Low and Slow Smoked Spare Ribs

5 reviews

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Smoked Spare Ribs are a staple on BBQ restaurant menus because they are flavorful, juicy, and simple to prep. This recipe keeps things easy for the backyard with a classic dry rub seasoning blend and a low and slow smoking process. Put these on mid-morning and you’ll have perfectly moist and tender ribs by dinnertime.

Smoke spare ribs sliced on a cutting board with text overlay - Low and Slow Smoked Spare Ribs.

What are Pork Spare Ribs?

Pork spare ribs are the full rack of ribs on the lower/belly side of a pig. Fattier than baby back ribs, spare ribs are the preference for BBQ restaurants because they have plenty of intramuscular fat to stay nice and juicy through the smoking process. St. Louis style ribs are a trimmed-down version of full spare ribs.

Full spares can occasionally be difficult to find in grocery stores, but if your local shop carries them you are likely to find a really great per pound price on them. I often stock up on spare ribs when my store gets a big order in because they are so affordable. For more information on the various cuts of ribs, check out my full guide to smoked ribs.

Spare ribs being trimmed on a cutting board.

 

Can you Smoke Spare Ribs?

Of course! Spare ribs are perfect for the smoker. Spare ribs are full of tight connective tissue, and this tough meat is perfect for cooking in low temperatures. As the ribs slowly smoke and cook, the meat tenderizes and the tight tissues turn into soft and melty gelatin.

There are several methods for smoking spare ribs and a majority of them include wrapping in foil or saucing. I have recipes for that type of rib cook (just head to my Pork Recipe Category), but this one keeps it straightforward and simple. My husband Todd is a classic BBQ guy and prefers to taste the ribs, the smoke, and a kiss of seasoning instead of sauce and everything else. If you’re a no-sauce lover, this recipe is for you!

Since we are focusing on clean flavors with the smoke and the seasoning, we need to treat the smoke like another ingredient in the recipe. I prefer using fruit woods with ribs, but if you’re looking for a classic BBQ flavor, give hickory or oak a try.

Spare ribs being seasoned with Hey Grill Hey Beef Rub.

Black pepper being sprinkled on top of spare ribs.

How to Trim Spare Ribs

Trimming spare ribs is an important step in the smoking process. Spare ribs generally come in a vacuum pack straight from the processing plant and require a little bit of trimming at home before they are ready to hit the smoker. You can save your trimmings for stock or smoke them alongside your spare ribs for a little pitmaster’s snack to munch on in the afternoon. 

  • Begin by grabbing a high-quality sharp knife. Start by squaring up the ends and taking off the “tail” where the meat becomes thin and the bones are spread far apart.
  • Move up to the top edge of the ribs where they get super thick. You’ll feel a thick ridge of bone. Use the tip of your knife to slide between that bone and the meat. You’ll have to remove this bone at a bit of an angle. This step is optional, but the bones are so large, I typically just end up discarding them (and the little bit of meat above them) after smoking anyways.
  • Flip the ribs over and take off the thin strip of meat that runs diagonally across the ribs. 
  • Remove the membrane on the back of the ribs by lifting an edge with a butter knife. Grab the edge of the membrane with a paper towel, hold the ribs with your other hand, and then peel slowly.

Close up of a rack of smoked spare ribs.

How to Smoke Spare Ribs

You can smoke spare ribs on whatever type of indirect smoke you have in your backyard. This is one of the most simple and straightforward methods for smoked spare ribs because sometimes, simple really is the best. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Preheat your smoker to 250 degrees F. Use your favorite hardwood. I recommend fruit, hickory, or apple wood for these ribs.
  2. Trim.  Follow the steps above to trim your ribs and get them ready to smoke.
  3. Season. Use a seasoning with a little sweetness, a little heat, and a good amount of salt. I’m combining Hey Grill Hey Rib Rub, Hey Grill Hey Beef Rub, and extra black pepper. 
  4. Smoke the ribs. No spritzing, no wrapping, no saucing, NO PEEKING! Get those ribs on your smoker and let them roll for at least 4 hours before you open the lid and start checking on your ribs. Your ribs are done when they reach between 200-205 degrees F.
  5. Rest then enjoy. When your ribs are ready, pull them off the smoker and let them rest for around 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Whole rack of spare ribs on a cooking sheet.

How Long to Smoke Pork Spare Ribs

With your smoker running strong at 250 degrees F, you can anticipate that your spare ribs will take 4.5-5.5 hours to fully cook. Make sure you have a handy meat thermometer nearby to check your temperature throughout the cook.

I like to test my ribs for tenderness by using the bend test. Using tongs at the end, lift the last 3 ribs and give them a slight bend. You want to see your ribs start to split and shred a little bit. Another doneness indicator is looking at the exposed bones on your ribs. You will start to see the meat pull back from the bones when your ribs are almost done. Finally, you can test for temperature. I like my ribs to be sitting between 200-205 degrees F.

Smoked spare ribs sliced on a cutting board.

More Smoked Ribs Recipes

If you want to start branching out and trying new smoked rib recipes with unique cooking methods and flavors, give these ones a whirl!

