2-2-1 Pork Ribs


I love some slow smoked pork ribs. I especially love spare ribs. 

You get primarily three different “cuts” of ribs from a pig. 

Baby Back Ribs : Commonly found in your local market. Baby Backs come from the top of the rib cage close to the spine. While the meat is leaner, there is less of it then on the Spare Ribs. 

Spare Ribs : Spare Ribs are another common pork rib found in your local market. Spare Ribs come from the middle portion of the rib cage and have the Rib Tips attached. Rib Tips are the meaty lower portion of the rib cage. Spare Ribs are larger, meatier and contain more fat  than Baby Backs. It is this additonal fat that makes these ribs juicier and more forgiving when cooked. 

St. Louis style ribs : St. Louis style ribs are simply Spare Ribs that have been “squared up” by removing the Rib Tips and usually the very short end ribs. 

pork ribs chart

Spare ribs are not only less expensive then Baby Backs but they also have much more meat to them.  A typical untrimmed rack of spare ribs contains between 10-13 bones. On a trip to the store you will usually find both untrimmed spare ribs and St. Louis style Ribs. 

When I trim my spares St. Louis style I also never throw out the trimmed meat. That is some lean delicious meat there. I will usually cook it all together and used the trimmed portions cut up in beans or sauced and served on a bun. 

The pictures above show the St. Louis Ribs and the trimmed off portions together. 

Smoking 2-2-1 ribs

Start off by trimming up your Spare Ribs. Then liberally apply your dry rub of choice. Place the ribs in your smoker or grill (if using indirect heating) which has been preheated to 250F. Use a milder smoking wood such as pecan or almost any of the fruit woods (apple, cherry etc). Also, don’t use too much wood. The meat is not real thick like a Butt or a Brisket so it really doesn’t take a lot. 

Smoke for ABOUT 2 hours, then wrap the ribs in heavy duty aluminum foil with some brown sugar and just enough apple juice to create steam. Place back on the heat for another 2 hours. After 2 hours in the foil, unwrap them place them back on the grill and sauce with your prefered BBQ sauce for 1 hour allowing the sauce to caramelize. Hence…the 2-2-1 method. 

Important Tip

This is an adaptation of the familiar 3-2-1 method often seen on BBQ shows. I have found these times to vary widely and should be used simply as a “guide”.  It is therefore important to check your ribs carefully especially in the last half of the cook. When they are done you will see that the meat has shrunk back from the end of the bone. The rack should also bend but not break. Internal temperatue of the meat should be at least about 170F even though the meat may still be too tough at that temp. 

Remember….cooking ribs takes some practice. Don’t give up.