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Smoked Spare Ribs; Smoker, Grill or Oven

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Few culinary experiences match the primal pleasure of biting into a juicy, smoky spare rib. We order them at festivals or BBQ joints. Why not make them at home?

You don’t have to have a smoker to make luscious ribs! We make them on the grill and even in the oven in the winter! Delicious, easy dinner for any night of the week!

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Smoked Spare Ribs on wicker basket close up..Pin

We often make these spare ribs during the spring, summer, and fall, but we love to do a few batches in the middle of winter. Doing the ribs inside is so convenient when the weather is hideous!

You can make them all year round. They are so delicious too. If you don’t have a smoker, don’t despair! You can cook tasty Smoked Spare Ribs on the grill or in the oven.

This is not a sponsored post for Butcherbox, but we receive a commission if you sign up through the link we’ve provided.

We recently teamed up with Butcher Box! If you haven’t heard of Butcher Box, you should check them out! They are a subscription service that offers 100% grass-fed beef, heritage pork, free range, organic chickens, and wild-caught Atlantic sockeye salmon delivered to your door.

Your order comes in an eco-friendly, insulated box, and all their selections are frozen at the peak of freshness. Professionally packaged in dry ice.

What are their prices? Can I afford this for my family? The meats average out to $6 per serving. So, if you purchase lower cuts of meat, such as ground beef, at your local grocer, it would certainly be cheaper.

But… if you consider that the box includes premium cuts, such as filet mignon steaks, or sockeye salmon filet, the price is certainly cheaper than you would pay at your local grocer.

Sliced ribs on wicker plate with cornbread.Pin

The most important point, of course, is that you are feeding your family top-quality meats that, unless you raise your own, would be nearly impossible to match. We take comfort in the fact that they are antibiotic-free and humanely grown on local farms. We always support our local farms and community!

Consumption of organic meats is also better for the environment. The use of pesticides in the feed of traditionally raised meats is harmful to us and to the planet. Plus… we love the convenience of having it delivered to our door, which benefits the planet and us. No time wasted and no carbon footprint driving to the store!

According to Time, organic meats also contain about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids, similar to salmon, which is healthy and contain less saturated fat.

So, although all organic products may be more costly, the health and environmental benefits are definitely clear in general!

What you need

For the rub

  • Brown Sugar: The sugar caramelizes during cooking to form a sweet, flavorful crust on the ribs. It also balances the heat from the spices and the meat’s smokiness.
  • Paprika: This spice adds a sweet and smoky flavor, a classic component in many barbecue rubs. It also lends a beautiful rich, red color to the ribs.
  • Black Pepper: Pepper brings a slight heat and an aromatic quality, adding depth to the overall flavor profile.
  • Kosher Salt or Sea Salt: Salt is the key for bringing out the flavors of the other spices. It helps to enhance the taste of the meat and also aids in forming a good crust on the ribs.
  • Chili Powder: Adds heat to the rub and gives a complex flavor due to the mixture of spices typically found in chili powder.
  • Garlic Powder and Onion Powder: Add a savory depth of flavor. Garlic brings unique pungency, while onion powder tastes sweet and slightly bitter.

These ingredients combined create a balance of sweet, salty, smoky, and spicy that elevates the flavor of the ribs. The best part of making your rub, though, is its flexibility. Feel free to play around with these ingredients and their ratios, or add other spices you enjoy to create a custom rub that suits your taste preferences.

Ingredients for dry rub. See details in recipe below.Pin
Ingredients for dry rub.

For the ribs

  • Good quality spare ribs: You can use baby back ribs, large spare ribs, or St. Louis Style ribs
  • Rub: Use a homemade rub or your favorite store-bought rub.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar spritz or mop: Make a solution of two parts vinegar and one part oil or water. Then spritz with a clean kitchen spray bottle or mop it with a brush.
  • Barbecue sauce: Optional. Homemade or store-bought.
Package of spare ribs from Butcher boxPin
Spare Ribs

How to make smoked spare ribs

Step One

Remove the membrane from the bone side of the ribs. Work a corner loose with a butter knife, grab the end, and pull it off with your fingers. Dry ribs thoroughly with a paper towel. We start with the rub first. You can buy some good rubs, but we like to make our own. That way, we can control the sodium. We also like a lot of cumin and a bit of heat.

Salt and pepper the ribs.

Rub ingredients in a bowl.Pin
Add rub ingredients to a small bowl.

Step Two

Liberally rub the pork on both sides with the rub. Mix two parts of vinegar and one part of oil and put it in a clean kitchen spritzer. Alternatively, brush on lightly so the rub doesn’t get lost.

Liberally rub the pork on both sides with the rub.Pin
Sprinkle rib side of the rack of ribs with your rub.

