What are 321 Ribs?

What are 321 Ribs

When people think of getting out and grilling on a holiday weekend, the first food that usually comes to mind is a Delicious rack of ribs. But one of the biggest challenges is which way to prepare them.

When you look up different methods, one of the common methods is 321 ribs. What are 321 ribs?

321 ribs refers to a three-step process of preparing ribs that takes 6 hours. Step one is low-temperature dry smoke, step two is wrapped with a small amount of liquid to keep the ribs moist, and step three is dry smoking, typically at a higher temperature so the ribs will get a slightly Smoky crust.

Of course, there’s more to it than that, but this is the basics for 321 ribs. In this article, we will discuss our favorite smoker for 321 ribs, some of our preferred seasonings, and a few ways to cook ribs.

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What is the Best Smoker for 321 Ribs?

The best smoker for 321 ribs will be a device that will give you consistent temperatures over a 6-hour cook time. A pellet smoker is one of our top picks for ribs and other thinner cuts of meat.

Something like an offset smoker is excellent for flavor and will give you great results for 321 ribs. However, an offset smoker will require a lot of maintenance to maintain the cooking temperature in the perfect zone.

An electric smoker is great for jerky or fish but will not give you the desired flavor for your ribs. But if you do not have a traditional smoker, you can put your ribs in an electric smoker at the beginning of your cooking process.

This will add a blast of yummy smoked flavor, and then you finish on a propane grill or even your oven. Another excellent option for ribs is some form of a vertical smoker. The Masterbuilt digital charcoal vertical smoker is great and has a large capacity for large gatherings.

Of course, there are vertical offset smokers that work great, but again you will have to maintain the fire at a constant temperature for best results.

Finally, don’t discount a traditional charcoal grill like a Weber kettle grill. It is hard to overlook the flavor that these grill ads. Also, these charcoal grills give similar flavor and results as the Weber Smoky Mountain charcoal smoker.

What are the Best Spices for 321 Ribs?

Picking the best spices for your ribs is always a bit subjective. Our top choices for ribs are brown sugar and garlic with other spices added to round out your preferred flavor profile.

Our favorite way to start ribs is with a light sprinkle of garlic granules and then add a rub mixture that uses brown sugar as a base. Typically, we will use a 3211 all-purpose spice mixture 50/50 with brown sugar for the outer coat of spices.

If you want to bring the heat, consider adding a bit of cayenne pepper or even a tiny amount of red pepper flakes. If you’re interested in more details about our favorite dry rub combinations, we have one article about beef dry rubs and another about pork dry rubs.

While we prefer pork ribs, not everybody is on the same page, so it’s nice to have options.

How to Cook 321 Ribs?

Technically 321 ribs are a three-step process. However, there is a step of preparation and a finishing step that we also perform. So let’s get started with the ingredients and then the step-by-step directions.


  • 2 racks St Louis cut pork ribs
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 cup 3211 all-purpose dry rub
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup apple juice (or beer)
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce (store-bought or homemade)


Preheat your smoker to 225°. Trim any loose flaps of meat or awkward edges from your rib rack. Remove the silver skin from the back of the rib bones by sliding a butter knife between the bone and silver skin roughly in the middle of the silver skin.

Once you have lifted the silver skin, you can gently place your finger between the bone and the silver skin and slowly pull it up. Use a paper towel to grab the silver skin and pull it off entirely if the silver skin tears.

Lightly sprinkle your granulated garlic across your rib rack, starting with the top side and lightly coating the backside. Mix your brown sugar and 3211 dry rub, and then apply to the ribs.

After applying all of your spices to the ribs, press them in firmly. Put your ribs in your smoker for 3 hours and make sure you do not go over 225°. Cut a large piece of aluminum foil for each rack of ribs.

Prepare your foil in the shape of a pan by lifting up the edges, then put a rack of ribs inside the foil, bones side down. Carefully seal the middle of the foil by folding the long section.

