How Long to Smoke Ribs – Detailed Ribs Smoking Guide

There is no better joy in the world than to sit down to a plate of smoked ribs. No one complains about the mess that it makes or the fact that you need two plates to eat them. One filled with cooked meat, and the second plate, empty, anticipating to become the bone collector.

Everyone loves them and wants to make them at home, but they are left wondering, how long to smoke ribs before they hit that perfect mark of "fall of the bones goodness".

You should know that to exactly determine the required time for smoking, are included a lot of different factors such as what type of ribs do you have, how you have prepared them, how are you smoking them etc.

So, I recommend you to read this guide step-by-step to know how to properly prepare them and also how long you need to smoke them.

Choosing your Ribs

The first steps are to prepare yourself; you need to decide first, what kind of ribs you want.

Types of Ribs

Types of Ribs - Credits: AmazingRibs

We suggest the spare ribs over the baby back ones. There is a difference in time required to smoke, depending on which one you choose.

Baby back ones are a leaner meat that are shorter than the spare ones. Baby backs are loin ribs, with their name referring to their location, high up on the pig's back, while the spare ribs come from the side of the hog. The spare ribs cut have more fat, which leads to juicier final cook, and that tends to have more flavor.

Choosing the Smoking Method

Next, you must decide how you will smoke your meat. We prefer the off-set smoker. With the off-set smoker, your fire box is as the term suggests, off-set from where your ribs will be during the smoking process.

If you don't have an offset smoker, then any other smoker/grill will work great too, as long as you can have control over the cooking temperature.

The required smoking time is different from one method of smoking to another. For this method should be average.

To go with your smoker, we like the flavor of using pecan wood over some other varieties. Pecan is lighter in flavor, not overbearing, and burns a little slower than mesquite of hickory.

What You Need

You will need a few things before start smoking your meat. You only need a few common ingredients and shopping for your needs shouldn’t take as long.

Required Things:

  • Spare Ribs
  • Olive Oil
  • Spices, Paprika, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Coarse Salt, Coarse Ground Black Pepper
  • Apple Cider Vinegar or 100% Apple juice in a Spray Bottle
  • Pepper Sauce or BBQ Sauce

How to Prepare your Ribs for Smoking

Spare ribs come in a slab and as I mentioned before, how you prepare them determines the smoking time. We’ll show two of the most popular ribs smoking and preparing styles.

The first one you can try is St. Louis style. Minimal trimming is done on this style. The breast bone is connected at the top, and the sides are untouched. This style will leave you with parts that will end up a little drier on the ends because you have fatter pieces and smaller pieces on the same slab. Another plus side to St. Louis style of smoking is that there is overall more meat. Specifically on the top.

But what we prefer is the Kansas City Ribs style. Here you will trim the top, remove the excess fat, even off the ends so you have consistent cooking throughout the process.

If you are cooking in a competition this style may be for you. The consistency is great because the ribs are more equal to one another, and this gives you more of a choice in picking the best ribs to present.

Your excess meat from the trimming can be thrown on the smoker as a treat for the cook to snack on, or cooked in your beans. There is no need to waste any of the wonderful meat.

Special Smoking Trick: Once you have trimmed the meat and fat off, there is a trick that some people miss. On the underside of the ribs is a membrane. A white tissue that if left on will result in a chewy rib.

Start off with a dull knife, like a butter knife, and run it along the edge of the ribs. You should find the membrane, and a small piece will come up. You can use a paper towel to get a better grip of the membrane. Slowly, gently pull the membrane off. This procedure is the same regardless if you are smoking baby back or spare ribs.

Preparing the Smoker

Now, after you finished the first preparing step, it is time to start your fire and start cooking them.

In order to perfectly cook your ribs, you want to maintain a cooking temperature of 220-250°F. While your smoker warms at the recommended temperature, finish your second rib preparation process.

Applying Dry Rub to Ribs before Smoking

Take your ribs and rub them down with a tablespoon of olive oil. This will help your spice rub adhere to the meat. Apply the rub, 2 tablespoons pepper, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon paprika, 2 dashes of garlic powder and 1 dash of onion powder. Apply as much or as little as you want to your meat prior to smoking.

Cooking Tip: One useful tip for you to have in mind is to use garlic powder over garlic salt. Doing so, you control the salt yourself and apply the powder as you want it.

How Long Should You Smoke Ribs

Cooking Guide

After the preparation is done, the fire is at the recommended temperature and you have a supply of pecan wood (about 4-5 pieces is enough), it is time to place your meat in the smoker.

First, lay them on the grill, away from the fire with the meat side up. Place a water bowl or tray in with your meat. This water bath will help you make a juicy final cook.

