3-2-1 Baby Backs

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Original poster
Jul 5, 2005
Long Island, New York
I've used the 3-2-1 method found on this forum with spare ribs to great success.

Now I'd like to try it on baby back ribs but, I suspect the timing will need to be altered. Should it be 2-2-1, 2-1-1 or some other combination.

Any help will be greatly appreciated

Alan, the "3-2-1 method, a controlled experiment" topic that I posted in this same pork forum used loin back ribs. I would not alter anything. The loin backs are a little fussier and dry out easier but the 3-2-1 method works great for them.

Aubrey Page
I made my first batch of Ribs ever this weekend. This includes any method at all.

I've made PLENTY of items, for many years, on both the grill and smoker, but I never had much of interest in Ribs. I guess I was never a big fan of them. When I had them at other peoples houses or restaurants, I never saw what the big deal was (they hardly seemed worth the cost to me).

Anyway, the 3-2-1 method peaked my curiosity. And I know my family members LOVE ribs, so I figured I'll give it a try. I bought some back ribs, and a couple chickens (chicken is easy and everybody loves it, so this was my "safe" food in case the ribs were no good).

I used Jeff's Naked Rib Rub, and followed the directions on the 3-2-1 method. I like sauce on my food, so I added it to one rack durring the last hour. I trully belive this is not necessary after having them.

And the results......disbelief. Disbelief in how good the ribs were. They were spectacular. My family members all said that these were the best ribs they've ever had anywhere (and my father likes to try BBQ joints all over the states). I can see that I'll be making these again, they were awesome!

Just thought I'd pass it on for what it's worth.

Congrats Brett and welcome. I can tell you that I made quite a few less-than-satisfactory ribs before getting them right. I think I had it easier cooking brisket.
Now that you know how it's done, I hope you have many more great cooks like that one. :D
Way to go Brett. It's a wonderful feeling when you stretch out of your comfort zone and it turns out fantastic. That's one of the nice things here on the Smoking Meat Forums, the tips and tricks that the members have tried and shared. It helps to take some of the uncertainty out of trying something new.

Welcome to the Smoking Meat Forums, as you have found out already there is a lot of neat things to learn and try here. In reading your post, it sounds like you're adept in the art of the Thin Blue Smoke. Let us know what else you like to smoke and share some of your tips and tricks, we all have learned something from others on this board. We're glad you found us.

P.S. Visit the "Roll Call" Thread up in the Anouncment Forum and tell us a little about youself.
Hey Brett,
Congratulations on the ribs and welcome to the best BBQ forum on the web. Like you, I have learned a tremendous amount on this forum. I can honestly say that the quality of my output has risen dramatically.... especially with the ribs and brisket. And by the way, tell us about your chickens. How do you prepare them etc.

Fl. Bill
Yes, I have to say, my quality of everything has greatly risen since I've found this website (Even things I "knew" how to do already. As an added benefit, I've been able to cross over some off this knew found knowledge to other methods of cooking (in home stove, and direct grilling in a traditional weber). Knowledge is power.

As for my chickens......I don't think I've ever done it the same twice. Chicken is almost impossible to screw up, so I just kinda through things together.

I always brine poultry prior to smoking. The brine is usually simple. A cup or two of salt, a cup or two of brown sugar, some garlic cloves, some cayane pepper, black pepper, and whatever else I feel like throwing in that day. Chickens I like to brine for four hours. Turkey breast (my favorite) about 8 hours, and a whole turkey overnight.

After brining, I rinse the meat off, dry it off, and throw some seasoning on the outside and the inside cavity. Last time I had some extra Jeff's Naked Rib rub leftover from the ribs, so I coated the chicken in that. Lemmon pepper is good, cajun is good, greek seasoning is terrific. I then let the chicken sit for about 1/2 hour with the seasoning on it. Place it in the smoker for about 4 hours for a single chikcen, 5-6 hours for two chickens (I check temperature), and that's about it. The only thing I have to say that really affects it is the wood type. For chicken I use only fresh apple wood. Pear and cherry are also good, but apple is my favorite. Nut woods are a little to "harsh" for poultry, IMHO. I have a couple farmer buddies who get me all the fruit and nut woods I need for free. Store bought wood is always way to dry for smoking, it has to be fresh wood. Even then I soak it in water for a couple hours prior. I cut pieces 3-4 inches in diameter, 3-4 inches in length.

