Traeger Ribs Recipe: 3-2-1 Method for Loin Back Ribs

3-2-1 method loin back ribs

On Beef Ribs and Cooking Them

One great thing about beef ribs is that they are one of the few varieties of red meat that you do not need a knife and fork to eat them. Another great thing about beef ribs is the sheer variety of options a grillmaster has when deciding to serve them. This multitude of choices even extends to the type of rib you intend to serve.

  • Spare ribs come from the top of the rib cage. Spares yield longer bones and lots of flavor at the cost of time; they take longer to cook. Because of the benefits, spares are the most versatile type of rib; you can grill them, roast them and smoke them without issue.
  • St.-Louis-style ribs are spare ribs that have had their nasty tips removed.
  • Baby back ribs come from the bottom of the rib cage and offer more meat than spares. Baby backs ribs cook more quickly than spare ribs.

Even after you have settled on what type of ribs you plan on cooking, the next issue is considering how you want them cooked.

  • Barbecuing is great for when you want tender ribs saturated with seasoning and requires a “low and slow” approach. If you want to learn how to smoke ribs in a smoker, barbecuing is the way to go. While this article is concerned with this approach, the other methods are included as a matter of completeness.
  • A roast-grill combo is the best solution to satisfying a craving for ribs when you lack sufficient time to properly grill them. Let the oven do most of the work, then finish in a grill.
  • A roast-broil combo is only for those without a grill. This involves roasting the ribs until they tenderize then transferring to the broiler for crusting.
  • If you want to do all your rib cooking in one device, you could always slow roast, then finish on high. This method involves using the broiler to roast your ribs on a low setting until they become tender and then finishing by spiking the temperature to 450℉, brushing with your favorite sauce and then roasting to the point that the sauce caramelizes against the meat.
  • A braise-fry combo is for those who like their ribs tender with some extra crispy parts. This method boils down to slow-cooking the ribs in a tasty fluid, deep-frying them, then finishing with a glaze; anyone familiar with preparing chicken or buffalo wings should be familiar with this approach.
  • Single-pot braising is one option for people unable to cook their ribs outside for some reason. Simply braise the ribs in some delicious sauce until the point of tenderness, reduce that sauce and serve. This method also works well with slow cookers and pressure cookers.
Prepare the wood for the grill

Types Of Grills – Which One To Choose

There are three main categories of grill.

  1. Charcoal.
  2. Electric.
  3. Gas-fueled.

Charcoal grills cook food by heating up some form of charcoal to the point that it turns to embers. While electric grills can struggle to properly sear food, they are an option for people with limited grilling opportunities-most electric grills tend to offer less grilling area than charcoal or gas-fueled grills.

There is a bit more to discuss when working with a gas grill. Butane, propane or natural gas are common substances used to start the flame of a gas grill. You simply activate the pilot light, a sparking mechanism ignites the and then you dial in how hot you want things to get. Many gas grills also have smoker boxes, allowing you to add wood chips when you want to achieve the flavors commonly associated with barbecue.

Best Wood For Smoking Pork Ribs

Not all woods serve the same purpose when smoking ribs. Generally speaking, you should consider the flavors you are already using to flavor your ribs, through a sauce, rub or marinade, and choose one or two varieties of wood complementary to that flavor. Mesquite is almost always a good call and several varieties of fruit tree woods are good for imparting a bit of sweetness. Oak, pecan and hickory are good for imparting some nuttiness to the meat.

How To Smoke Ribs On A Traeger – A Step-By-Step Guide

The “3-2-1- Method” is such a simple method to follow that we have included two recipes for ribs based around this approach to cooking. Basically, you smoke for three hours, cook in foil for two hours and then return to cooking the ribs, without foil but brushed with your favorite sauce, at a higher temperature for a final hour.

Traeger Recipe #1


  • Ribs, baby back, pork, 2 racks
  • Mustard, yellow, 1/3 cup
  • Juice, apple, 1/2 cup (divided)
  • Sauce, Worcestershire, 1 tbsp
  • Sugar, brown, dark, 1/2 cup
  • Your favorite barbecue sauce, 1 cup
  • Honey, 1/3 cup, warmed
  • Personal rib rub, to taste


  • Trim the membrane from your ribs if your butcher has not already done so.
  • Use a small bowl to combine the mustard, 1/4 cup apple juice and the Worcestershire sauce. Apply this mixture over the tops and bottoms of the ribs, then season with your rub.
  • Preheat the grill to 180℉ when you are ready to cook and leave the lid shut for a quarter-hour.
  • Smoke the ribs, with their meaty side facing upward, for 3 hours. Transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet and raise the temperature to 225℉.
  • Grab four long sheets of durable aluminum foil. Spread a rack of ribs over them and then pull up the sides of the foil so that all liquids remain trapped.
  • Apply half of the brown sugar on the rack of ribs, then top it with half of the honey and the other 1/4 cup of apple juice. Add a bit more juice if you want to increase the tenderness of your ribs.
  • Add another sheath of foil to the top and crimp the edges to ensure there will be no leaks. Repeat this and the previous step with the other rack.
  • Return the foil-covered ribs to the grill for 2 hours of cooking.
  • Cautiously extricate the foil from the meat and brush both sides of each rack with BBQ sauce. Trash the foil.
  • Space the ribs directly over the grill grate and continue grilling until the sauce tightens up; no more than 1 hour, no less than 30 minutes.
  • Allow the ribs to rest several minutes prior to serving.
Step by step cooking Traeger ribs

Traeger Ribs Recipe #2


  • Sweet-flavored rib rub, 2 tbsp
  • Apple cider/juice (either works), 1 cup
  • Sugar, brown, dark, 1/4 cup
  • Butter, salted, 2-3 tbsp
  • BBQ sauce, 1/2 cup


  • The same as the first recipe, get rid of that membrane!
  • Season both sides with your rub, beginning on the bone side.
  • Set the oven to between 180℉ and 200℉, thin blue smoke perfect for indirect smoking. Place the ribs on the smoker, close the lid and leave them smoking for 3 hours.
  • Tear away a large piece of foil and flatten it out over a large surface.
  • Transfer the ribs to this foil with the bones facing up; this will prevent the bones from destroying the foil.
  • Sprinkle the rubs with sugar, small pats of butter and then your preferred apple-derived liquid.
  • Crimp up the foil into an airtight vessel, return the foil-wrapped ribs to the grill and raise the grill’s temperature to 225℉. Allow the ribs to braise 2 hours.
  • Gently free the ribs from the foil by first taking them off the grill. Use tongs to return the freed ribs back to the grill, bone-side down. Ditch the foil and leftover cooking fluid. Grab a brush and use it to apply your favorite BBQ sauce.
  • Shut the lid and cook the ribs at the new temperature for 1 hour, just til the ribs are tenderized enough and that sauce is sticky enough to cling to the meat.
Smoke the beef ribs

In Conclusion

As you can see from our two recipes, the 3-2-1 Method is a simple and effective means of going about cooking any number of ribs. Just remember to spend 3 hours cooking at 180℉, trap the ribs in foil with additional seasonings for 2 hours and finish by cooking them at a higher temperature, free of the foil; for 1 hour. Play around with your own rib recipe and see if the 3-2-1 method yields anything better.

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