When you want a meaty, succulent rib, go with smoked country style pork ribs braised in barbecue sauce. They're fork tender and oh so satisfying.
4.65 from 28 votes

By Christie Vanover | Published June 19, 2020 | Last Updated October 25, 2022

Home | Recipes | Hickory Smoked Country Style Pork Ribs

Disclosure: This recipe was sponsored by the National Pork Board. All opinions are my own.

When I was a little girl, barbecue at my house meant country style pork ribs cooked in barbecue sauce in a slow cooker. It wasn’t exactly barbecue, because it wasn’t smoked, but it was still a family favorite.

Now that I smoke and grill just about everything, it’s time to give mom’s country ribs recipe a makeover, so it can earn its proper barbecue name.

smoked country style pork ribs close up of bite on fork

For mom’s recipe, she browns the pork ribs on all sides and then puts them in a slow cooker with one sliced yellow onion, a bottle of barbecue sauce and some parsley. After several hours, the meat is perfectly fork tender. 

This recipe follows the same concept. But instead of browning the ribs, I’ll smoke them for a few hours and then braise them for the same tender, juicy results.  

country style pork ribs raw

What are country style pork ribs?

There are three basic cuts of ribs on a pig: baby back, spare and country style. Spare ribs are then broken down further to create St. Louis style ribs, which are the ribs you see most often in barbecue competitions.  

Visit the Pork Checkoff to learn more about ribs and other pork cuts. 

Country style pork ribs are cut from near the shoulder (AKA pork butt) near the rib end of the pork loin. This cut of pork has a lot of natural marbling, which makes the meat fall apart when cooked properly.

You can buy them bone-in or boneless. I prefer the bone-in. I find they are more flavorful. The bone is not like a traditional rib bone. It’s part of the shoulder blade and usually only runs along one end of the rib.

Butchers usually trim country style pork ribs into 1-2-inch thick pieces. For even cooking, try to find a package with similarly sized ribs.

Ingredients

  • Country Style Ribs: You can find these in the pork section of the meat department. They come in bone-in and boneless varieties. Sometimes they’re referred to as boneless pork ribs.
  • BBQ Rub: Any BBQ rub will work. I recommend using my award-winning Pork Rub. It’s a little sweet with great color. You could also use a blend of kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder with a little brown sugar.
  • Yellow Onion: Look for a sweet yellow onion, like a Vidalia.
  • BBQ Sauce: You can use your favorite BBQ sauce. Any flavor works with this recipe. Classic sweet and smokey ones taste great, but you could also use a Carolina mustard sauce.
bottles of BBQ rubs on black background

How to smoke country style ribs

While mom cooked these in a traditional slow cooker, I’m preparing the country style ribs a pellet grill. It’s essentially a slow cooker with wood. You just set the temp and forget it.

I like using hickory wood, pecan wood or apple wood pellets with pork. I find they bring out the meat’s natural sweetness. But oak wood and cherry wood works great, too.

If you don’t have a pellet grill, you can cook these on a charcoal grill with wood chunks or on a gas grill with wood chips. The key is to set the temperature to 250F degrees with an indirect zone.

  1. STEP ONE: While the grill is heating up to 250F degrees, season the pork ribs liberally on all sides with Pork Rub. After about 15 minutes, the meat will start to glisten. 
country style pork ribs seasoned
  1. STEP TWO: We’re going to cook the country style ribs in two phases. First, smoke them until they form a beautiful bark. This will take around 3 hours, at which point the internal temperature will be at about 170F degrees.
country style pork ribs on smoker raw

PRO TIP: After 3 hours, if the internal temperature of your country style ribs is a little below or above 170F degrees, that’s fine. You’re basically just looking for color at this point. You could continue smoking them like this, until they are tender, but I prefer to finish them like mom – in a bath of onions and barbecue sauce.

country style pork ribs on grill with temp probe
  1. STEP THREE: Place the sliced onions in an aluminum half pan, add the smoked ribs, pour on a bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce and cover with aluminum foil. It’s really that easy.
country style pork ribs in a pan with sauce

How to know when country style pork ribs are done

Technically, pork is safe to eat once it reaches an internal temperature of 145F degrees. If your country style pork ribs have a good amount of marbling like mine do pictured here, they are much better cooked to 205-210F degrees.

