Individually smoked pork ribs deliver that flavorful barbecue bark in every bite, because all sides of the meat are exposed during the cook.
5 from 1 vote
close up of black platter with Individually Smoked Pork Ribs.

By Christie Vanover | Published June 10, 2022 | Last Updated June 27, 2022

Home | Recipes | Individually Smoked Pork Ribs

Disclosure: I’m sharing this as a proud Cowboy Charcoal ambassador. The post is sponsored. Opinions are my own.

To me, the two things that make barbecue taste so good are the amazing crust that forms after a slow and low cook and the super tender meat that’s encased by that bark. These individually smoked pork ribs offer the best of those two worlds with every single bone.

close up of black platter with Individually Smoked Pork Ribs.

Individually Smoked Ribs Ingredients

You only need four ingredients for this recipe. It really can’t get much easier than that.

pork rub, St. Louis Style pork ribs, water and barbecue sauce.
  • St Louis Style Pork Ribs: Be sure to look for the St. Louis Style ribs. They’re cut from the spare ribs, so they may say spare on the package like these do. Full spare ribs are a lot larger. And baby back ribs are quite a bit smaller. If you use either of those cuts of pork ribs, you’ll need to adjust your cook time.
  • Pork Rub: You’ll need 1.4 cup for every rack of ribs.
  • Water: To keep the ribs moist, you’ll spray them throughout the cook. I like using water, but you can also use juice, beer or even wine.
  • BBQ Sauce: The sauce is optional. If you like dry-rubbed ribs, skip it. But if you like your ribs to have a little shine and gloss, hit ’em with your favorite sauce right at the end.

Substitutions: I like using my pork rub as a base for all of my pork ribs recipes. Then, if I’m looking for variety, I add a tablespoon of an accent rub like Spiceology Taco Seasoning or Maui Wowee seasoning.

bottles of BBQ rubs on black background

Individually Smoked Ribs Equipment

You’ll need some basic kitchen tools. Then, the rest of the equipment you’ll need will depend on the type of grill you’re cooking on.

Cowboy Charcoal, pellets, wood chips, spray bottle, chimney, firestarter, thermometer, knife, cutting board, basting brush and bowl.
  • Slicing Knife: My favorite knife for butchering meat and slicing through the ribs is my Cutco Butcher Knife. You can also use a chef’s knife or other large straight-edge knife.
  • Cutting Board: Be sure to use a cutting board that is large enough for a full slab of ribs. The one pictured is the OXO Good Grips Cutting Board that is 21 inches long.
  • Tongs
  • Spray Bottle: You’re going to use the spray bottle throughout the cook to keep the ribs moist.
  • Meat Thermometer: My favorite meat thermometer is the Thermapen One. It will give you an accurate read out in one second.
  • Sauce Bowl: A simple metal bowl will do the trick. You just need something to hold the sauce.
  • Basting Brush: I use the Thermoworks High-Temp Silicone Brush. It comes in 10 fun colors.
  • Gas Grill Equipment: Gas Grill, Propane or Natural Gas, Foil, Cowboy Charcoal Apple Smoking Wood Chips
  • Charcoal Grill Equipment: Charcoal Grill, Cowboy Charcoal Applewood Briquets, Charcoal Chimney, Lighter, Firestarter
  • Pellet Grill Equipment: Pellet Grill, Cowboy Charcoal and Hickory or Apple Barbeque Pellets
  • Ninja Foodi Grill Equipment: Ninja Foodi Grill with Grill Grate and Air Fryer Basket Installed
cookin with cowboy logo

Pre-Slicing Ribs Before Smoking

The first step to prepping ribs – whether you leave them whole or smoke them individually – is to remove the silverskin on the back. This will help ensure you have a tender bite.

It can be a little tricky. Use a paper towel to get a grip on the silverskin, and then rip it off. If you’re lucky, you can pull it with one try. But some ribs come off in strips, and that’s just how it goes.

a knife slicing the meat between two bones of pork ribs.

Place the ribs on the cutting board and using that large straight-edge knife, slice along the meat right in the middle of two bones. Continue working your way down the rack.

You will have one end with some skinnier bones and smaller pieces. My family loves that end. They actually fight over those ribs.

How to Season the Individual Ribs

Once your ribs are cut into individual bones, season them on all sides with 1/4 cup of my award-winning Spiceology Pork Rub.

