baby back ribs on smoker

Baby Back Ribs

Baby Back Ribs Recipe – Competition-Style Recipe

If you want to produce high-quality Baby Back Ribs Recipe, you MUST start with a good quality product.

I start with a slab 2 ½ lb and down Baby Back Ribs (also know as loin back ribs). You can also cook St. Louis Style (spare ribs) with this same method.

Baby Back Ribs Recipe

My Baby Back Ribs come from a local butcher. He selects the best slabs from his inventory and puts them to the side.

If you call ahead of time and tell them what you are looking for, most butchers don’t mind doing this. It never hurts to make friends. (a little gift of bbq goes a long way).

Some butchers will even trim the ribs for you for free. I try and remove any bone fragments or end pieces that don’t look right.

Anatomy of a hog

(This diagram comes courtesy of Meathead over at Very cool BBQ Site to check out)

You want a perfect looking slab before putting any rub or seasoning on the meat. Good product going in equals good product coming out.

First off, Remove the membrane from the Baby Back Ribs…

I always remove the membrane. It will affect your tenderness if you don’t and if you are competing, it is what the judges expect.

Baby Back Ribs

You want to remove the membrane on the back of the ribs first. To do this, use the pointed end of a small knife and insert it very carefully underneath the membrane. Make sure you don’t cut too deep into the meat. You want to lift the membrane up slightly just enough to get a finger underneath.

Once you can work your finger under it, carefully work across the slab trying not to tear the membrane. Now that you have pulled the membrane enough to get a grip on it, pull it all the way off the slab.

Now wash the slab of ribs and pat dry with paper towel.

The next step is to apply a good quality dry rub to your Baby Back Ribs

You can use any dry rub that you like. But we always use our own recipe Killer Hog’s The BBQ Rub.

mustard on Baby Back Ribs

To get the rub to adhere to the meat I use a light coat of yellow mustard, then sprinkle on the rub. You don’t have to massage the rub into the meat. Just stack the slabs on top of each other and place them in a large aluminum pan or XL Ziplock bag for a short rest. I like to give the ribs a little time to draw in the flavors of the dry rub.

Now you are ready to smoke your Baby Back Ribs…

When you are ready to smoke the ribs, you want to get your smoker up to 225 degrees and add a few chunks of cherry wood. I normally use 4 to 5 chunks to start. You should have a light blue smoke coming from the smoker.

Any more will be too harsh for the meat and produce a bitter end product. When the smoker is up to temperature, place the ribs on the racks.

Baby Back Ribs on the smoker

Note the time: This process is crucial. Cooking the perfect slab of ribs is all about timing and proper temperature.

After 1 hour of smoke it’s time to baste the Baby Back Ribs…

This is the baste recipe that I use to mop on the ribs. It will keep the meat nice and moist during the cooking procedure.

  • 16 oz Vegetable Oil
  • 16 oz Cider Vinegar
  • 32 oz water
  • 1 cup of dry rub
  • 2 TBS Worcestershire
  • 2 TBS Soy Sauce

You want to mop them every hour and remember to add another 4 or 5 chunks of cherry wood as needed.

After two hours of smoke, remove the ribs from the smoker…

At this point the ribs have taken on as much smoke flavor as they are going too. Continuing to cook them uncovered will create a flavor on the outside that no one likes. It’s almost as if you cooked them over lighter fluid, and you know how bad that can be.

Baby Back Ribs in foil

This is why I wrap the ribs after two hours. Not only will wrapping help break down the fat and create the perfect tender slab, but it will also prevent that foul, over-smoked taste.

Here’s what I do:

First prep a table for wrapping. Have the baste and rub handy and pull off enough sheets of aluminum foil for each rack of ribs. I do this so I’m not wasting any time once the ribs come off the cooker. It’s important to be as quick as possible, and thinking ahead will speed up the process.

Remove all of the ribs from the smoker and place them stacked in a large aluminum pan.

Doing one slab at a time, lay it on the aluminum foil and give it a quick mop with baste. Lightly dust with the dry rub. Flip the slab over and do the same for the opposite side.

Wrap the ribs tightly in foil and move on to the next slab. The process is simple, but try to do it quickly without puncturing the wrap. Once all of the ribs are wrapped, carefully transfer them back to the cooker.

The smoker temperature should still be 225 degrees. Tenderize the ribs for another 1-1/2 hours at this temperature.

After this point I like to check a couple of the racks. Sometimes there will be a few that are ahead of the game and they’ll need to come off the smoker.

The majority of the time it takes a full 2 hours to get them to the right tenderness. A perfectly tender rib should give a little. The meat will draw back from the edge of the bones, and when you tug on two bones the meat should start to separate.

Also, I’ll stick a toothpick into the meat to check for tenderness. It should go in easy almost like sticking a knife into warm butter.

After 2 hours, pull the ribs out and vent…

Caution: Allow some of the steam to escape the foil before unwrapping; it will be very hot!

Remove the ribs from the aluminum foil and place back on the smoker racks. If you’re ahead of schedule, it’s ok to rest the ribs in a dry cooler. Sometimes I allow myself a little extra time, so it’s perfectly fine to vent the foil, drain the juice, and hold for a short period. Then they go back on the rack for finishing.

To Finish your Baby Back Ribs:

Be careful at this point the ribs will be very tender and transferring them from the foil to the smoker is a delicate procedure.

ribs on smoker

If you are planning on cooking your Baby Back Ribs DRY:

You simply need to baste your ribs once more, dust more dry rub on the top and let your ribs sit on the smoker unwrapped for 25 – 30 minutes. That’s all to finishing a DRY RIB.

ribs sauced on smoker

If you are planning on serving your Baby Back Ribs WET or MUDDY:

Gently brush on your finishing sauce (You can use any sauce that you like, but I like to use a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce for my finishing sauce).

