3-2-1 Barbecued Spare Ribs

3-2-1 Barbecued Spare Ribs

We’re excited to partner with Reynolds Wrap® for this sponsored recipe.

If your idea of the perfect barbecued rib is smoke-infused meat that practically slides off the bone, the popular (and easy) 3-2-1 method of cooking ribs is for you. Never heard of it? It breaks the cooking of the ribs into three timed segments. 

Meaty, well-seasoned spareribs are smoked (indirect grilled) for three hours at 225 degrees F. It’s during this segment that the ribs acquire the smoky flavor that is a hallmark of true American barbecue. Next, the bones are completely enclosed in Reynolds Wrap®  Heavy Duty Foil and returned to the grill or smoker for 2 more hours (still at 225 degrees F). In this moist environment, the meat fibers break down and become supernaturally tender, yet juicy. Finally, the ribs are unwrapped, brushed with barbecue sauce, and returned to the grill for an hour to firm up the exterior bark and complete the cooking. 

You’ll be rewarded with ribs that have multiple layers of flavor. The predictable time frame is a bonus, too. Family and friends will declare you a barbecue genius when they taste these superlative bones.

Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Foil is indispensable for this recipe. You can rely on sturdy, dependable Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Foil because of its durability. Proudly made in the USA.

3-2-1 Barbecued Spare Ribs


More Ribs Recipes:



3-2-1 Barbecued Spare Ribs

Recipe Notes

  • Advance Prep: 10 minutes
  • Grill Time: 5 1/2 to 6 hours
  • Yield: Serves 2, but can be multiplied as desired
  • Method: Indirect grilling
  • Equipment: 4 1/2 cups smoking wood chips, soaked in water to cover for 30 minutes, then drained (see Notes below)


  • 1 rack St. Louis-style spare ribs (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), membrane removed
  • Your favorite barbecue rub
  • Your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 3 tablespoons chilled butter, sliced into 5 pieces
  • 1/3 cup apple juice or cider
  • 1 piece Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Foil or Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Extra-Wide Foil (see Notes below)

Recipe Steps

1: Set up your grill or smoker for indirect grilling and preheat to 250 degrees. Brush the grill grate clean and oil it well.

2: Place the ribs on a rimmed baking sheet. (For easier clean-up, line the sheet with Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Foil.) Season on both sides with your favorite barbecue rub; don’t forget the sides and ends.

3-2-1 Barbecued Spare Ribs - Step 2

3: Place 3/4 cup of wood chips on each pile of coals or in the smoker box of your gas grill. Lacking a smoker box, place a foil smoking pouch (see Notes below) over one of the burners on your gas grill (under the grill grate).

4: Place the ribs directly on the grill grate, meat side up, away from direct heat. Smoke the ribs, lid down, for 3 hours, replenishing the fuel and wood chips as needed.

5: Transfer the ribs, meat side up, to the foil, long sides parallel to each other. Turn the sides and ends of the foil up slightly. Dot the top of the ribs with the butter, then pour the apple cider around the bottom of the rack.

3-2-1 Barbecued Spare Ribs - Step 5A

Bring the ends of the foil together and fold twice to make a tight seal. Repeat with the sides. (If using Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Extra-Wide, bring the long sides over the ribs first, fold, then fold the ends.)

3-2-1 Barbecued Spare Ribs - Step 5B

6: Return the foiled ribs to the grill, seam side up. Replace the lid and cook the ribs for an additional 2 hours, replenishing the fuel as needed. (You do not need smoking chips once the ribs are foiled.)

7: Transfer the ribs to a rimmed sheet pan. Carefully open the foil package, avoiding any escaping steam. Discard the foil and any accumulated juices. Brush the ribs on both sides with your favorite barbecue sauce.

3-2-1 Barbecued Spare Ribs - Step 7

8: Return the ribs to the grill, meat side up, and continue to cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until the sauce sets. (If you are in a hurry, you can grill the sauced ribs directly over the fire, 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until the sauce sets.)

3-2-1 Barbecued Spare Ribs - Step 8

9: Transfer the ribs to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, slice the slab into individual ribs. Arrange on plates or a platter. Serve immediately.

3-2-1 Barbecued Spare Ribs

Recipe Tips

If using 12-inch-wide Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Foil, tear off a piece that is twice as long as the rack of ribs plus 3 inches. If using 18-inch-wide Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Extra-Wide, tear off a piece that is 4 inches longer than the rack of ribs.

If you are cooking the ribs on a gas grill, place the soaked wood chips in the grill’s smoker box. Or make a pouch out of Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty foil and fill it with soaked wood chips. Fold the edges to completely enclose the chips. Poke holes in the pouch so the smoke can escape. Place the pouch over one of the burners or on the grill grate. Replace as needed during the first 3 hours of the cook.