Step Three

If you are using a smoker, preheat to 200-225°F. Soak whatever wood you use for at least 4-5 hours or overnight. Set up the grill, smoker, or oven with the wood and a water pan. Place the meat on the racks, bone-side down, and spray with the oil and vinegar mixture. Spray once an hour until the pork is done. For full-sized ribs, 6-8 hours. Baby Back ribs will only take about 5-6 hours.

Ribs with dry rub on a wire rack.Pin
Massage the rub ingredients into the meat well.

If you use the grill or the oven to smoke your ribs, preheat to 200-225°F. Place them directly on the rack with a large, rimmed baking sheet on the rack under the meat to collect drips. (Don’t put the meat directly on the baking sheet because the smoke will not penetrate well. ) Spritz them once every hour for about 1/2 of the time they need to cook. (See approximation of time in #3, above).

Brush the pork with your favorite sauce once the meat pulls up on the bones. If smoking, loosely wrap ribs with aluminum foil and place them back in the smoke for thirty minutes longer. If grilling or oven, cook another 30 minutes uncovered.

Close up of ribs on paper.Pin

What wood should you use for smoking?

Many different types of wood work well for smoking. The key is to soak your wood for at least 4 hours or overnight. The other option is to use fresh-cut wood if you have access. Soak fresh cuts for at least a couple of hours.

  • Apple
  • Cherry
  • Mesquite
  • Hickory
  • Oak
  • Maple
  • Pecan
  • Peach

Sauces that are good with smoked spare ribs

The sauce you choose for ribs can greatly influence the final flavor profile. Here are a few popular options:

  1. Traditional Barbecue Sauce: This is typically a tomato-based sauce with a balance of sweet, tangy, and spicy flavors. The sweetness often comes from molasses or brown sugar, while the tanginess is from vinegar, and the spice can come from ingredients like cayenne or chili powder. It’s a classic choice that’s hard to go wrong with.
  2. Kansas City-Style Sauce: This sauce is a variant of the traditional barbecue sauce but is usually thicker and sweeter. It’s great if you enjoy a sticky, finger-licking coating on your ribs.
  3. North Carolina Vinegar Sauce: Consider this vinegar-based sauce if you prefer a tangier profile. It’s lighter than most other barbecue sauces and has a distinctive tangy flavor that cuts through the rich fattiness of the ribs.
  4. South Carolina Mustard Sauce: This yellow sauce has a tangy, slightly sweet flavor. It’s a great option to try something different from the typical barbecue sauce.
  5. Texas-Style Sauce: Texas sauce tends to be thinner and less sweet than traditional barbecue sauce, with a stronger tomato and vinegar flavor. It’s perfect for those who prefer a less sweet, more tangy, and spicy profile.
  6. Alabama White Sauce: This mayonnaise-based sauce is tangy, creamy, and sweet. It’s a unique choice that can be surprisingly delicious on smoked ribs.
Inside of juicy ribs.Pin

What to serve with spare ribs

  • Cornbread: This sweet, crumbly delight is a barbecue classic. Its slight sweetness is a fantastic contrast to the smoky, savory flavors of the ribs
  • Coleslaw: A tangy, crunchy coleslaw is the perfect foil for your spare ribs’ smoky, rich taste. The refreshing crunch of cabbage and carrots in a creamy dressing cuts through the richness, providing a balance of flavors.
  • Cucumber Tomato Salad: This ten-minute salad has the perfect zesty tang to cut the more fatty pork.
  • Potato Salad: Whether it’s a classic creamy potato salad, a tangy German-style version, or a lighter version with a vinaigrette, potatoes are always a good idea with ribs.
  • Smoked potatoes: These can go in the smoker right alongside the ribs, cutting down clean-up in the kitchen. Spice them with your favorite spices to make them your own.
  • Foil Packet Grilled Potatoes: Another easy side dish that can be slathered in butter with fresh herbs; this is another great choice to reduce cleanup time.
  • 4-bean Baked Beans: Another staple at any BBQ feast, baked beans simmered in a sweet and tangy sauce will complement your ribs beautifully. They add a hearty, comfort-food touch to your spread.
  • BLT Pasta Salad: Fresh, savory, and easy are a great combination to serve with smoked ribs.
  • Smoked Mac and Cheese: Serving ribs with creamy, cheesy macaroni is a combination that never fails. It’s a rich and satisfying pairing that guests of all ages will love. Another side you can pop in the smoker with the ribs.
  • Pickle Spears: These tangy bites can cleanse the palate between mouthfuls of rib and add a nice crunch to your meal.
  • Grilled Corn on the Cob: A touch of char on the sweet corn kernels adds another layer of smoky flavor to your meal. Serve it with melted butter and a sprinkle of salt, or take it up a notch with chili-lime butter or Parmesan cheese.

FAQ’s for perfect smoked spare ribs

What type of ribs should I use?

