Ribs?

Smoking ribs using the 321 method is one of the most popular ways for a backyard enthusiast to cook ribs. They result in a truly delectable, fall-off-the-bone rib. While many “BBQ purists” will balk at the 321 method, there’s no denying that this meat is juicy, tender, and delicious. So, if you or your guests like meat that comes clean off the bone with every bite, definitely give the 321 rib method a try!

So what is the 321 method for ribs, exactly? It’s an easy way to cook pork ribs! In a nutshell, the 321 method for ribs is just what the name suggests:

  • 3 hours in the smoker. Start by placing your ribs directly on the grill grates of the smoker for 3 hours to infuse the meat with that good, smoky flavor.
  • 2 hours wrapped. Next up, wrap those smoky ribs in foil (usually with brown sugar, apple cider, butter, and other goodies) for 2 hours to add more flavor and keep that rib meat juicy.
  • 1 hour with sauce. Last up, remove the meat from the wrapping and smother them in BBQ sauce. Finish them on the grill for 1 hour to set the sauce and ensure that the meat falls right off the bone.

Baby back ribs being seasoned with Hey Grill Hey Sweet Rub.

321 Rib Method

This 321 rib method has gained a lot of popularity with home cooks in recent years because of the flawless results in churning out super tender ribs that fall off the bone every time.

While competition and traditional BBQ cooks will scoff at fall-off-the-bone ribs, the truth is that most people really like them that way. Judges for KCBS won’t give you a winning score, but they also won’t be hanging out in your backyard critiquing what you and your family are eating. So I say, cook what you like!

Sticky, sweet, tender, and oh-so-savory, 3 2 1 ribs are probably the most requested meal I receive for potlucks or family dinners. I tend to fall back on these ribs for gatherings because I know that they will deliver that tender, flavorful porky flavor every time. And sometimes consistency is super important!

One final tip: I highly recommend reading my post on How to Know When Pork Ribs are Done. This will help you determine when to remove the ribs from the smoker in addition to the times suggested.

Smoked ribs in foil with pads of butter on them and being drizzled with apple cider.

Ingredients for 321 Ribs

Here’s what you’ll need to make these ribs:

My Sweet Rub, Rib Rub, and Everything BBQ Sauce can all be purchased from the Hey Grill Hey Store. If you don’t have any on hand when you go to make this recipe, you can make Sweet Rub using my recipe for Best Sweet Rub, Rib Rub using my recipe Best Dry Rub for Ribs, and Everything Sauce using my recipe for Kansas City BBQ Sauce.

321 ribs being sauced on the smoker.

How to Smoke 321 Ribs

I firmly believe that you should cook food the way you like it, and ribs are no different! Do you like your ribs saucy? Put some extra sauce on them (I like using my Everything BBQ Sauce). Do you like your ribs falling off the bone? Follow this 321 rib method! These are your ribs after all. Make them exactly how you like them!

Here’s how to cook your ribs using the 321 method:

  1. Preheat. Fire up the grill and preheat to 180-200 degrees F. Prepare the ribs for smoking while the grill preheats.
  2. Prep the ribs. Using a paper towel, grip the corner of the membrane on the back of the ribs, and pull to remove it. Next, season both sides of the ribs liberally with Sweet Rub or Rib Rub.
  3. Smoke for 3 hours. Start with exposing the seasoned ribs to 3 hours of heavy smoke over low heat. I prefer fruit woods (apple or cherry) when smoking pork, but other hardwoods (hickory and alder) also work really well with ribs.
  4. Wrap for 2 hours. After the initial 3-hour smoke, foil the ribs with a liquid of your choosing (I used apple cider, dark brown sugar, and butter) and cook at 225-250 degrees F for 2 more hours. After the braising period, Iook for great retraction of the meat from the bones. You want the bones to be exposed on the end at least 1/4 to 1/2 an inch.
  5. Sauce and smoke for 1 hour. Lastly, baste the ribs in your favorite BBQ sauce (my Everything BBQ Sauce or Apple Jalapeno BBQ Sauce are delicious!)  and return them to the grill for a final hour to finish the ribs and set the sauce.
  6. Rest and enjoy. Remove the ribs from the smoker and rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice into individual ribs and serve! I like to put extra sauce on the table for guests who enjoy their ribs extra saucy.

Stack of 321 ribs on a wooden cutting board.

More Ribs Recipes

Are you a rib fan like me? Then you’ll absolutely love these other rib recipes on Hey Grill Hey:

321 Rib Recipe

Follow the recipe, and let’s make some really good food! Hey Grill Hey is here to help you make better BBQ, feed the people you love, and become a BBQ hero. Head on over to Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube! for more behind-the-scenes action!