Then on one end roll, it closed while forming a small funnel from the other end. Slowly pour in the one cup of apple juice using care not to disturb the spices.

Place the rib rack in the foil back on the grill for 2 hours without changing the temperature. Remove the foil-wrapped rib package from the grill.

Carefully remove the ribs from the foil package and place them bone side up on the grill. Continue cooking at 225 for 30 minutes, flip the ribs and cook for another 30 minutes.

Brush glaze both sides of the ribs with barbecue sauce. If you’re using a pellet smoker, turn it on high and cook the ribs for 5 minutes on each side to allow the barbecue sauce to set up.

Remove the ribs, cut, and serve immediately. Traditional smoked ribs are different because they will require at least ten minutes of resting time for the best results.

What are 221 Ribs?

221 ribs are a slight twist on the 321 rib recipe. 221 refers to the time of each cooking step in hours. When preparing this recipe, most people will step the temperature up as they go.

Each cooking phase will have an increase of 25° in cooking temperature. Two results change from this cooking method: a shorter cook time and a slightly firmer finished rib.

How to Cook 221 Ribs?

Cooking 221 ribs are very similar to cooking 321 ribs. For this recipe, we’re going to go savory instead of sweet compared to the previous recipe for 321.

These simple changes will give you a tasty rib that will also be on the edge of keto-friendly; remember to watch the amount of sauce.


  • 2 racks St Louis cut pork ribs
  • 1/2 cup 3211 all-purpose dry rub
  • 1 tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tbs cayenne pepper (spicy)
  • 1/2 cup beef stock(or beer)
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (store-bought or homemade)


Preheat your smoker to 225°. Prepare your ribs by trimming all loose pieces of meat and removing the silver skin. Mix your dry seasonings in a bowl, then apply them evenly to your rib racks.

Place your rib racks in your grill bone side down for 2 hours. Prepare two large pieces of foil to wrap your rib racks.

Make the foil into trays, place one rib rack in each piece, and seal the top and one end. Mix half cup of beef stock and half a cup of barbecue sauce, then carefully pour the mix into the open end of the foil.

Put the foil-wrapped ribs back on the smoker and increase the temperature to 250° for 2 hours. Remove the ribs from the foil and place them back in the smoker.

Increase the temperature to 275° for another hour. After that, it’s time to slice them and serve, or you can add barbecue sauce and allow time to set up.

Tips for Smoking Ribs

  • Transfer the ribs to a propane grill or oven on a broil setting to caramelize your BBQ sauce. However, only do it for a minute on each side of the ribs, or they could burn.
  • If you prefer a firmer rib, you can decrease the time of step 2 in your cooking process. Also, cutting back the amount of apple juice will result in a firmer rib. You could even eliminate liquid from the foil wrap stage completely.
  • When applying seasoning to rib racks, start with the top, do the bone side, go back to the top, and apply a little more. This will make sure that the meat side has slightly more seasoning. Also, the seasoning tends to fall off the meat side because it makes direct contact with the grill when cooking it downward.
  • If you were concerned about your ribs sticking to the grill, place a sheet of parchment paper on the grill surface when cooking them bone side up. The parchment paper will prevent them from sticking and still allow you to get all of that smokey goodness.


If you’re looking for tasty, juicy ribs, it is hard to beat the 321 or 221 methods. The process is simple and easy to repeat, so you can make adjustments that match your taste and preferred consistency.

We like to reduce the cooking time in stage 2 by half to give us a firmer rib, but that is a personal choice for you to make in your backyard. Keep in mind 321 is just one method of many to cook great ribs, and there are many different hacks that you can apply for amazing smoked meats.


What is 3211 Dry Rub?

We have an all-purpose dry rub mix that we make as a base. The mixture includes 3 parts coarse ground black pepper, 2 parts garlic granules, 1 part smoked paprika, and 1 part smoked kosher salt. 3211 is the only spice mixture we use on our brisket but is common for us to add more garlic to our pork recipes.