3-2-1 ribs


5 from 21 votes
Jump to RecipeRate

These 3-2-1 ribs are cooked low and slow and yield fall-off-the-bone meat that truly melts in your mouth! Use the 3 2 1 method or oven-bake them.

3-2-1 ribs.

This 3-2-1 ribs recipe yields tender and flavorful ribs every single time. Like country style ribs, these will prove you wrong if you have always thought you need special skills to make succulent and rich-tasting ribs. 

What is the 3-2-1 method on ribs?

The name 3-2-1 ribs come from the timing used in this cooking method for ribs. It implies three hours of smoking the ribs, two hours of cooking them wrapped in foil, and one hour of cooking them in sauce unwrapped. 

The 3-2-1 method takes quite a bit of time- you need at least 6 hours to cook them. Furthermore, most 3-2-1 rib recipes call for a smoker. 

I have created my own way of making ribs inspired by this method. It takes less time (like air fryer ribs), but the ribs are just as delicious and tender. 

Ingredients needed

This recipe calls for simple pantry staple ingredients you’ll likely already have. Here is what you’ll need:


  • Ribs. Use a rack of spare ribs. 
  • Mayonnaise. To help the rub mixture stick to the ribs. 

For the rub:

  • Brown sugar. To add sweetness to the spice. 
  • Smoked paprika. For smokiness. 
  • Garlic and onion powder. To create a rich flavor. 
  • Chili powder. To add moderate heat. 
  • Sea salt. To taste. 

For the marinade:

  • Pineapple juice. To tenderize the ribs and add a mild tangy flavor. 
  • Butter. To make the ribs juicy. 
  • Brown sugar. To create a nice caramelized layer on the ribs. 
  • Honey. To add sweetness. 
  • BBQ sauce. For a smoky and tangy flavor. 

How to bake the ribs 

As I have already mentioned, my recipe doesn’t take hours to cook. Here’s how you get tender ribs in a fraction of the time.

Step 1- Make the rub

In a small bowl, mix the rub ingredients–including garlic and onion powders, brown sugar, smoked paprika, chili powder, and sea salt. 

rib rub ingredients.

Step 2- Season the ribs and bake

Rub mayonnaise all over the ribs.

mayonnaise on pork ribs.

Season the ribs with the dry rub on both sides. Place the ribs on a baking rack with the rib side up. Cover the rack with tin foil. Put the ribs into the oven preheated to 135C/276F degrees and bake for 2 ½ hours. 

dry rub on pork ribs.

Step 3- Prepare the marinade 

While the ribs cook, prepare the marinade. For the marinade, whisk together the pineapple juice, honey, brown sugar, barbeque sauce, and softened butter. 

Step 4- Bathe the ribs in the marinade 

Remove the cooked ribs from the oven. Remove the tin foil wrapping and generously brush both sides of the ribs with the marinade.  

marinade on pork ribs.

Step 5- Broil the ribs

To give the ribs a nice charred look, turn on the oven’s broiler setting and cook the ribs uncovered for 4 minutes. Remove the ribs from the oven and serve. 

3 2 1 ribs.

How to make 3-2-1 ribs-the original way

If you are not short on time and have a smoker, you can cook the ribs following the original 3-2-1 method. Here’s how to make 3-2-1 ribs the original way. 

Rub the ribs with mayonnaise, followed by the dry rub. Next, smoke the ribs uncovered for 3 hours. 

Now, cover with foil and steam the ribs for 2 hours. Finally, remove the foil and brush the ribs with the marinade. Cook the ribs on the grill at 225 degrees for 1 hour, applying the marinade every 10 to 15 minutes. 

Tips to make the best recipe 

  • Allow the ribs to rest. Cover them with foil and let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes once you remove them from the oven. This helps redistribute the juices in the meat and make the ribs tender. 
  • Don’t increase the heat to cut down the cooking time. Ribs turn out good only when they are cooked low and slow. 
  • Use St. Louis-style ribs if you prefer fattier ribs. The higher fat content of these ribs makes them juicier and more tender. 
  • Spritz the ribs while smoking them if you think they look dry. You can use apple juice or a mixture of apple juice and apple cider vinegar to spritz the ribs. 