For a smoke, I use a cheap red bullet type smoker. The $60 type they sell at home depot. My dad threw it away, because he didn't have any success with it (or the patience). The secret to getting it to work really well, is to fill the water pan full with clean kiln dried sand instead of water. Cover it, so the drippings don't get in the sand and you can reuse it. If you want to use a water pan also, place a pan of water on top of the sand. All the sand is a buffer to control heat. It takes the highs/lows out, and it sits at a comfortable 210-240 depending on how much wood I have in it. Very easy to control, and very consistent.

The second mod I had to do to keep the heat even is to insulate the smoker. I glued industrial felt all around mine to keep the heat in durring cold weather (I live in NE wisconsin). This works great. Before I couldn't keep the heat in it, and I could hardly use it if it was below 30 degrees. The other day I used when it was zero out with no problems. And of course, if it's windy, I need to use a some sort of windblock.

I think that's about it on that.

hey brett,

great idea on the sand! i would never have thought of that. you guys up north are some serious dudes to cook outside when it is that cold. here in TX if it's below 40 I don't even like to look outside! anyway thanks for the cold weather insight.

Randy - Burkburnett, TX
Figuring that from late October to April, anything over 45 is a bonus day, you learn to adjust!!

I couldn't deal with the heat by you, so I guess that makes us even. Plus it gives me an excuse to eat more.....so I can stay insulated :roll:


Glad you found the Zone with the 3-2-1 Method. You are correct in assuming that a glaze on the last hour is strickly optional.

However, most people on this Forum know I go crazy over those who utilize SAND in the WATER pan. These smokers were engineered to use "Water" in the pan............hence, they call it a "Water Pan", not a "Sand Pan". Yes it will act as a Heat Sink, but you are over analyzing it's purpose. Do yourself a big favor and use liquid as it was intended.

Glad to have you onboard....................Sorry, it's a traditionalist pet peeve of mine - nothing towards you in any way.............OK?

Now let's Cook something! LOL! :D


No problem with the comments. As I've said, I've learned a ton from this website. I for sure will not take it as a personal attack.

With that being said, please do not take my response as any sort of an attack, I just want to share my experience.

From my own experience, I prefer the sand method. I had a difficult time keeping an even temperature with the water. Especially as the water level lowers do to evaporation (less of heat sink). I've tried both ways and I have found to have a more stable and controlled temperature with the sand method. I have actually placed thermocouples at different levels vertically and at different location radially (I am a engineer and these are the stupid things we do in our free time :lol: ). The results were always better with the sand pan.

With the water, I always experienced larger swings in temperature.

Additionally, I could never tell any difference in texture or taste by using the water pan. Yes, it adds extra moisture to the air, but I didnt' see a difference.

Plus on longer smokes (turkeys, pork shoulders, etc), the water pan would always be empty by time I was half way though. This would always be a pain to refill. If you forgot to refill it or let it get to low, the temp would soar.

Jeff, what advantage do you see to the water method? Please don't let this message come off as someone trying to be difficult, that is not the intent. I'm just curious to if I'm overlooking something with the sand versus water method.

I think in the "north woods" here, I'm batteling a different problem than people in the warmer areas, and that problem is actually keeping heat in the smoker versus lowering the heat.

Please let me know, and once again thank you for all the info. I look forward to your response.

i also have tried sand / no sand.... water / no water

i cannot tell a difference at all...all that pan does is act as a heat sink

it does not add any moisture to the meat that i can tell
I agree with most of what I'm hearing about using water but with one exception. It may not mean much but I smoke tons of jerky and I have found that I can cut my drying time drastically by leaving the water pan empty. To use water or not to use water may not mean a lot for larger cuts of meat but for the thinner jerky it does make a difference for me.

OK, Guys..........I am swamped until his weekend. I will try to go over it with you at that time.

Needless to say, there are vast Thermal Dynamic diferences between a water molecule and a sand molecule. Chew on that, until I get back.

I think you will find that 3-2-1 on Baby Backs will dry them out a little to much, unless you like them like that. I have been using 2-1 1/2-1 on my Backwoods Party and they come out great. Your cooker probably cooks differently then mine so you might use different times. Hey, there is no wrong way of doing this, there is only your way, experiment and see what works best.
i got an idea, everyone try theur favorite method, sand no sand water no water, 3-2-1 2-2-1 or whatever works. and send me a sample of each and ill give jeff my opinion when he gets back. 'Hungry" wildcat
Welcome Brett -

Congtrats on the ribs! It seems that ribs are one of the hardest things for people to master nice going!

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