The rub includes sugar, salt, garlic, onion, smoked paprika, onion and mild chiles.

individually sliced pork ribs seasoned with pork rub.

Let the meat rest while you get your grill setup.

How to Keep the Ribs Moist

As the ribs are cooking, it’s very important to spritz them with liquid every 20-30 minutes. This is going to help the meat retain its natural juiciness.

You can spritz with juice, ciders or beer, but honestly water works great, too.

Throughout the cook, open the lid and look at the ribs. If they appear a little dry, give them a really good spritz. It’s okay if the water puddles a bit on top. The ribs will soak it right up.

The other key to juicy ribs is cooking them at the right temperature and to the right temperature.

When developing this recipe, I cooked some individually smoked pork ribs at a grill temp of 225F degrees, and I found that they dried out a bit too much. Cooking them between 250-275F degrees was the sweet spot.

You’ll know they’re ready when the internal temperature of the meat reaches between 200-208F degrees.

thermometer probe in rib registering 206F degrees.

USDA Safe Cooking Temperature for Pork

145F degrees is the perfect temperature for pork chops, but for pork ribs to be tender, they need to be cooked a lot further than that. As the meat starts to form a nice bark, stick a Thermapen into the meat, avoiding the bone. Once it hits this goal temp, they’re ready to be sauced.

GOAL TEMPERATURE200-208F / 93-97C degrees

Smoking Individual Ribs on a Gas Grill

Set your gas grill up with an indirect heat zone. I have a 3-burner grill, so I turn the right burner on to medium-low and leave the left two burners off.

Directly over the heat, I add a wood chip foil pouch filled with Cowboy Charcoal Apple Smoking Wood Chips.

Individually Smoked Pork Ribs on a gas grill near a foil pouch.

Once the wood chips start to smoke and the grill reaches 250-275F degrees, add the ribs over the part of the grill where the burners are turned off. Place the thicker pieces closer to the burner that’s on, since they’ll take longer to cook.

Cook them for 3 to 3 1/2 hours to an internal temperature of 200F degrees, spritzing with liquid every 20-30 minutes.

Once they reach the goal temp, brush them with sauce and let them smoke for 5-10 more minutes.

Smoking Individual Ribs on a Charcoal Grill

Whether you’re using a kettle-style grill, PK Grill or ceramic cooker, you’ll want to cook the ribs over indirect heat.

Individually Smoked Pork Ribs on a PK Grill with charcoal to the side.

For a ceramic cooker, that means adding the charcoal, lighting it, letting it ash over and then adding the deflector followed by the grill grate.

For charcoal grills without a deflector, fill a charcoal chimney with Cowboy Hardwood Hickory or Apple Briquets, add a firestarter under the chimney, and light it up. Once the coals ash over, dump them into one side of the grill, leaving an area of the grill without coals.

Adjust the vents, until the grill temp reaches 250-275F degrees. If your grill doesn’t have a built in thermometer, use a device like the Thermoworks Square DOT to measure your grill temp.

Place the thicker bones closer to the coals. Then, let the ribs smoke for 3-3 1/2 hours, spritzing regularly, until they reach an internal temperature of 200F degrees.

Brush them with sauce and let them continue cooking for 5-10 minutes.

Smoking Individual Ribs on a Pellet Grill

Fill your pellet grill hopper with Cowboy Charcoal and Applewood Barbeque Pellets, set the dial to 250F degrees and let it warm up. 

Individually Smoked Pork Ribs on a pellet grill.

Once your grill temp is steady, add the seasoned ribs to the smoker. Every pellet grill has hotter spots, usually that’s right over where the fire pot is. Add the thicker ribs to this area of the grill and place the littler ones further from the fire pot.

Spritz the ribs throughout the cook. In about 2 1/2 hours, they should reach an internal temperature of 200F degrees. At this point, brush them with sauce and cook for 5-10 more minutes.

Smoking Individual Ribs on a Ninja Foodi Grill

Even though the Ninja Foodi Grill has a grill setting, I prefer using the roast setting with the air fryer basket.

The reason I use the basket is because it helps provide even air flow on all sides of the ribs. Preheat the Ninja Foodi Grill to Roast with a temp of 250F degrees and a time of 2 hours or so.

seasoned, raw individually sliced pork ribs on a Ninja Foodi Grill.