The beauty of these ribs is just how easy they are to customize with other sauces, cooking times, and the marinade itself. Here are some ideas: 

  • Use mustard. You can use mustard for cooking ribs in a few different ways. You can use it instead of mayonnaise to easily make the dry rub stick to the ribs. Another thing you can do is add mustard powder to the dry rub. 
  • Use a 4-1-1 method for even smokier ribs. If you like your ribs to be smokier, smoke them for 4 hours. Then cook the ribs covered in foil for 1 hour and uncovered for one last hour. Don’t forget to baste the ribs with the marinade during the final hour of cooking. 
  • Play around with the marinade. You can use any marinade you like for these ribs so long as you know it will caramelize nicely. We like giving it an Asian twist by using either bulgogi sauce or katsu sauce.

Storage instructions 

To store: Cooked pork ribs can last up to 4 days in the fridge. 

To freeze: Place the cooked and cooled ribs in a shallow container and store them in the freezer for up to 6 months. 

Reheating: To reheat leftover ribs, place them in an oven-safe pan and cover them with foil. Reheat the ribs at 250 degrees until heated through. 

traeger 3 2 1 ribs.

What to serve with Traeger’s ribs

As these ribs are an impressive dish, we like to keep the sides simple, and air-fried vegetables are always a safe bet. Here are some ideas:

Frequently asked questions 

Are 3-2-1 ribs fall off the bone?

While some people like their ribs to be slightly chewy, others prefer them to be fall-off-the-bone tender. If you belong to the second group of people, the 3-2-1 method of cooking ribs is for you. The long cooking time makes the juicy meat fall off the bone. 

Why did my ribs turn out tough?

Tough ribs are usually the result of fast and high-heat cooking. The ribs should be cooked at low temperatures long enough for the meat to tenderize.

Do ribs get more tender the longer they cook?

As a general rule, ribs do get more tender the longer they cook. However, this is only if you cook them on low heat.

3 2 1 ribs recipe.

3-2-1 Ribs (Baked Or Smoked!)

5 from 21 votes
These low and slow cooked ribs are the pinnacle of pork ribs for anyone who enjoys fall-off-the-bone ribs. Use the 3-2-1 method or oven bake them! 
Servings: 8 servings
Prep: 1 minute
Cook: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total: 2 hours 31 minutes


For the rub

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt

For the marinade

  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons bbq sauce


  • Preheat the oven to 135C/275F. Line a large baking tray with tin foil.
  • Mix the rub ingredients together.
  • Rub the mayonnaise all over the ribs. Season with the rub on both sides.
  • Place the ribs on a baking rack, rib side up. Cover the rack with tin foil and bake for 2 ½ hours.
  • While the ribs are baking, whisk together the marinade.
  • Once the ribs are cooked, remove them from the oven and discard the tin foil. Generously brush both sides with the marinade.
  • Turn the broiler setting on and broil the ribs for 4 minutes.


TO STORE: Cooked pork ribs can last up to 4 days in the fridge.
TO FREEZE: Place the cooked and cooled ribs in a shallow container and store them in the freezer for up to 6 months. 
TO REHEAT: To reheat leftover ribs, place them in an oven-safe pan and cover them with foil. Reheat the ribs at 250 degrees until heated through.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 384kcalCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 19gFat: 27gSodium: 987mgPotassium: 425mgFiber: 2gVitamin A: 1960IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 42mgIron: 2mgNET CARBS: 15g
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Arman
Tried this recipe?Give us a shout at @thebigmansworld or tag #thebigmansworld!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website.

Arman Liew

I’m a two time cookbook author, photographer, and writer, and passionate about creating easy and healthier recipes. I believe you don’t need to be experienced in the kitchen to make good food using simple ingredients that most importantly, taste delicious.

Never Miss a Recipe!
Subscribe to get my recipes directly to your inbox

You May Also Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    great rib cooking method, thank you, it’s been so long since I’ve made these that I don’t even remember my method, this will work!