You can smoke any type of ribs you prefer. Baby back ribs are smaller, leaner, and quicker to cook. Spare ribs are larger, have more meat (though it’s slightly tougher), and take longer to cook. St. Louis-style ribs are basically spare ribs with the tip removed, resulting in a rectangular rack.

How long should I smoke my ribs?

The length of time you smoke your ribs depends on the type of ribs, the temperature of your smoker, and the cooking method you choose. Generally, baby back ribs take about 4-6 hours at 225°F (107°C), while spare ribs and St. Louis-style ribs can take 6-8 hours.

Should I remove the membrane?

Removing the membrane from the bone side of the ribs is not technically mandatory. We usually remove it from spare ribs, but occasionally we leave it on baby back ribs to hold them together.

Should I use a dry rub or a marinade?

Both methods can yield delicious results, so it’s mainly a matter of preference. Dry rubs are great for creating a flavorful crust, while marinades can add extra moisture and depth of flavor.

Should I wrap my ribs while smoking?

This technique, known as the Texas Crutch, involves wrapping the ribs in aluminum foil or butcher paper partway through the cooking process to accelerate cooking. This technique is generally used for larger cuts, like brisket. It is totally unnecessary for ribs, but some people swear by it.

How do I know when my ribs are done?

An instant-read thermometer is a great tool to check the doneness of your ribs. The USDA recommends cooking ribs to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C), but for more tender ribs, you might aim for around 190°F-203°F (87°C-95°C). Another method is the bend test: pick up the ribs with tongs and bounce them gently. If the surface cracks, the ribs are done.

What type of wood should I use for smoking ribs?

This depends on the flavor profile you prefer. Fruitwoods like apple and cherry give a mild, sweet smoke, while hickory and oak are more robust. Mesquite is very strong and is typically used sparingly.

Should I sauce my ribs?

This comes down to personal preference. Some barbecue enthusiasts believe a good rib doesn’t need sauce, while others enjoy the additional layer of flavor. If you use sauce, apply it for the last 30 minutes of smoking to prevent it from burning.

More recipes to smoke

Other recipes with pork

Tools I use for smoked spare ribs

Smoked spare ribs with brush.Pin

We hope you enjoy this recipe for Smoked Ribs; no matter how you cook them, they are so much better with the addition of smoke!

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe today.

Enjoy. And have fun cooking!

Binky's signature
slice ribs with cornbread on wicker basket.Pin

Smoked Spare Ribs; Smoker or Oven

You don’t need a smoker to make luscious smoked ribs!
See Step by Step Photos Above!Most of our recipes have step by step photos and videos! Also helpful tips so that you can make it perfectly the first time and every time! Scroll up to see them!
5 from 17 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours 40 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 642kcal
Author: Beth Neels
Cost: $10

Ingredients

  • 1/8 c oil
  • 1/4 c cider vinegar
  • 1 rack pork ribs either baby back or spareribs
  • Either store bought dry rub or home made
  • Bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • Wood for smoking (hickory, apple, peach, cherry, pecan) soaked in water for at least a few hours or overnight

Instructions

  • Preheat smoker or oven to 220 degrees F.
  • Place soaked wood in a metal tray for oven and smoker. Place a tin of water along side the wood tray. (If water runs out during cooking, add more water to the pan)
    Wood for smoking
  • Mix oil and vinegar together.
    1/8 c oil, 1/4 c cider vinegar
  • Rub ribs on both sides with dry rub.
    Either store bought dry rub or home made, 1 rack pork ribs
  • If using oven, loosely cover with aluminum foil.
  • If using smoker, place directly on racks.
  • If using smoker, spray or mop ribs every hour or so to keep moist.
  • When the bottom of the rib meat pulls up and exposes the bone on the end, the ribs are ready. Internal temperature of at least 190 – 200 F.
  • Brush on your favorite BBQ sauce.
    Bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • We finish them on a very hot grill to get a nice dark color. This step is optional.
  • Baby back ribs will take 5-6 hours and spareribs will take 6-8 hours, depending on the size.
  • Time is not the correct way to tell if your ribs are done. Cook them to an internal temperature of at least 195°F (90°C)
See all of my favorite tools and gift ideas on my New Amazon Store!Check out Binky’s Amazon Store!

