The Best Way to Prepare Ribs (2023)

We can all agree that ribs are possibly one of the best meals that you can make on your grill or smoker. We can also agree that there are a few things that are definite must-do’s when it comes to the best way to prepare ribs, like removing the silverskin and seasoning with a rub that contains both sweet and savory elements. However, that’s likely where our agreement ends because everyone has their own way of doing things to create the perfect ribs. Find out how to prepare the best ribs using techniques like smoking, seasoning, braising, boiling, and everything in between.

Remove the Silverskin

That membrane on the back of your ribs, it isn’t ideal for the best rib recipe ever. We remove it because it prevents smoke and seasoning penetration, as well as prevents fat from rendering out during the cooking process. It is tough and chewy, not at all ideal for a good meal. Remove it by using a knife or spoon to pry up enough to insert a finger or two between the meat/bones and the silverskin. Many suggest using paper towel to grip the slippery membrane, but bare hands work just as well. Just peel it away. If it is particularly stubborn – which can happen – then use a sharp knife to cut a diamond pattern into the silverskin instead.

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You can season your ribs with whatever floats your goat. You like savory? Go with herbs and salt. You like sweet? Add brown sugar. You like crazy? Go nuts with cocoa powder or instant coffee! As long as you have a well-balanced rub that meets the needs of your taste buds, then you are golden. Remember to add paprika to a rub for that rich bark color when slow grilling and smoking. It is absolutely unnecessary to use anything to adhere the seasoning to the ribs, like mustard. Most applications are more water than anything and once that has evaporated, leaves only trace amounts of the element you were hoping to add with the mustard. You are better off adding that flavor to the seasoning.

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Once the ribs are seasoned, place them on a rack in a cookie sheet so that they may dry overnight in the fridge. This allows the salt to penetrate into the meat increasing flavor, which other spices are too large molecularly to do. These other seasonings will set and adhere to the meat while the salt is working its magic. These 8 to 10 hours in the fridge will make a huge difference in your results, especially if smoking or slow roasting on the grill.

Spray or Mop

Use a spray or mop to keep things juicy when smoking or roasting. Using apple juice – excellent with pork – or cider vinegar, or beer will help your final product. You can use a clean spray bottle, or a BBQ mop. It is recommended if you are using a mop, to use one with silicone bristles as these are easier to clean completely. It doesn’t take much, just a spritz or a sweep of the mop on the ribs, once every 45 minutes or so.


Smoking is one of the most common and accepted ways to prepare the best ribs. When you think ribs, smoking is the first thing that comes to mind. Pork loves sweet, so fruit woods like cherry and apple or a light wood like maple and pecan are great for a light and subtle flavor. For a stronger flavor that brings to mind bacon goodness, standbys like mesquite and hickory are ideal. Smoking ribs is a labor of love and requires patience. This process can take an entire day to get the perfect result.

The easiest way to smoke ribs is using the 3.2.1 style.

  1. Smoke the ribs for 3 hours at 225°F.

  2. Wrap the ribs in foil, carefully adding ¼ cup of apple juice or liquid before sealing. Cook the ribs without smoke for an additional 2 hours. This allows liquids to be reabsorbed and juiciness to be increased.

  3. Unwrap the ribs and cook for 1 more hour unwrapped. At this point, start adding sauce for a glazed taste and feel. OR sauce and sear after this final hour, which will allow the seasonings to reharden as a bark.

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PRO TIPS: Use an oven thermometer on the rack that your ribs will be cooking to gauge the grill temp. You can also use an extra probe from your Bluetooth thermometer to keep an eye on the grill temperature.

Use a water pan as a heat sink to ensure even temperature and ease of heat management.

Braising or Simmering

I am sure if you are an experienced veteran of the grill if someone were to suggest braising or boiling ribs, you would roll your eyes and walk away. It’s like asking for a steak well-well-done. There are a couple of reasons you may consider braising or simmering ribs. A braise or simmer (Don’t actually boil your ribs please) can quickly add tenderness if you don’t have the time that it takes to smoke ribs. It is an option if you don’t have an apparatus where you can smoke as well.

These two techniques also lead to the phenomenon where bones will just slide out of the meat. Fall off the bone is not quite ideal in a rib unless you are pulling the bones out and doing some sort of rib-which.

It may be tempting to create a flavorful braising or simmering liquid by combining strong flavors like coffee, whisky, juice, wine, sugar, stock, and/or vinegar. However, it is best to keep things simple. Use one or two of the suggestions above. Braise at a low temperature, meat side down, for 2 hours and don’t run out of braising liquid.

Braising and boiling are great ways to quickly tenderize meat and shorten grilling time, however, if the meat spends too long in the liquid, or is boiled instead of simmered gently the meat and fat will instead create a delicious broth and render your meat flavorless, possibly even tough rather than tender.