Smoked Spare Ribs Recipe

Cooking dinner for your friends or family should be easy, and Hey Grill Hey is here to help! Over at the Hey Grill Hey Store, we have sauces, rubs, and more to save you time and energy when you’re busy at the grill. Head on over there and get some Hey Grill Hey flavors delivered straight to your front door!

This post was originally published in February 2020. We recently updated it with more information and helpful tips. The recipe remains the same.

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Smoked Spare Ribs

By: Susie Bulloch (heygrillhey.com)
4.6 from 5 votes
Smoked Spare Ribs are a staple on BBQ restaurant menus because they are flavorful, juicy, and simple to prep. This recipe keeps things easy for the backyard with a classic dry rub seasoning blend and a low and slow smoking process. Put these on mid-morning and you'll have perfectly moist and tender ribs by dinner time.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time5 hours
Resting Time15 minutes
Total Time5 hours 30 minutes
Servings4 people

Video

Ingredients
 

Instructions
 

  • Preheat. Fire up your smoker to 250 degrees F using your favorite hardwood. I recommend fruit, hickory, or apple wood for these ribs.
  • Trim. Remove the large segment of bones on top of the ribs, the thin flap and membrane on the back of the ribs, and the tail end of the ribs.
  • Season. Sprinkle all sides of the ribs with Rib Rub, Beef Rub, and black pepper.
  • Smoke. Get those ribs on your smoker and let them cook for at least 4 hours before you open the lid and start checking on your ribs. No spritzing, no wrapping, no saucing, NO PEEKING! Continue to smoke until they reach an internal temperature of 200-205 degrees F and are tender when you bend them.
  • Rest. Remove the ribs to a cutting board. Let them rest for at least 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Notes

Rib Rub

Nutrition

Calories: 642kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 54g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 182mg | Sodium: 185mg | Potassium: 567mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 91IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 3mg

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

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About

FOUNDER/BBQ BOSS LADY

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

36 Reviews

  1. Kyle Ellis says:

    I absolutely love most of your recipes and the fact that you post videos showing the entire process. However, I found that this method really made the meat chewy. We actually ended up tossing them, because the texture was more like beef jerky. I followed your instructions to a tee and took them out as soon as they hit 201 degrees. Either way, I would never give you lower than 3 stars, because you’re amazing.

  2. Rodney says:

    Well this one really sucks. Come out like jerky for not wrapping them

  3. Filly says:

    We have a super-cheap ($25 Home Depot at end of season) kettle water smoker we’ve had for about 7 years. We use a foil “lasagna” pan from the Dollar Store for a water pan in it so we can just toss it after each smoke. I always wear myself out trying to keep the temp in what the temp gauge said was “ideal” and had the same problem yesterday. Used my usual minion method and misted them well with pineapple juice every 45-60 minutes with pineapple juice. An hour into the smoke, I got disgusted with the temp being stuck around 190-degrees and said to heck with it since the spare ribs were getting plenty of oak smoke and I planned to pull them at our usual 2-hour mark to put them in a covered roaster pan with a couple of cups of pineapple juice in the bottom and finish them in the oven at 275 for another 1.5 to 2 hours. I quit trying to get the smoker in the “ideal” range and let it stay at 190, but kept adding oak from time to time so they’d keep smoking, which they did. I gotta tell you that when they came out of the oven this time, they came out FANTASTICLY TENDER and still had the usual 1/4-inch smoke ring they have when I knock myself out keeping the temp up to “ideal”. I’m done knocking myself out trying to keep the temp in the “ideal” range since these ribs were just as perfectly smoked as they are when I do.

  4. Big Jake says:

    If I do two racks of St. Louis, will it be the same time 4 to 5 hours?

    1. Hey Grill Hey says:

      Yes!

    2. AI LEONARD says:

      Simple ways get amazing results when smoking. Preferred the extra bark and smoky taste personally

  5. Walter Morgan says:

    I made smoked ribs for the first time ever. I read the article and recipe and watched the video. Then prepared and smoked it exactly. The times and everything was exactly as described. It ended up so tender that it was falling off the bone when I cut them. The only problem I had was finding a good place to stick the temperature probe.

  6. Alex H says:

    I’m trying this recipe tomorrow! What’s the reason for spritzing St. Louis style ribs but not spare ribs?

    1. Hey Grill Hey says:

      You can spritz either! St. Louis style ribs are spare ribs that have been cut down to size.

      1. Alex H says:

        Any specific reason for the difference between your St. Louis style ribs recipe and this one? I’m trying to decide whether to baste with butter

  7. RonM says:

    You’re one of the VERY VERY few recipes that doesn’t include wrapping in foil during the last half of the cook. Why is that? Are your ribs “fall off the bone” tender, or the chewy “competition” kind?

    1. Hey Grill Hey says:

      You never have to wrap ribs if you don’t want to. We prefer to just put them on the smoker and let them cook until they’re done with no wrap these days. The ribs will take on a little more smoke flavor this way and the bark on the outside will be better as it continues to develop. If you take your ribs off around 200, they’ll be closer to bite-through competition style ribs. If you want them to fall off the bone, take them up to 203-205.

      1. Jaime says:

        Can these be done at 225? I want to cook them at the same time as your pulled beef chuck roast recipe which is 225. Or can the chuck be done at 250?

        1. Hey Grill Hey says:

          Either way will work fine!