You need to frequently watch the temperature gauge and maintain 225°F. If you want to easily maintaining this temperature, you should not open your lid frequently. Every time you open the cover, the heat comes down, the smoke goes out, and you extend the amount of time needed to smoke ribs. Let the wood work its magic. You need to trust yourself here. I know that the temptation is strong to frequently check them, but you need to be stronger.

For two hours, your job consists of two things, checking the gauge, and adding wood if you see the temperature drop 15-25 degrees. In the winter, this will happen faster while in the summer it may not happen as quickly.

After two hours have passed, you can check them to know the progress so far. You should see a beautiful golden brown appearing. Spray a little of the apple cider vinegar or apple juice, put some pepper sauce or BBQ sauce on them, depending if you want a spicy or mild flavor. Just a light coating will do.

Water Spraying

After you finish the sauce adding process, it is time to turn sides. Put the meat side down on your smoker, add water if necessary to your bath, and let them smoke for another 20-30 minutes.

After 20-30 minutes have passed, check your meat for the last time. If you want, you can spray a little more apple cider vinegar or apply medium-thick BBQ sauce for the last time, and then wrap your meat in aluminum foil.

Put it back in the smoker, this time, meat side up. Check again after two hours and your meat should be cooked.

You do not need to check the temperature of the meat, you just want to feel the rack of ribs. If it’s too loose, then they are a little overcooked. If they feel tight, give them another 20 minutes. You want the feel to be pliable in your hands.

After your pork ribs are cooked to your desired point, remove them off the smoker and they are ready.

Ribs Smoking Graph and Times

To have a better understanding of the whole process of smoking your ribs, we put together a summary table with step-by-step process, including the cooking temperatures and the target internal temperature.

Ribs Method

Cooking Temperature

Target Internal Temperature

Kansas City Style



Final Thoughts

So, in order to determine how much time is needed for a rib smoking cook, a lot of factors are considered. It starts with choosing the right rib type, preparing them and finally smoking them at a constant temperature.

In conclusion, how long to smoke ribs? About 4 hours and 30 minutes at a 240°F temperature. Different methods require different cooking time and that's the time it required when you use an offset smoker. 

When they are ready, you will want to cut them parallel to the bone. Some of the meat will fall off the bone, some will have a tender bite to it. Either way, they will taste great.

Enjoy your perfectly cooked ribs and if you have any other special cooking trick, share it with us by leaving a comment down below.

About Kendrick

Kendrick is an outdoor cooking enthusiast, living in Kansas. He loves to share his passion about outdoor cooking with everyone on various Social Media platforms (Read More)

7 thoughts on “How Long to Smoke Ribs – Detailed Ribs Smoking Guide”

  1. Hi, always love reading ways in how people cook and recommend cooking, particularly ribs. On my recent cook I prepared my ribs (baby back), trimmed and removed the membrane. I them coated them with milk and placed them in the fridge overnight, prior to seasoning them I allowed them to reach room temperature.
    I found it made a difference compared to my previous cook, they seemed to be somewhat more tender. Look forward to your future tips on smoking.



  2. smoking is all new to me so this may be a stupid question. my baby back ribs reached 190 in about an hour with smoker at 225-230. this seemed way fast if the target temp is 190. is this too quick or do i try and maintain the 190 for 4 more hours? please help

    • Hello Dennis,
      The time needed for each cut and meat type to reach the target internal temperature depends on a lot of factors, but if they reach the target internal temperature earlier, you should remove them from the smoker and leave them rest for about 10-15 minutes before serving. There is no point of keeping them on the smoker as they will become dry and will not taste good.
      I hope this helps,
      Cheers, Kendrick.

  3. thank you for your feedback. the ribs had a good flavor but, as you probably already guessed, they were tough. i’ll saddle up and try again.

  4. Thanks for a great article. I learned a few tips to try (particularly the sprayed apple cider vinegar). Your web site looks awesome; I have saved it to go back to and learn more.

    I have been foil wrapping ribs for a long time but I always do it at the front end – Typically for a little more than half the time (indirect) at 225. Then, I unwrap the ribs allowing the juices to fall into the pan below the ribs and I smoke unwrapped for the rest of the time. Total time is 4-5 hours depending on whether I’m doing baby backs or St. Louis. I always do a dry rub only unless sauce is requested.

    Is there anything wrong with wrapping at the front end vs the back end?

    PS: sorry you have to answer two Dennis’ in a row.

    • Hello Dennis,
      I’m glad you liked the article.
      As for smoking your ribs un-wrapped, there is nothing wrong with that. Actually, I have heard a lot of people use this tactic. They smoke the meat wrapped for a few hours and then un-wrap it at the end, smoking un-wrapped for a while, usually to give it a more crusty/brown finish.
      Thanks for visiting my site,
      Cheers Kendrick

  5. I always smother my ribs in apple butter then sift the rub on top of that. I’ve found it helps them stay moist without the need for a wash. Also the apple flavor pairs perfectly with pork.


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