How to Make 3-2-1 Ribs on a Traeger Pellet Grill

Learn step by step how to prepare perfectly smoked 3-2-1 ribs on a Traeger pellet grill!

We cover how to prep, season, cook, and sauce your ribs using the 3 2 1 Method and why the Traeger pellet grill makes it so easy to cook these ribs.

Whether you’ve got baby backs, St. Louis Cut, or a full untrimmed rack of pork spare ribs, we’ve got you covered to modify this tried and true 3 2 1 technique as needed.

Let’s go!

finished traeger 3-2-1 ribs


What is the 3 2 1 Method for Smoking Ribs on a Traeger?

The 3-2-1 method of smoking ribs on a Traeger, or any smoker for that matter, refers to the number of HOURS you spend on each step of the rib cooking process.

In its most basic form, the 3-2-1 method of smoking pork ribs goes as follows:

  • 3 Hours smoking unwrapped
  • 2 Hours cooking wrapped in foil
  • 1 MORE Hour cooking unwrapped.

We will dive into each of these steps in much greater detail as we proceed below.

Now, as with all things in BBQ, and cooking in general for that matter, there is room for nuance, interpretation, and modification depending on a wide variety of factors including but not limited to:

  • The type of pork ribs you are cooking (Baby Backs vs. St. Louis Style Ribs vs. Pork Spare ribs)
  • The cooking temperature you set on your Traeger pellet grill. 
  • The outdoor temperature and humidity that day
  • What texture you personally prefer your ribs (completely falling off the bone vs. firm and still having some bite to them)

So what is important is not to dogmatically stick to any certain amount of cooking time in each step, but to understand the basic framework and sequencing and ALSO understand how to adjust each step based on the variables listed above.

Depending on the types of ribs and your personal preference, you might do a 2-2-1, or a 3-1-1/2, or even a 4-1-1.

If one can understand how to adjust the cooking times in each step and how doing so will affect the finished product, THAT particular day, with THOSE particular ribs, for THESE particular guests, well…thats what will make them a TRUE pitmaster that can roll into any given situation and be successful every time.


Baby Back Ribs, St. Louis Cut, and Spare Ribs

Before we can decide how to utilize the 3-2-1 method of cooking ribs on our Traeger pellet grill, we must first understand more about what TYPE of ribs we are cooking.


Baby Back Ribs

Probably the most well known and prefered style of ribs in America. Heck they even have their own well known TV jingle.

st louis style ribs o left and baby back ribs on right
St Louis Style Ribs on the LEFT and Baby Back Ribs on the RIGHT

But why are they called baby back ribs and why are they so popular?

Well it may have to do with them being leaner and sometimes meatier than their sparerib counterparts, also known as St. Louis Style or St. Louis Cut Ribs.

Now, they both come from the same rib, hogs don’t have one set of baby back ribs and another set of spare ribs.

But, the baby backs are cut from the 1/3 of that rib that is closer to the spine, or back of the pig, in the same area as the spinalis muscle, or loin, where those lean white meat pork chops are taken from.

In fact, a full size, untrimmed, bone-in pork chop would still have a baby back rib attached to it.

Baby back ribs share a lot of the same leaner whiter meat as pork chops which is why they are so delicious, but also easier than spare ribs to over cook and dry out if not cooked properly on your Traeger.


Baby Backs Stage 1

Many cooks find that with baby back ribs they modify the 3-2-1 method to say a 3-1-1 or even a 2-1-1/2.

Leaner meats like chicken, fish, turkey, and yes even that whiter pork loin meat absorb smoke faster and more intensely than darker tougher meats like brisket, pork shoulder, and pork spare ribs.

3-2-1 ribs being placed in a traeger to smoke

So the baby backs may get TOO smokey if you let them smoke a full 3 hours during the first stage.  This is why many cooks modify it to 2 or 2.5 hours when smoking baby backs on thier Traegers.


Baby Back Ribs Stage 2

Because there is less fat and tough tissue to break down compared to St. Louis Cut and Spare ribs, they don’t need as long to cook, especially in the wrapped stage.  You may find wrapping baby backs for a FULL 2 hours results in some mushy meat.

So if you’re cooking baby back ribs using the 3-2-1 method on your Traeger, make sure to start checking the ribs in the foil after the first 45-60 minutes.  More on what to look for when doing that below.