I do this on both sides, but be careful when flipping the racks over. The key is to bake the sauce onto the ribs for 45 min to 1 hr.

The sauce also will have a tendency to burn if you don’t watch it very closely. You should be looking for a nice mahogany color – not black.

The sugar in the sauce will burn if you leave it on the smoker for too long. Normally I only go about 45 min at this time.

The ribs are now ready to come off the smoker…

Carefully remove the ribs from the smoker and place on a cutting board. I cut the ribs in two bone sections with meat on each side of the bone.

If you follow this procedure, then you will have BBQ you can brag about. It will blow any other BBQ out of the water, bar none.

Comments 48

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      1. Hey Malcom,just wanted to say thank you from all of us fans of yours that watch these videos religiously like myself. I haven’t ever smoked anything prior to this past Thanksgiving when my wife got me a MasterBuilt smoker for early Christmas.I have watched every single video on YouTube and I’ve learned alot thanks to you. I was wondering if you could use other types of chunks instead of Cherry on ribs? What would Mesquite taste like on them? Just wondering, Thank you for all you do to help us all..Your awesome keep up the great work and Good Luck.

  1. Great rib recipe. I have a Treager pellet grill and use Malcolm’s recipes all the time.
    No need to look up other websites, this one has it all. Malcolm is a joy to watch and
    knows his stuff !! Great site, great recipes, great teacher !!

  2. Malcom , you certainly have a tight hold on smoking meat . I have been using your pork rib and shoulder recepie . I also use your mop . I am gonna try your Brisket recepie next . The family loves this meat !

  3. I cook them on a big green egg and they come out fantastic! With the temp at 225 you don’t get any flare up when finishing them up wet. I also add about three tablespoons of sugar to the mop it seems to break down the fat faster and makes them sweet and very tender.

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  4. 2 questions
    I have a very small smoker and 3 racks of loin ribs – can the ribs be stacked in any way

    I am prepping the ribs on the 3rd for the 4th.. After I take them out of the foil wrap can I let them cool and dry rub or muddy them the next day?

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      You could use this method to pre-cook the ribs and then char glaze them. But if you keep the ribs stacked the entire cooking process, I don’t think they will get cooked evenly and won’t be pretty.

  5. Thanks to Malcolm sharing his wisdom I have become a great smoker! Follow this recipe and you will have the best ribs you can get ANYWHERE! Have three racks on the drum now. Happy 4th!

  6. Great recipe and method! I’ve smoked baby back ribs twice this year for my family. About to start the third round for 30 family members. They just rave about how good they are. Thanks Malcom!

  7. A year ago I was new to smoking Malcom has helped me to become a better grill master. Everyone loves the recipes. Thank you for sharing you knowledge and talent, we appreciate it. I also starting using your dry rubs, picked them up on Amazon, great products I highly recommend them.

  8. That mop mix sure does make a lot o’ liquid. I halved it and still had a ton left over after using it (liberally) on three slabs.

    What do you do with the leftovers?

  9. I am making this recipe today for the 3rd time. The first time was about 4 years ago, when I was very new at smoking meat. The second time I made them was only a few weeks ago. They were so good that I wanted to make them again right away. Today is the first opportunity I’ve had to make them, so they’re cooking now, almost done. I actually combined 2 of Malcom’s recipes for these, in that the wrapping stage gets a coat of baste on both sides, then a coat of rub on both sides, then a coat of honey on both sides, then a coat of brown sugar on both sides, then a little bit of baste in the foil to flavorize the meat while it steams. If these are as good as last time, I just may have to start entering comps or selling these. I follow Malcom’s recipes pretty much exclusively.

  10. Thanks Malcom, I made this recipe today and my wife says they are the best I have ever made, and believe me I’ve been making ribs for years , the neighbors enjoyed some of them as well.
    I’ve always enjoyed watching your videos and your enthusiasm for BBQ is contagious. Thanks again!

  11. If I just want to do the ribs without going threw the wrapping process would time be the same as you can tell I am a rookie at this I do use your product

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  12. So I got a little confused with the dry vs. muddy ribs. At what point in the timeline do you apply the sauce if you want them muddy? Thanks!

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  13. I have found that if you place the ribs in the freezer for a few minutes the membrane will be much easier to remove.

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  14. The article states to baste every hour but also says to baste after the first hour and pull/baste/wrap at the 2nd hour. Do I open the foil and baste at hour 3? Also, if I’m only smoking 2 slabs should I still make 9 cups of mopping liquid?

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  15. In your instructions you say to bake the sauce onto the ribs for 45 minutes to an hour. In the answer to a question you say to put the sauce on for the last 15 to 20 minutes. Which is correct?

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  16. Quick question, I know you mention basting the ribs every hour, do you do the same after wrapping them also?

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  17. First time ever smoking ribs. Or anything low and slow.
    Used a Weber 22″ kettle using a 2×1 snake method. Temps held at 225-250. Served dry. Amazing ribs. Tender, juicy, beautiful smoke ring and just the best ribs I’ve ever had. I owe it all to you. Can’t wait to try more low and slow meats.
    Thank you for all your content.

  18. A couple of others ask this question but I don’t see an answer. Can you store the excess basting mixture? Thanks for some great recipes!!

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  19. I’m new to this whole smoking thing and grilling in general but I just finished this recipe with a half rack so halved everything in the baste but cooked it the whole time. Man can I tell you these ribs were the best ribs I’ve ever had! Thank you Mr. Reed for sharing this with us

  20. Hey Malcom,

    Big fan, would you follow the same steps for temperature, etc if this were done on a pellet smoker? Any adjustments you would make? Thank you for this, I keep making your recipes my family loves them and I post them on Reddit for others to try.

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