This post was originally published in April 2015. We recently updated it with more information and helpful tips. The recipe remains the same.

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321 Ribs

By: Susie Bulloch
4.86 from 153 votes
321 ribs are a foolproof way to get fall off the bone tender ribs. The 321 rib method is based on smoking ribs at a certain temperature for 3 hours, wrapping them with liquid for 2 hours, and saucing them for the final 1 hour.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time6 hours
Resting Time15 minutes
Total Time6 hours 30 minutes
Servings2 people



  • 1 rack baby back ribs
  • 2 Tablespoons Hey Grill Hey Sweet Rub recipe in notes section
  • 1 cup apple cider apple juice also works
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons salted butter
  • ½ cup Everything BBQ sauce recipe in notes section


  • Preheat. Prepare your smoker by preheating it to 180 degrees F.
  • Prep the ribs. Use a sharp knife to lift up the corner of the membrane on the back of the ribs. Using a paper towel, grip the membrane and pull firmly to fully remove the membrane. Trim any excess fat off the ribs as needed.
  • Season. Liberally season both sides of the ribs using Hey Grill Hey Sweet Rub, starting with the bone side.
  • Smoke. Place the seasoned ribs on the smoker and close the lid. Leave them to smoke for 3 hours (The ribs should be somewhere around an internal temperature of 165 degrees F at the end of these 3 hours).
  • Make the braise. Tear off a large piece of aluminum foil and place it on a large working surface. Transfer the ribs to the foil bone side up so the bones don't tear through the foil. Sprinkle the ribs with the brown sugar, top with the butter cut into small pads, and then pour in the apple cider. Tightly crimp the foil together to create an airtight seal.
  • Continue smoking. Return the wrapped ribs to the grill and increase the temperature in the smoker to 225 degrees F. Let the ribs braise for 2 hours in the foil.
  • Sauce. Carefully remove the ribs from the grill and place them on a large working surface. Open the foil package (be careful of hot steam) and use tongs to remove the ribs and place them back on the grill, bone side down. Discard the foil and excess cooking liquid. Next, brush the ribs with Everything BBQ Sauce (or your favorite BBQ sauce).
  • Finish smoking. Return the unwrapped, sauced ribs to the smoker. Close the lid, and continue smoking for an hour (or less!) or until the ribs reach around 200 degrees F and the sauce is sticky and set.
  • Rest, slice, and enjoy. Remove the ribs from the smoker and rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice into individual ribs, and serve with extra sauce, as desired.


Sweet Rub

Everything BBQ Sauce


Calories: 709kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 151mg | Sodium: 733mg | Potassium: 749mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 42g | Vitamin A: 645IU | Vitamin C: 2.1mg | Calcium: 194mg | Iron: 5.4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this? Leave a comment below!



Susie is the BBQ Brain behind the Hey Grill Hey website. Her passion for smoked meats and developing fun, new recipes have landed her on the Food Network, cooking turkeys with Shaq, and on a couple of Guinness World Records. When she’s not grilling, she is hanging out with Todd and their three kids, preferably outdoors!

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Recipe Rating

Reader Reviews

540 Reviews

  1. Eric Leach says:

    Can’t wait to try this recipe. I have seen recipes where the ribs are wrapped in butcher paper instead of foil. Does this make a difference?

    1. Hey Grill Hey says:

      Butcher paper will usually give you a little more bark, where foil will be a little more fall-off-the-bone.

  2. Austin says:

    I’m usually a country style rib but after this recipe I’m going to buy racks on racks on racks deliciousnessssssssssssss

  3. Jackson says:

    Grilled 2 racks of baby backs yesterday using this method. They came out great! 3 hours smoking, 2 hours wrapped, about 30 minutes unwrapped with sauce on them. Excellent! (I didn’t even have apple cider or juice either! The butter and brown sugar alone seemed to work)

  4. Jean E says:

    Love this recipe! It works every time.

  5. Chuck G says:

    The ease of effort to get such great results just can’t be measured. I’ve done the recipe many times and have a couple of little tweaks that my crew likes. Easy for anyone to do the same. Thx for a super useful site and a recipe that works every time.

    1. Martha says:

      Willing to share your tweaks?

  6. Kris says:

    we are big fans of saucy ribs. If we choose not to sauce and continue to cook for the last hour, how would we adjust the last part of cooking?

    1. Hey Grill Hey says:

      You don’t need to do anything different. You can just skip adding the sauce.

  7. Bill says:

    Too many pop ups 1 star

    1. Hey Grill Hey says:

      Sorry it’s not free of ads, but it is free of charge. Unfortunately, those ads are how we’re able to provide you with hundreds of BBWQ recipes like this one totally free. You can always check out a Grill Squad membership if you want some ad-free content.