Pork Spare Ribs and St. Louis Cut Ribs

If the baby back portion of the ribs take up the half of the rib closer to the spine, or loin muscle, of the hog, then the spare ribs take up the side closer to the sternum or chest of the animal.

Now, animals that walk on all fours use their chest muscles waaaay more than their back muscles, resulting in tougher meat.

This is why pork and beef tenderloin, which come from the back their respective animals are so much more prized than say brisket or pork shoulder, which come from the hardworking front of the animals.

And these cuts of meat require much longer low and slow cooking to break down vs. a tender pork loin or filet mignon,  See a pattern here?

So we can think of pork spare ribs in much the same way.

The spare ribs are a darker, tougher cut of the ribs that while requiring a little more care and effort to cook, like all BBQ can be amazing and delicious when done right.


St. Louis Style or St. Louis Cut

If you seea package of St. Louis Style or St. Louis Cut Ribs at the store, don’t worry, this is NOT a third type of ribs, and has nothing to do with where they come from, but rather just a cleaned up rack of pork spare ribs.

A full untrimmed rack of pork spare ribs include the parts of the ribs that start to change from bone to cartilage as they attach to the sternum in the center of the hog’s chest.

untrimmed spareribs next to st louis cut ribs next to baby back ribs
Left to Right: Untrimmed Spare ribs, St. Louis Cut Ribs, Baby Back Ribs

However, many folks prefer just to have the more traditional bones and a nicely trimmed rectangular rack of ribs sitting in front of them without the odd bendy pieces of cartilage to deal with.

Hence, this is what a St. Louis Cut of pork spare ribs is.

If you’ve only ever cooked baby backs and want to try pork spare ribs on your Traeger, we’d recommend starting with a rack of St. Louis Style spare ribs first.

Thankfully, the 3-2-1 method of cooking ribs really holds up well in its original form when cooking a rack of pork spare ribs (or St. Louis cut ribs), so you shouldn’t need to modify too much form the original technique on your Traeger.


Spare Ribs Stage 1

The pork spare ribs, being a darker and tougher meat, can handle a little more smoke than the leaner baby backs.  So go ahead and smoke here for the full 3 hours.

If you are doing a full untrimmed rack, you could even push it to 3.5 or 4 hours, especially on a cold or dry day or if you are cooking below 225*F.


Spare Ribs Stage 2

Like with stage 1, your St. Louis cut pork spare ribs will likely need a little more time wrapped than their baby back counterparts, possibly even the full 2 hours.

But make sure to still check early and often starting around the 1 hour mark, maybe every 15 minutes until the meat looks how you want it.


How Many Racks of Ribs Should I Buy to Cook on my Traeger?

If you are feeding a crowd, you may be trying to decide how many slabs of ribs you need to cook on your traeger to feed everyone.

Most hungry adults can easily eat a half a slab which is about 6 ribs.

Take into consideration if you are also serving other proteins or a lot of heavy sides in which case folks may only take 3-4 ribs.

One great way to fit a lot of ribs at once on your Traeger is to use a Rib Rack.

You can stand 5 racks upright and fit around 10 slabs on a typical Traeger pellet grill so you can feed a large crowd!


How to Prepare 3 2 1 Ribs for the Traeger Pellet Grill

Ok, now that we have a basic framework in our heads of HOW the 3-2-1 method works to cook ribs on our Traeger, and we know what KIND of ribs we are going to cook and how that affects cooking time, it’s time to start prepping the ribs.


Remove the Membrane

Once you have removed your slabs of ribs from the packaging, you will need to remove the membrane on the back of each rack.

the thick membrane on the back of a slab of baby back ribs before it is removed

This membrane not only keeps the seasonings from penetrating the meat, but makes the ribs harder to carve and bite into or fall off the bone, and is well…just generally unappetizing to your guests.

Luckily it’s not hard to remove with a couple tricks used by BBQ professionals all over the world every day.

First, slide a good sharp knife, preferably a good boning knife like our favorite one from Imarku to get the membrane separated from one of the corners.

sliding a knife to remove the membrane on the back of a slab of baby back ribs

Next, once you can grab a little bit of the membrane, use a paper towel to grip it tight and pull down to the other corner.

removing the membrane form the back of baby back ribs with a paper towel

Sometimes it comes off in one big piece, other times you will need to go back and remove some pieces that didn’t come off, but using a paper towel is the best way to get a hold of this slippery membrane.