Once the grill is pre-heated, add the ribs. You can fit 8-10 at a time. Close the lid and cook for 1 1/2 hours, spritzing occasionally with liquid.

Once the ribs reach an internal temperature of 200F degrees, baste them with BBQ sauce and cook for another 5 minutes.

GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips

  • Start with St. Louis Style Pork Ribs
  • Get your grill to 250-275F degrees (don’t go lower with this recipe)
  • Spritz the ribs often to retain moisture
  • Grill to an internal temperature of 200-208F degrees
  • Brush with BBQ sauce and let cook for a final 5-10 minutes
3 Individually Smoked Pork Ribs on a black plate with a juicy bite.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will Smoking Ribs Individually Cause Them to Dry Out?

If you follow the steps in this recipe, you should end up with moist, juicy rib meat surrounded by a flavorful bark. The key to keeping them from drying out is cooking at 250-275F degrees and spritzing often with water, juice or beer.

How Long Does It Take to Smoke Individually Sliced Pork Ribs?

The timing depends on your type of grill. They cook the fastest on the Ninja Foodi Grill at about 1 1/2 hours. On a pellet grill, they should be ready in about 2 1/2 hours. On a gas or charcoal grill, they’ll take 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

How Many Ribs Should I Cook Per Person?

There are usually about 12 bones in each rack of St. Louis Style Pork Ribs. The average adult will eat about 4 ribs, depending on how many side dishes you’re serving, so 1 rack should feed 3 adults.

How Do You Smoke Ribs Without Cutting Them First?

I have several recipes on my website for full racks of ribs. Try my Smoked 3-2-1 Ribs, Maui Wowee Hawaiian BBQ Smoked Pork Ribs or Smoked Baby Back Ribs. If you prefer ribs without bones, try my Hickory Smoked Country Style Pork Ribs.

individual smoked pork ribs on a black platter.

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close up of black platter with Individually Smoked Pork Ribs.

Individually Smoked Pork Ribs

Individually smoked pork ribs deliver that flavorful barbecue bark in every bite, because all sides of the meat are exposed during the cook.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings 3

Ingredients
 

Instructions
 

  • Prep the Ribs: Remove the ribs from the packaging and pat them dry. Remove the silverskin and slice the ribs between each bone. Season on all sides with the pork rub.
  • Gas Grill: Heat your grill to 250F degrees with one burner set to medium-low and the other burners off. Add a foil pouch with Cowboy Apple Chips for added flavor.
  • Pellet Grill: Heat your pellet grill to 250F degrees with Cowboy Charcoal and Apple Pellets.
  • Charcoal Grill: Use a charcoal chimney to light Cowboy Charcoal Apple Briquets. Once ashed over, dump the coals into one side of your grill, leaving an indirect heat area for the ribs. Let burn for 15 minutes. Adjust the vents so the heat is around 250F degrees.
  • Ninja Foodi Grill: Place the air fryer basket in the grill. Set the grill to roast with a temperature of 250F degrees. Set the time for 2 hours.
  • Grill: Place the ribs on the grill bone-side-down over indirect heat with the thickest pieces closest to the heat.
  • Spritz: Fill a spray bottle with water. Spritz the ribs every 20-30 minutes and cook to an internal temperature of at least 200F degrees. The ribs on the Ninja Foodi Grill will take about 1 1/2 hours. The pellet grill will take about 2 1/2 hours. The charcoal and gas grills will take 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
  • Sauce: Once the ribs reach at least 200F degrees, brush them with barbecue sauce and let them continue cooking for 5-10 minutes.

Video

Notes

  • Different types of grills have different total cook times. The ribs cooked on the Ninja Foodi Grill and pellet grill will cook faster than ribs cooked on the gas or charcoal grill. This is in part because those grills circulate the heat during the cook. 
  • To keep the rib meat moist, be sure to spritz them heavily every 20-30 minutes or when they look dry. The liquid will help retain moisture and will help create the bark. 
  • Ribs cooked to 200-208F degrees will be perfectly tender.
  • Sauce is totally optional. If you prefer a dry-rubbed rib vs. a wet rib, you can skip that step. 

Nutrition

Calories: 550kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 39gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 144mgSodium: 1106mgPotassium: 881mgFiber: 2gSugar: 32gVitamin A: 383IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 132mgIron: 4mg
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