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.
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.
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 Ribs Recipe Category), but this one keeps it straight forward 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.
How to Trim Spare Ribs
Trimming spare ribs is an important step in the smoking process. Spare ribs generally come in a cryovac 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 an 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.
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:
- Preheat your smoker to 250 degrees F. Use your favorite hardwood. I recommend fruit, hickory, or apple woods for these ribs.
- Trim your ribs. Follow the steps above to trim your ribs and get them ready to smoke.
- Season your ribs. Use a seasoning with a little sweetness, a little heat, and a good amount of salt. I’m combining my Signature Sweet Rub, my Beef Seasoning, and extra black pepper.
- Smoke your 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.
- Rest your ribs. When your ribs are ready, pull them off the smoker and let them rest for at least 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving.
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.
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
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Smoked Spare Ribs
- Preheat your smoker to 250 degrees F. Use your favorite hardwood. I recommend fruit, hickory, or apple woods.
- Trim your ribs. 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 your ribs. Sprinkle on your sweet seasoning, your beef seasoning, and then the black pepper. Cover the top, bottom, and all sides of the ribs.
- Smoke your 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. Once your ribs reach an internal temperature of 200-205 degrees F and are tender when you bend them, remove your ribs to a cutting board.
- Rest your ribs. Let your ribs rest on your cutting board for at least 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving.