Fire up the grill and loosen your belt; the countdown to amazing ribs starts now. My 3-2-1 Ribs Recipe has an easy-to-remember cooking method, making it perfect for beginners. Nothing about this recipe tastes novice, though.
The ribs are seasoned with two of my world-famous rubs, bathed in my unforgettable Butter Bath and Wrap, and topped with a layer of my sticky-sweet BBQ sauce. They cook low and slow, giving you the ultimate pit-master experience.
This cooking method produces juicy, tender, and perfectly seasoned meat. The ribs have a total cook time of 6 hours, which may seem like a lot. I promise it’s worth every second and more.
3-2-1 Ribs Recipe | Traeger Grill
I always say, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it!” This method of cooking ribs is considered “old-school,” but some things never go out of style. For decades, this cooking style has created tender, rich, juicy cuts of meat. My 3-2-1 Ribs are some of the best-tasting BBQ you’ll ever have. Who knows, this might become your favorite recipe.
My 3-2-1 Ribs Recipe pulls out all the stops. Butter bath, sauce, zesty rubs..this cut of meat lacks nothing. You won’t use the entire jar of rub, so save the remainder for another fabulous recipe. Here’s what you need to add to your shopping cart.
- Pork Spare Ribs I love this brand of meat. The pork is always fresh and ready for the grill. I like using spare ribs for this recipe because they’re meatier and have the most flavor. They also hold up well when cooked low and slow. I highly recommend this company and their fantastic customer service.
- Yellow mustard. Mustard is my favorite binder for ribs. It adds the perfect layer of moisture and helps the seasonings stick. I recommend using smooth mustard like French’s yellow. Granier mustards don’t do the job as well and add too much flavor.
- Heath Riles BBQ Hot BBQ Rub. This rub gives chicken, fish, pork, and beef a beautiful color and a kick of flavor. I used this rub in the 2022 Memphis in May Rib Championship. It must have been the right choice because those ribs won!
- Heath Riles BBQ Sweet BBQ Rub. This rub has a special place in my heart since it was the first I ever bottled. It’s delightful with just the right amount of heat on the back end. This is a great base rub to use on anything from beef to bloody marys.
- Heath Riles BBQ Butter Bath. My Butter Bath is a top-of-the-line product that flies off the shelves. Use it to wrap your ribs or a juicy ham; the choice is yours. This wrap features the best balance of brown sugar and butter notes. It makes pork shine!
- Apple juice. For this cook, I mixed my Butter Bath with apple juice. This gives the ribs a fruity note that doesn’t overpower the meat's natural flavors. You can use water if you don’t have apple juice on hand.
- Heath Riles BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce. I don’t do anything halfway, which might explain why this fabulous sauce took 10 years to perfect. I use this sauce to finish everything from chicken breasts to baked beans. It’s great on its own, but I like mixing it with our Tangy Vinegar BBQ Sauce.
The Smoker Setup
Here’s a quick rundown of the setup I used. You can find more of my grilling must-haves in the equipment and tools sections.
- Pellet grill/smoker. For this cook, I used the Traeger Timberline 1300. This is a beautiful setup with plenty of room for multiple dishes. It’s fully insulated, which means it holds its heat in the hot summer or frozen tundra. This grill includes a meat probe and a front shelf for easy meal prep.
- Pellets. I stoked the Traeger with Royal Oak Charcoal. I love these pellets because they are pure, without any gross fillers. They give the meat a clean smoke, just the way it should be. Plus, they burn hotter than regular charcoal, keeping the heat steady. They’re safe to use for any grill, not just the Traeger.
The Process for Making 3-2-1 Ribs
You can find a detailed demonstration of this recipe in the recipe card and video. Here’s the clif-notes version of how I pulled these ribs together.
- Fire up the Traeger. I stoked the grill with Royal Oak Charcoal and fired it up to 225℉.
- Trim the meat. After unwrapping the ribs, I cut the loose flap of meat off the end. I also cleaned up any fat pockets and uneven areas. When trimming your ribs, be sure you don’t cut into the meat. You want to cut just enough to take the sinew and silver off.
- Bind and season. Once the ribs looked how I wanted, I drizzled the meat with yellow mustard. I ensured the meat was evenly coated, then laid down a light coating of my Hot BBQ Rub. I followed that up with a dusting of my Sweet BBQ Rub. I patted the spices in, flipped the meat over, and repeated the process.
- Start cooking. I let the ribs sweat in for about 15 minutes, then put them on the grill for 3 hours to start the cooking process. At this point, the ribs were unwrapped and laid straight on the rack.
- Wrap and smoke. I removed the ribs from the pit and placed them on a foil-lined baking tray, meat side down. Then, I took ¼ cup of my Butter Bath and mixed it with ¾ cup of apple juice until smooth. I poured the butter bath over the ribs and wrapped them tightly. The ribs went back on the grill for another 2 hours.
- Sauce and finish. Once those 2 hours were up, I removed the ribs from the grill and unwrapped them. Then, I drizzled the back side with a little Sweet BBQ Sauce, flipped the ribs, and added more sauce to the other side. Then, I put the ribs back on the grill for an hour to finish up. The only thing left was to dig in!
These ribs cooked for a total of 6 hours, making this the longest I’ve ever waited for a plate of ribs. It was worth every minute. The ribs were juicy and falling off the bone. This old-school recipe had a classic taste that melts in your mouth. 3-2-1 Ribs are definitely one for the books!
Serving Suggestions for 3-2-1 Ribs
You can always serve my ribs as a standalone meal, but sometimes you want to impress a crowd with a spread. Try one of these delicious side dishes!
- Mississippi Coleslaw. Cool coleslaw tastes even better alongside ribs. This coleslaw isn’t your typical salad, though. It features a Mississippi-style twist you won’t forget. I love this side because you can prep it ahead of time. That leaves more time for the main course!
- Smoked Brisket Baked Beans. One taste of my baked beans, and you’ll never return to the canned stuff. This hearty side dish has lots of texture and meat. Smoking the baked beans gives them a unique flavor you don’t see daily. You can’t bottle the real deal.
- Caesar salad and bread. Who said BBQ couldn’t be fancy? Serve my 3-2-1 Ribs for date night alongside a big caesar salad and crusty bread.
Storing 3-2-1 Ribs
I can’t guarantee you’ll have leftovers, but if you do, you can store them in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 2-3 months. Before reheating, wrap your ribs tightly and thaw them in the refrigerator. If freezing, you may have to resauce the ribs, so they retain that sticky goodness.
Equipment and Tools
3-2-1 Ribs Recipe | Traeger Grill
Get Traeger Grill or grill of choice up to 225º. We used Royal Oak Pellets for this cook.
Trim ribs to your liking, remove the membrane.
Rub ribs with mustard or binder of your choice.
Season ribs with Heath Riles BBQ Hot BBQ Rub and then Heath Riles BBQ Sweet BBQ Rub.
Flip ribs and repeat steps 3 & 4.
Put ribs on the grill for 3 hours.
After 3 hours, remove ribs and wrap with Heath Riles BBQ Butter Bath (1/4 cup butter bath to 3/4 cup of apple juice for each slab of rib you are cooking) in foil.
Place ribs back on the grill for an additional 2 hours.
After 2 hours, remove ribs from the grill.
Unwrap ribs and sauce with Heath Riles BBQ Sweet BBQ Sauce or sauce of your choice.
Return ribs to the grill for an additional 1 hour.
After 1 hour, remove ribs from grill.