Once this membrane is removed, you are ready to season your ribs.


Apply the Rub

Mustard? But of Course!

Believe it or not, one of the best ways to bind your rub to your meat is with plain old yellow mustard.

Trust us.

And trust the thousands of BBQ competitors who have used it over the years.  You won’t taste any mustard flavor once the cook is over and it holds the rub in place like a champ.

Simply spread a thin layer of yellow mustard all over the front and back of your ribs and then sprinkle your rub on after that.

If you are separating out your salt from your rub, add the salt first, then the rub on top of that so that the salt is closer to the surface of the meat.

If you truly have an aversion to using any kind of mustard, you can also substitute a thin layer of any kind of cooking oil you wish.

But make sure to use something as this will help the rub adhere to the meat and not fall off as you are handling it.


Let the Rub Rest

Once you’ve applied your rub to the ribs, don’t throw them right on the Traeger just yet!

putting rub on the top of 321 ribs

Give the rub about 20-30 minutes to draw some moisture out of the meat and create a nice paste, and then bark on the outside of the meat during the first stage of your 3-2-1 cook.

This pulled out moisture will absorb a lot of your smoke flavor, and eventually that moisture will make its way BACK into the ribs as it rises in temperature pulling your delicious rub and absorbed smoke with it into the meat and also helping to create that coveted pink smoke ring.


The Best Rubs and Sauces for Cooking 3 2 1 Ribs on a Traeger


Our Favorite Rib Rub Brands and Homemade Rub Recipe

Asking “What’s the best rub for pork ribs?” is kind of like asking “What is the best car on the market?”, or “Who was the best baseball player?”

You are bound to start some opinionated discussions.

But like all things BBQ, it comes down to your personal preferences, dietary restrictions, the crowd you are cooking for, and really, just what you happen to be in the mood for that day.

If you don’t want a lot of salt, make your own rub and cut back on the salt.  If you don’t want a lot of sugar, we’ve got a great suggestion below for that too.

What we CAN say is we’ve tried A LOT of rubs and sauces over the years, and these are our favorites below.


Blues Hog

Blues Hog products are widely used on the competition circuit, and for good reason.

Their original rub is very sugar and paprika forward, without a lot of spice, so if you are going for a sweeter flavor for your baby backs, this is the way to go.


Three Little Pigs

Three Little Pigs is one of our personal favorites, and their Kansas City Championship rub will give you a bit more garlic, onion, and spice than Blues Hog will.

You can always mix it in with a more balanced rub like Blues Hog if you just want to add a little of those flavors.


Bad Byron’s Butt Rub

If you want to use a quality rub without ANY sugar, we are big fans of Bad Byron’s Butt Rub Seasoning.

Although we typically use it on cuts of beef and steaks where we are going for a more savory flavor, there is no reason you can’t apply it to your Traeger smoked 3 2 1 ribs because it is heavy on flavor, and has no sugar.


Homemade Rubs

Meathead’s Memphis Dust

We are big fans of Meathead Goldwyn over at,

We are also in love with his Memphis Dust Rub recipe.

It’s so good, you don’t even need sauce.

Now, Meathead doesn’t put salt in any of his rub recipes but rather salts his meat separately first.

So make sure to take that into consideration if you choose to prepare this classic rub for your ribs.


Homemade “In a Pinch” Rub

Sometimes, you forgot you ran out of your favorite rub, or don’t have all the ingredients on hand to make a complex one from scratch.

mixing the rub ingredients for traeger smoked baby back ribs

If you just want to get a good classic rub on your Traeger 3-2-1 ribs before throwing them on the pellet grill, then we’ve got you covered with this simple rib rub recipe with seasonings most people have on hand in the pantry:

  • 1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Paprika
  • 1 Tbsp Coarse Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt (Or 1/2 Tbsp table salt, go easy, you can always add more salt later)
  • 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp Granulated Garlic or Garlic Powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Onion Powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper (optional)

Mix thoroughly, (using a re-usable plastic shaker works best), and then sprinkle directly on your ribs after applying some mustard to bind as described above.


Our Favorite Rib Sauces

Blues Hog again wins the day here with their amazing lineup of sauces.  While their rubs are great, their sauces are WORLD CLASS.