Video

Notes

Dry Rub Recipe
Leftovers can be refrigerated for 3-4 days.
Reheat in microwave or, covered, in 350°F oven for about 20 minutes, until hot.
FAQ’s for perfect ribs
  1. What type of ribs should I use? You can smoke any type of ribs you prefer. Baby back ribs are smaller, leaner, and quicker to cook. Spare ribs are larger, have more meat (though it’s slightly tougher), and take longer to cook. St. Louis-style ribs are basically spare ribs with the tip removed, resulting in a rectangular rack.
  2. How long should I smoke my ribs? The length of time you smoke your ribs depends on the type of ribs, the temperature of your smoker, and the cooking method you choose. Generally, baby back ribs take about 4-5 hours at 225°F (107°C), while spare ribs and St. Louis-style ribs can take 5-6 hours.
  3. Should I use a dry rub or a marinade? Both methods can yield delicious results, so it’s mainly a matter of preference. Dry rubs are great for creating a flavorful crust, while marinades can add extra moisture and depth of flavor.
  4. Should I wrap my ribs while smoking? This technique, known as the Texas Crutch, involves wrapping the ribs in aluminum foil or butcher paper partway through the cooking process to accelerate cooking. This technique is generally used for larger cuts, like brisket. It is totally unnecessary for ribs, but some people swear by it.
  5. How do I know when my ribs are done? An instant-read thermometer is a great tool to check the doneness of your ribs. The USDA recommends cooking ribs to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C), but for more tender ribs, you might aim for around 190°F-203°F (87°C-95°C). Another method is the bend test: pick up the ribs with tongs and bounce them gently. If the surface cracks, the ribs are done.
  6. What type of wood should I use for smoking ribs? This depends on the flavor profile you prefer. Fruitwoods like apple and cherry give a mild, sweet smoke, while hickory and oak are more robust. Mesquite is very strong and is typically used sparingly.
  7. Should I sauce my ribs? This comes down to personal preference. Some barbecue enthusiasts believe a good rib doesn’t need sauce, while others enjoy the additional layer of flavor. If you use sauce, apply it for the last 30 minutes of smoking to prevent it from burning.

Nutrition

Calories: 642kcal | Protein: 2g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 15mg | Potassium: 52mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 0.2mg
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Originally Published August 12, 2016, Updated June 9, 2023.

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38 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I love ribs and have been REALLY craving them lately. Your recipe looks outstanding and I love how juicy the ribs look! I can’t wait to try them. (p.s. – I love ButcherBox too.)

    1. Oh! Me too! Their quality is outstanding! We had the filets the other day, and I am definitely getting more! They were far superior to the ones we bought locally! And these ribs were unbelievable! Thanks so much Elaine!

  2. 5 stars
    Oh my goodness this sounds incredible! I’m hoping to get a smoker this year and will definitely be experimenting with this recipe!

  3. 5 stars
    Oh Beth, I am so terribly sorry to hear about losing your sister – it is never easy loosing immediate family but gues this is how things go and sometimes we get hit unfairly with young people passing away – not fair.

    These ribbs look a real treat and I love making the rubs too because I always know what is in it. Superb shots of those absolutely delish ribs! waw, feel like grabbing some of the screen.

    1. Thank you so much, Ramona! I really appreciate that! That is funny! I wish I could grab some out the screen too!

  4. 5 stars
    Oh my! I can only imagine what a hit these would be at a party! You’d be the talk of the neighborhood. What a great recipe!

  5. 5 stars
    I LOVE ribs and also cook them in the oven sometimes. Yours look to-die-for delicious. I like the ingredients in your homemade rub!

    1. Thanks Caroline! Glad to be of help! I am sure your family will love them, however you decide to cook them!

  6. 5 stars
    These ribs look fantastic Beth, it’s good to know I could make them in my oven! Whatever you say your pictures are amazing and my mouth waters just looking at them, craving for some ribs now thanks!!

  7. 5 stars
    These look fabulous, and even I, who absolutely hates eating meat off the bone, would gladly stick these in my face.

    1. Haha! That’s a first! I never heard of anyone not wanting to eat meat off of the bone! Thanks Crystal!!

  8. 5 stars
    These ribs look so mouthwatering! It’s so great to know that I can make them on the grill or in my oven! Totally adding this to my must make list!

  9. 5 stars
    what a mouth watering post of smoked ribs. I love how tender these look! Now I am wishing for some

  10. 5 stars
    Wow, these look delicious! I wish we had a smoker, but alas. Will be following the grill instructions! Thanks!

    1. It’s really pretty easy on the grill and you get the same smoky flavor you get in the smoker! Thanks Nancy!

  11. It must have been a stressful month for you! My condolences to you. You’ve made such a beautiful meal, those ribs have me absolutely drooling here. Thank you for sharing !

  12. 5 stars
    Oh my gosh Beth! If I ever come to your house, you need to make me these and something venison! Your ribs look so delicious. Gorgeous photos and awesome recipe!

    1. Thank you so much Elaine! That is very nice of you and I would love it if you came over for a visit! That would be a blast!

  13. 5 stars
    So sorry about your sister and sounds like a lot of difficulty getting that heavy machinery moved, but glad you can enjoy some time with your son over these delicious looking ribs!

    1. Thank you so much Mama Harris! Yes difficult for us all but I’m so thankful he was home! He loves ribs!! 🙂

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