At this point, the fat will render and the meat will become fork tender.

country style pork ribs in a pan with sauce

If yours are a boneless or leaner version without much marbling, then keep an eye on them and consider finishing them at a lower temperature.

As it braises, the onions will soften and the sauce will flavor the meat inside and out.

How to serve smoked country style ribs

Once your smoked country style ribs are tender, you can transfer them to a serving platter and smother them with that smokey sauce. 

country style pork ribs platter with closeup

Unlike baby back or St. Louis style ribs, you’re going to want to grab a knife and fork for these babies. But if you grab a few pieces with your fingers, that’s quite all right too. It’s not really great barbecue, unless you get to lick your fingers. Just keep a paper towel (or three or four) nearby.

country style pork ribs platter

Sides that go great with ribs

What to do with the leftovers

I usually plan to prepare 2 ribs per person (which is about 1/2 pound each).

If you cook a few extra ribs, the leftovers make for great sandwiches. Just pull the meat apart and toss in the remaining sauce. Layer it on a bun with the barbecue onions and some coleslaw.

country style pork ribs sandwich

Storage

Leftover smoked country style ribs can be saved in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

You can also store them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to six months.

GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips

  • Cook the smoked country style ribs in two phases over indirect, low heat
  • First, smoke them until they form a nice bark
  • Second, cook them in a covered pan with onion and BBQ sauce until they’re tender

Frequently Asked Questions

Are country style ribs the same as boneless pork ribs?

Country style ribs are cut from the pork shoulder. They are available with or without bones. Technically, boneless pork ribs could include other cuts of pork ribs where the bones have been removed, but most often the term refers to boneless country style ribs.

How many ribs should I prepare per person?

Each country style rib weighs about 1/4 pound, so plan on two ribs per person for a 1/2-pound serving.

How long does it take to smoke country style ribs?

Four pounds of country style ribs will take about 5 hours to smoke on a pellet grill set at 250F degrees. You can also smoke them on a charcoal or gas grill over indirect heat.

What’s the best internal temp for pork ribs?

When smoking country style ribs, you’ll get the best results if you cook them to an internal temperature of 205-210F degrees. This will ensure the meat is nice and tender.

Can you adapt this recipe for the oven?

Yes, however, you won’t get the smoke flavor you get from a grill. Set your oven to 250F degrees. Place the ribs on a rack over a rimmed sheet pan. Once they’re brown on all sides, finish them in a covered aluminum foil pan or 13×9 pan.

country style pork ribs platter with bowl of corn

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smoked country style pork ribs close up of bite on fork

Hickory Smoked Country Style Pork Ribs

When you want a meaty, succulent rib, go with smoked country style pork ribs braised in barbecue sauce. They're fork tender and oh so satisfying.
4.65 from 28 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Servings 8

Ingredients
 

  • 4 lbs country style pork ribs
  • 2 tbsp Pork Rub
  • 1 yellow onion sliced
  • 1 bottle BBQ sauce

Instructions
 

  • Heat Grill: Heat the smoker to 250F degrees with an indirect heat zone and hickory wood chunks or pellets.
  • Season: Season all sides or the pork ribs with rub. Let rest for 15 minutes.
  • Smoke: Place the seasoned ribs on the smoker, and cook for 3 hours to an internal temperature of 170F degrees.
  • Braise: Layer the sliced onion onto the bottom of an aluminum half pan. Add the smoked ribs. Cover with barbecue sauce. Cover the pan with foil and return to the smoker. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the ribs reach an internal temperature of 205-210F degrees.
  • Serve: Serve the ribs alongside the onions covered with the sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 385kcalCarbohydrates: 25gProtein: 29gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 109mgSodium: 675mgPotassium: 627mgFiber: 1gSugar: 19gVitamin A: 165IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 64mgIron: 2mg

This estimate was created using an online nutrition calculator

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