Their Original BBQ Sauce is VERY thick, VERY sweet, and incredibly heavy on flavor, so a little goes a LONG way.

In fact, we actually like to cut it with their Tennessee Red Sauce, which is a thinner, more vinegar based sauce, that is our hands down favorite sauce to use on our pulled pork as described here.

You can pick up both and mix them like we do, or mix Blues Hog Original in with one of your other favorite (we’d suggest more savory sauces to balance the sugar, like this one from Aaron Franklin.)

Kosmos also makes a great lineup of BBQ sauces that work great on baby backs and pork spare ribs, especially if you want to try some more adventurous flavors such as their Peach Habanero or Honey Jalapeno.


The Best Wood Pellets for Smoking 3-2-1 Ribs on a Traeger Pellet Grill

hopper filed with pellets

You have a lot of options when it comes to choosing the right wood pellets to smoke your 3 2 1 ribs on a Traeger pellet grill.

Mesquite and hickory will give a very aggressive smoke flavor, usually a little too much if used solely on their own rather than mixed with a milder fruitwood, especially with baby backs.

Pecan, apple, beech, alder, and cherry pellets all give great results on 3-2-1 ribs when cooked on a Traeger.

For a very straightforward flavor on baby backs, we are also big fans of Bear Mountain Red and White Smoky Oak Pellets.



For the best results, store your unused pellets in a sealed room temperature container rather than in the Traeger’s hopper outside.

Traeger pellets do not last forever, but will definitely last a LOT longer if stored indoors.


How a Traeger Pellet Grill Works

In order to cook ANYTHING well on a Traeger pellet grill, you need to first have a basic understanding of how a pellet grill works.

***Completely New to Using a Pellet Grill?  No Worries!****

Hop over and check out this Complete Guide to Understanding How a Pellet Grill Works  if you are interested in learning more in depth.  We’ll be here when you get back!***


Add your Hardwood Pellets

First, you add hardwood pellets into the side hopper.

The Traeger pellet grill automatically feeds these small wood pellets via an auger mechanism to a fire pot where they are burned up, providing both heat and smokey flavor.

wood pellets in a traeger grill

The pellet grill automatically controls the flow of pellets depending on your temperature setting so that you maintain an even temperature throughout the entire cook.


How to Start up the Traeger

There is a specific start up process for the Traeger brand pellet grills you can read all about in depth here if you aren’t sure how to fire it up the first time.

Otherwise, here is the basic process for how to start a Traeger before throwing on your ribs:

  • Plug in the grill.
  • Flip the power switch to ON and turn the dial to “Smoke”.
  • You will hear the fan kick on and the auger start to move and begin to kick pellets into the fire pot.  Your fire rod will begin to heat up as well.

the fire rod heating up when starting a traeger pellet grill


  • Leave the lid open for about 5-7 minutes until you start to see white billowing smoke come out of the grill.  This happens when the pellets are first igniting.


a traeger grill starting to make smoke

  • Once a smoke is being produced, close the lid and change the temperature dial to your desired temperature setting.
  • Allow about 10-15 minutes to preheat the grill.
  • While you are waiting, make sure you’ve got the drip pan in place and the grease bucket hanging to catch any grease that comes out during the cook.
  • Put your grates on if they aren’t already in place.
  • Using a good bristle free grill brush, clean off the grill grates if there is any leftover stuck on food from the last cook.
  • When the pellet grill comes up to temperature go ahead and put on your food!


Read More: What’s the difference between the Smoke setting and the 180 Degree setting on a Traeger?


How to Cook 3 2 1 Ribs on a Traeger Pellet Grill

Now that the ribs have been prepped and seasoned and the rub has rested and permeated the meat a bit, all that’s left to do is cook them!

With a Traeger, this is the easy part!

Like we described above, just add your chosen pellets to the hopper, plug in and start the Traeger grill up.

Let the Traeger go through its start up process and once it has come up to temperature and stopped producing the thick white “start- up” smoke, put the ribs on the grill.

Pro Tip: Line your slabs up with the thicker ends to the right, which is normally the hotter side of the Traeger.


What Temperature do you Cook 3 2 1 Ribs on a Traeger Pellet Grill?