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Straight-Up on the Grill

If you don’t have a charcoal grill or smoker, then straight up cooking on the grill may be an option for you. An indirect setup will work nicely, and you can always use wood chips and a smoker box, smoker tube, or the integrated smoker burner (PRO 665/825) to add smoke. The smoke added will not be as powerful as using an actual smoker to cook your ribs, but it will give a more authentic flavor than you would otherwise have.

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Oven Roasted Ribs

If you don’t have a BBQ at all, or one that would be suited to doing a long and slow cook, you can use your oven to create an environment that would cook the ribs in the same fashion as listed above. Just don’t try adding smoke. Season the ribs and roast them at around 300°F or less until tender. You can then add sauce and broil them or toss them on your grill – we’re thinking a tiny, high heat, hibachi-style grill here.

Are they done yet?

You don’t actually cook ribs to the correct internal temperature, well you do, but once you reach that temperature take it further for maximum tenderness. This is challenging because when you want ribs, you want them NOW.

Tenderness Test

After cooking the ribs for at least 3 hours use the tenderness test to see if they are done – after they’ve reached the ideal internal temperature. This is done by pulling apart two bones that are side by side, if the meat tears a little then they’re tender enough to eat, if not, keep cooking for a little longer.

Bend Test

Another technique to figure out if your ribs are ready is the bend test. Lift the ribs with tongs and give a light bounce If the surface cracks, they’re ready. Just be careful because if they’re really-really ready, then they may come apart.

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The best rib recipe can be made in many different ways. The techniques listed above are a guideline to producing perfect ribs, whether you braise or simmer, smoke or grill, as long as you use care when preparing and cooking. How do you prepare the best ribs? Share your secret technique, favorite flavor, or just your success stories on our social pages like Facebook and Instagram, using the hashtags #BBQRibs and #NapoleonGrills.

Happy Grilling!


What is the 3 2 1 method for ribs? ›

The 3-2-1 Method refers to the technique used to cook ribs low and slow so that they develop flavour without drying out. First, the ribs are smoked at a low temperature for 3 hours. They're then wrapped in foil and steamed for 2 hours. Finally, they're brushed with a sauce or glaze and grilled for 1 more hour.

What is the 2 2 1 method of cooking ribs? ›

Smoking baby back ribs 2-2-1 refers to how many hours each step of the process will take. Smoke unwrapped baby backs for two hours, then wrap them tightly in aluminum foil (add some butter or liquid to take your ribs to the next level) and cook for another two hours. Then, unwrap the ribs and cook for a final hour.

What is the 3 3 1 method for ribs? ›

321 ribs are a foolproof way to get fall-off-the-bone ribs. The 321 rib method is based on smoking the ribs for 3 hours, wrapping them with liquid for 2 hours, and saucing them for the final 1 hour.

What do you soak ribs in before cooking? ›

Method: Soak ribs in apple cider vinegar for two hours. Remove from vinegar, pat dry, and coat ribs with rub evenly on all sides.

Do you clean ribs before cooking? ›

While washing meat and poultry to remove dirt, slime, fat or blood may have been appropriate decades ago when many slaughtered and prepared their own food, the modern food safety system doesn't require it. Meat and poultry are cleaned during processing, so further washing is not necessary.

What does apple cider vinegar do to ribs? ›

Adding Moisture while Smoking Ribs

A simple rib spritz is equal parts apple cider vinegar and apple juice or water. So for one cup of apple juice you add one cup of apple cider vinegar. The added moisture to the cooking chamber really helps with color on the smoked ribs and keeping the texture moist.

Should U boil ribs before grilling? ›

Follow this tip: Pre-cooking the ribs before they hit the grill not only gives you more control over the cooking temperature, but it can also make for more tender meat. You can oven-bake, boil, or even use the slow cooker for pre-cooking before firing up the grill.

How do you keep ribs moist in the oven? ›

Do not fully submerge the ribs. Bake, covered tightly with foil until tender, about 3 hours. Editor's Note: A tightly sealed pan topped with aluminum foil will lock in the heat, steam and moisture around the ribs to keep them extra moist and juicy while they cook.

Is it better to boil or bake ribs before grilling? ›

The reason you would boil ribs before cooking them is simple. This process helps tenderize the ribs and makes them more juicy. It not only shortens the cooking time significantly, but it also helps make the meat far easier to chew.

How do you keep ribs moist and tender? ›

Moist, gentle heat and a wet vinegary sauce can save dry ribs. Here's what to do: Make a 50/50 mixture of your favorite BBQ sauce and apple cider vinegar and coat the ribs in this mixture. Then wrap the ribs tightly in foil and put them in a low oven (say 300°F) for about an hour.

What is the secret to moist ribs? ›

  1. Quick Summary. ...
  2. Using Aluminum Foil to Keep Ribs Most When Smoking Ribs. ...
  3. Basting Ribs to Prevent Them From Drying Out. ...
  4. Use a Water Pan to Ensure Ribs Stay Moist. ...
  5. Crockpots Help Retain Moisture When Cooking Ribs. ...
  6. Use the Consistent Cooking Temperature. ...
  7. Marinating Ribs Ahead Makes It Tender and Juicy.

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