Last updated July 6, 2019

Many competitive barbecue teams use the tried-and-true 3-2-1 method when cooking St. Louis Style Ribs. This recipe and video will show you how easy it is.

sliced st louis style ribs on a black background with one rib at bottom

The 3-2-1 stands for how many hours you cook each phase.

As with any rib recipe, you have to start by removing the silverskin – that pesky membrane on the back. Then, you slather the ribs with mustard and your favorite rub. This is where the first cook comes in.

Place the ribs on your smoker for three hours.

Pecan, hickory and apple are great smoking woods for rubs.

After three hours, your ribs should have developed a nice mahogany bark, so it’s time to move onto step two. During this process, you’re going to make sure the ribs are nice and moist.

Wrap them in foil with butter, brown sugar, honey and juice. Both apple or grape work great. Set the ribs back on the smoker for two hours.

For the final step, you want to unwrap the ribs and get that lip-smacking candy sauce gloss on the ribs.

Baste them with sauce and place them back on the smoker for one hour.

That’s it. 3-2-1 – your ribs are ready.

sliced st louis style ribs on a black background with one rib at bottom

Competition St. Louis Style Ribs (3-2-1 Method)

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: 321 ribs, pork, ribs
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 1108 kcal
Author: Christie Vanover
Many competitive barbecue teams use the tried-and-true 3-2-1 method when cooking St. Louis Style Ribs. This recipe and video will show you how easy it is.
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Ingredients

  • 2 slabs St. Louis Style Ribs
  • yellow mustard
  • your favorite rib rub
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • brown sugar
  • honey
  • 1/2 cup grape juice
  • your favorite sauce

Instructions

  1. Flip the ribs, so that the bones are facing up. Using a paper towel, pull off the membrane and discard.
  2. Trim off the bones on each end. They're too small to be used as turn-in ribs. Trim off the flap of meat on the backside. Trim and remove any excess fat.
  3. Rub the backside with mustard and rib rub. Let rest in the fridge for 15 minutes. Flip and rub the topside with mustard and rib rub. Let rest in the fridge while you heat your grill to 225F degrees.
  4. Place the ribs on the grill meat side up. Smoke with the lid closed for 3 hours.
  5. Place two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil on the counter. Top with 4-5 pats of butter, 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar, a liberal drizzle of honey and 1/4 cup juice. Place the ribs on the butter, meat side down. To the bone side of the ribs, add 4-5 more pats butter, 1-2 more tablespoons brown sugar and another drizzle of honey. Wrap tightly, crimping up the ends.
  6. Place back on the smoker for 2 hours.
  7. Remove from the smoker, and unwrap from the foil. Flip the ribs over. Brush with sauce. Return to the smoker for one more hour.
  8. Remove from the smoker. Let rest a few minutes and slice. For competitions, select your 6 best bones for the judges.

Tips

For my ribs, I like to use a combination of Code 3 Spices Backdraft, 5-0 and Grunt Rubs along with Loot N Booty BBQ Everything Rub and some raw sugar. My go-to sauce is Code 3 Spices Patriot Sauce.

If you add more juice, your ribs will be more tender. If you're competing, be careful you don't add too much. Judges don't like their meat to completely fall off the bone. They like it to have a little bite.

Instead of grape juice, you can also use apple juice, beer or wine.

Nutritional content will vary, depending on how much mustard, sugar, honey and BBQ sauce you use.

Nutrition Facts
Competition St. Louis Style Ribs (3-2-1 Method)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 1108 Calories from Fat 891
% Daily Value*
Fat 99g152%
Saturated Fat 46g288%
Cholesterol 302mg101%
Sodium 594mg26%
Potassium 678mg19%
Carbohydrates 18g6%
Sugar 17g19%
Protein 35g70%
Vitamin A 1420IU28%
Calcium 61mg6%
Iron 2.4mg13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.