We recommend initially setting up the smoker to cook at 250°F.

trager pellet grill set to 250 degrees

This seems to be the sweet spot where its low enough that the outside doesn’t overcook but also high enough that the ribs don’t cook for so long that they dry out.

If you choose to cook at a higher or lower temperature, make sure to adjust your times during each stage of The 3 2 1 Method outlined below.


The 3 2 1 Method to Cook Ribs on a Traeger Pellet Grill, Explained

Now, lets get into the nuts and bolts of using The 3 2 1 Method to smoke ribs on a Traeger pellet grill.

Just to review, this refers to the following blocks of time:

  • The First 3 Hours: Smoking the ribs
  • The Next 2 Hours: Wrapping the ribs in foil so that they steam and get tender and more “Fall off the Bone” style.
  • The Last 1 Hour: Taking them out of the foil and putting them back on the Traeger to firm up and finally saucing them during the last 30 minutes.

Again, this is just a framework, and a way of simplifying the process.  Understand that in BBQ there are no absolutes.

You can keep your Traeger pegged at 250°F throughout this whole process.


The First 3 Hours – Smoke

baby back ribs just placed on a traeger grill

3 hours is a suggestion. You may only need to smoke the for 2 hours before wrapping if doing baby backs, or if your Traeger tends to run hot, or if it’s especially hot and humid out that day.

So how DO you know how long is enough during Stage 1?

The idea is to get a nice smoke flavor on the ribs and get them to turn a nice dark red and amber color without completely drying them out.

You will watch them go from looking raw, to sweating and having a nice wet paste, to the paste turning more into a firm bark that you can no longer move gently around the surface of the rib with your finger.

One way to keep them from drying out is to spritz them with some sort or flavorful juice, cola, or beer during this part of the cook.

Many BBQ pros like to use a mixture of 75% apple juice and 25% apple cider vinegar.  Some use cherry cola and swear by the sugar caramelizing on the surface.

Once you have a nice color of the ribs after about 1.5 to 2 hours, keep a close eye on them if you cook any longer.

You want to avoid burnt looking edges and big splits across the top of the meat.

baby back ribs smoking on a traeger

You can rotate them a bit during this time if one side of your Traeger is a lot hotter than the other.

If you are using rib racks, turn them over about half way through the cook to make sure they cook evenly.


The Next 2 Hours – Wrap

drizzling honey on baby back ribs before wrapping in foil

Again, 2 hours is a suggestion, and with baby backs, unlike their fattier sparerib counterparts, you probably won’t need to wrap a full 2 hours.

The longer you wrap, the more the ribs will steam and become fall off the bone tender.

But overdo it and you’ll end up with a foil bag of bare bones and loose shredded pork!

So wrap tightly for 45 minutes to an hour and then check every 15 minutes until you see the meat pulling away from the ends of the bones.

showing the rib meat pulling away from the bones after stage 2 of the 321 method of traeger smoking

When you see the meat pulling away from the ends of the bones as in the picture above, this is usually a good indicator they are ready to come out of the foil.

Have fun with your ingredients inside the foil.

Many BBQ competitors use a combination Parkay squeeze butter, brown sugar, and honey to make a sweet glazy bath for their ribs in the foil.

placing butter on the 321 ribs before putting back on the traeger

Pro Tip: For more moist, fall off the bone meat, place the ribs upside down into your foil wrap of ingredients, wrap, and then place on the grill upside down this way.  Then turn them back over right side up to firm up later when you remove them from the foil in Stage 3.

putting the foil wrapped 321 ribs on the traeger


The Final Hour – Firm and Sauce

It may take a few cooks for you to learn exactly how long to wrap your ribs based on how you like them.

Once you are ready to remove the 3 2 1 ribs from the foil be careful, the steam and liquid will be EXTREMELY HOT!

bones showing through on a slab of baby back ribs on a traeger

We recommend a good pair of insulated meat handling gloves to easily pick up the hot rack of ribs rather than trying to awkwardly use forks and tongs.

For one, you don’t want to burn yourself, but you also don’t want to end up with a hot slippery slab of ribs on the ground.

Place the ribs back on the Traeger unwrapped and right side up (or back in the rib rack) and give them about 30 minutes to firm up a little before you start putting on any sauce.

brushing sauce on the traeger smoked ribs


Then baste your favorite sauce (or combo of sauces like Blues Hog Original and Tennessee Red mentioned above) on for the last 30 minutes.

