The Complete Guide To Smoking Ribs On A Pellet Grill

3-2-1 Smoking Method

Let’s Talk Smoked Ribs.


There isn’t just one way to make great smoked ribs. Below you’ll find one of many styles, but the best way to discover what you like best is to experiment often! Smoking ribs on a pellet grill is one great way to make a great smoked rib.

Spare Ribs Or Baby Back Ribs?

Baby back ribs are cut from where the rib meets the spine after the loin is removed. Baby back ribs get their name because they’re the shorter, upper ribs of a pig. Spare ribs are the meaty ribs cut from the belly of the animal after it’s removed.

What’s the difference when it comes to cooking them on your grill? Baby back ribs are usually much more tender and lean since there are more meat and less bone. They require less cooking time due to their size, which is nice if you’re in a rush. They’re less common than spare ribs, simply because they’re more costly. Spare ribs are a bit flatter and fattier which make them easier to brown and capture that delicious smoky flavor. They’re the perfect ribs for dry smoking due to their ability to hold flavor.

When it comes to choosing one style of ribs over the other, we don’t have a preference. You can prepare both kinds in a way that will wow anyone who sinks their teeth into one. The best way to figure out what type of ribs you prefer to smoke is to try your hand at both!

Raw meat ready to be smoked by a Mak Grill.

3-2-1 Smoking Method

Whatever the occasion for smoking ribs, consistency is key. One of our main goals when designing our pellet grills was to put out a product that would make consistency easy. In that spirit, here’s a fool-proof method for smoking ribs perfectly each and every time.

3 – The First Smoke (3 Hours)

The first step to packing smokey flavor into your rack of ribs is to smoke them on low, unwrapped. You’ll want to choose a wood pellet that matches the flavor you’re going for. Our favorites are hickory, pecan, cherry, or apple. Before your ribs hit the smoker, you’ll want to season them with a little cracked pepper and sea salt. If you’re using a rub, we recommend choosing one with sugar since it enhances flavor and helps create a crunchier bark. We find it helps to apply a bit of yellow mustard or olive oil (depending on taste) as an adhesive for the rub, which will also complement the flavor of the pork. Now your ribs are ready to cook!

Once your grill comes to temperature, you’ll place the ribs bone side down on your grill. The key is to expose them to as much heavy smoke at possible to really pack in the flavor. At this point, you can step away and let the smoker do its thing for two hours. After 2 hours, spritz them with a 50/50 solution of apple juice or apple cider and water. This helps the ribs soak up smoke more effectively and the sugar to caramelize.

General Tip: Place an empty mini aluminum loaf pan in your grease drawer for easy disposal after your cook.


2 – Wrap Em’ Up (2 Hours)

Now that your ribs have had a good amount of direct smoke exposure, it’s time to wrap em’ up! Tear a strip of HD foil 4” longer than your ribs. Spritz the foil liberally with apple juice, then sprinkle about ⅛ cup of brown sugar where the ribs will lay. Follow with a few pats of butter, and drizzle with honey. Lay the ribs meat side down and repeat the process on top. Wrap tightly in foil, then stick them back in your smoker. The foil helps contain moisture to get that perfect tender consistency, while the butter and honey will blend with the meat juices, infusing rich flavor into the ribs’ bark. You’ll let the ribs continue to simmer in their foil package for another 2 hours. At this point, you should notice the bones showing through a lot more.

1 – Sauce Time (1 Hour)

So far you’ve crossed two things off the perfectly smoked ribs checklist—smokey flavor and tenderness. Now it’s time for the sauce! What you don’t want is to just slather as much sauce on as possible. We’re all about the sauce, but you don’t want too much. The key is to use just the right amount at just the right time.

Make sure you don’t sauce ribs or other meat too early. Adding before the final 30 minutes, especially with sweet sauces, can burn the sugars and ruin the meat. On the flip side, you also don’t want to apply too late. If you wait until after your ribs come off the grill to sauce them up, the meat doesn’t have the chance to soak up any of the flavors. So when is the perfect time? We recommend adding sauce to your ribs 20-30 minutes before taking them off the grill. This allows time for the sauce to caramelize, adding rich flavor without burning. Let your ribs sit for an hour after you take them off the grill to cool and help the flavors set.

Smoking Ribs On A Pellet Grill? Here is a 3-2-1 Smoking Method Infographic By Mak Grills

MAK Rib Rack

The Rib Rack is constructed of 304 stainless steel wire and designed to maximize space in your MAK grill. We created the Rib Rack in response to customer feedback—a lot of MAK users told us repeatedly that there wasn’t enough room for cooking ribs. Since ribs are as important to barbecuing as your legs are for walking, we had to solve this issue. The vertical design of the Rib Rack makes it possible to cook a lot more ribs at once, and to manage them all at the same time. Instead of a mere 3-6 racks, you can now cook up to 18 racks of ribs at one time. More ribs = more people, and more people = more barbecue fun!

When you buy ribs, they usually come in packs of 3 racks. While the rack is designed for 8 racks, you can easily use the handles for an extra rack, thus providing space for three 3-packs of ribs. You can also bend extra-long ribs around the Rib Rack to make them fit on the grill. If there’s a will, there’s a way!

MAK Grills accessory, the rib rack, used for smoking 8 racks of ribs at one time.


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