This will give the sauce some time to caramelize on the ribs a bit and stick to the meat.

You are welcome to crank the heat on your Traeger here for the last 30 minutes up to 275-300°F if you want to really caramelize your sauce, but just watch the ribs carefully and make sure not to burn the sugars in you sauce.


How to Carve and Serve Traeger Smoked 3 2 1 Ribs

2 finished racks of baby back ribs cooked on a traeger pellet grill

When it comes to slicing up and serving your Traeger 3-2-1 ribs, you can stand them upright to see the lines of the bones easier and cut top to bottom.

Baby back ribs are more curved than their St. Louis Cut brethren, so you will need to follow that curve as you slice, and it is a lot easier to see from the underside.

A good meat slicing knife makes all the difference and will keep the ribs from falling apart as you slice.

We particularly like this meat slicing knife from Mairico.



We don’t recommended cutting every rib up individually before serving or they are more likely to dry out.

slicing 3-2-1 traeger smoked ribs

Depending how many guest you are serving, you can either give each person their own 1/3 to 1/2 slab, or put them on a platter cut up in 2-3 rib sections for people to serve themselves with tongs.

Want to review our 5 FAVORITE Meat Cutting knives of the past year? Check out this Complete List HERE!

Serve some extra sauce on the side for those who want it, and enjoy!

anohter finsihed bbq rib smoked on a traeger


What Other Food Can I Smoke on my Traeger?

Looking for some more smoky inspiration?

So glad you asked.

white smoke coming out of a traeger pellet grill

Check out some of our other great recipes of smoked and grilled food you can easily modify to prepare on a Traeger pellet grill at your next outdoor BBQ!

Smoked Seafood


Smoked Beef


Smoked Lamb


Smoked Pork, Turkey, and Chicken


Other Odds and Ends

Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a grill or smoker but one of the most fun ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours! 

You’ve got to check it out!

finished traeger 3-2-1 ribs

Traeger Smoked 321 Ribs

Learn step by step how to prepare perfectly smoked 3-2-1 ribs on a Traeger pellet grill!
We cover how to prep, season, cook, and sauce your ribs using the 3 2 1 Method and why the Traeger pellet grill makes it so easy to cook these ribs.
Whether you’ve got baby backs, St. Louis Cut, or a full untrimmed rack of pork spare ribs, we’ve got you covered to modify this tried and true 3 2 1 technique as needed.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Australian, barbecue, BBQ
Servings 6
Calories 700 kcal


  • Traeger Pellet Grill
  • Wood Pellets (preferably a fruitwood or oak)
  • Empty Spray Bottle
  • Rib Rack (optional)
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Heat Resistant BBQ Gloves
  • Basting brush
  • Meat Slicing Knife


  • 2 Racks of Ribs Baby Back or St. Louis Style
  • 2 Tbsp Yellow Mustard
  • 1 cup Your Favorite BBQ Sauce such as Blues Hog

Mad Backyard "In a Pinch" Rib Rub

  • 1 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • ½ cup Paprika
  • 2 Tbsp Course Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Kosher Salt or 1/2 Tbsp Table Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Granulated Garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Onion Powder
  • 2 Tsp Cayenne Powder optional for heat


  • ½ cup Apple Juice
  • ¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar

Wrapping Seasonings

  • 1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar optional
  • 2 drizzles drizzles Honey optional
  • 2 drizzles Parkay Squeeze butter, or (3) 1 TBSP tabs stick butter optional
  • 2 drizzles Tiger Sauce optional for heat


  • Start up the Traeger pellet grill, add your chosen pellets to the hopper, and set the temperature to 250°F
    traeger pellet grill set to 250 degrees

Prepare the Ribs and Spritz

  • Remove the membrane from the back each rack of ribs using a knife to get it started in one corner, then grabbing on with a paper towel and pulling towards the opposite corner.
    removing the membrane form the back of baby back ribs with a paper towel
  • Apply a thin layer of yellow mustard to the front and backs of each rack of ribs and rub to coat entirely.
  • Use your favorite BBQ rub or mix the rub ingredients listed above together in a bowl or shaker.
    putting rub on the top of 321 ribs
  • Apply a generous amount of rub to the fronts and backs of each slab of ribs. Its ok to leave some rub leftover to apply more throughout the cook if needed.
  • Let the rub set on the ribs at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes before putting them on the Traeger.
  • While the rub is setting, mix the apple juice and apple cider vinegar together in a spray bottle.

Stage 1 - Smoke the Ribs

  • Once the Traeger is making smoke and up to 250°F, place the ribs on the grill with the thickest sides to the right (the hotter end of the grill). Use a rib rack if preparing more than 4 racks of baby back ribs at once.
    3-2-1 ribs being placed in a traeger to smoke
  • Close the lid and let the ribs cook for about 90 minutes. You can spritz gently as necessary to keep the meat moist if it begins to look dry.
    the traeger ironwood 885
  • After 90 minutes rotate the ribs if one side appears darker than the other and begin checking them about every 15-20 minutes.
  • While they are smoking, you can prepare your foil and wrapping ingedients.

Stage 2 - Wrap the Ribs

  • Lay out 2 long pieces of heavy duty aluminum foil on top of each other on the counter, long enough to double wrap the rack of ribs front and back with the two pieces. Repeat with the other rack.
  • Spread ½ cup of brown sugar on each set of aluminum foil, then drizzle some honey, parkay squeeze butter, and Tiger Sauce on each. (this is optional)
    squeezing parkay butter into the foil to wrap baby back ribs
  • Once the ribs are a nice dark amber color and especially if you begin to see any very dark burning on the bones or ends, usually around the 2.5 hour mark, remove them from the grill using tongs or heat resistant gloves.
  • Place the ribs face down into each pile of aluminum foil and add more of the ingredients to the back (top) of the ribs if you wish.
    placing butter on the 321 ribs before putting back on the traeger
  • If you would rather not use the wrapping ingredients listed above, place the ribs in the foil face up and add a small amount of apple juice, soda, or beer to the aluminum foil to add some moisture.
  • Wrap the ribs tightly in the double layer of aluminum foil and place back on the Traeger and continue to cook at 250°F.
    putting the foil wrapped 321 ribs on the traeger

Stage 3- Firm and Sauce the Ribs

  • Begin checking the ribs after about 45-60 minutes and every 15 minutes after that. Once you see the meat pulling away from the ends of bones and tenderizing, you can take them out of the foil. This may only take 1 to 1.5 hours for baby backs rather than 2 for St. Louis Cut and untrimmed spare ribs.
    showing the rib meat pulling away from the bones after stage 2 of the 321 method of traeger smoking
  • Carefully remove the ribs from the foil and save the juices in the foil to add to your sauce later. Place the ribs back on the Traeger, face up, and cook for about 30 more minutes at 250°F before saucing.
    taking baby back ribs out of the foil and placing back on the foil
  • While the ribs are cooking, prepare your sauce by mixing you favorite sauce(s) together with some of the juices retained from the foil. Mix in a cup or bowl and set aside.
  • After the ribs have been back on the Traeger unwrapped for about 30 minutes and firmed back up a little, gently brush the sauce on with a basting brush.
    brushing sauce on the traeger smoked ribs
  • Close the lid and continue cooking for another 30 minutes to let the sauce thicken and set on the meat.

Slicing and Serving the 3 2 1 Ribs

  • Remove the ribs from the Traeger and let them rest for about 15 minutes.
  • Turn the ribs upright on their edge so that you can more easily see the ribs running along the bottom up and own.
  • Using a good meat slicing knife cut from top to bottom between the bones in the center of the racks to serve a half rack to each person. Or you cna cut them into 2-3 rib portions of serving ona. platter to a larger crowd.
    slicing 3-2-1 traeger smoked ribs
  • Include some sauce on the side for guests to add extra if they desire and enjoy!
    anohter finsihed bbq rib smoked on a traeger


Calories: 700kcal
Keyword 3 2 1 Method, 3-2-1 Ribs, 321 Ribs, baby back ribs, barbecue, bbq, BBQ Rub, pellet grill, pellet smoked, pellet smoker, pork ribs, pork spare ribs, smoked, spare ribs, spareribs, St. Louis Cut, St. Louis Style, traeger
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One Comment

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  1. 5 stars
    These were really good. Will need to scale back the foil time for baby back ribs next time like you suggested as I still did the full 2 hours and they were really falling off the bone. Everybody seemed to like them though!

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