How To Cook Ribs on a Traeger Pellet Grill: Smoked Baby Back Ribs Recipe

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Individual Ribs, Glazed and resting on a grill grate

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Types of Pork Ribs

Pork ribs only have three kinds of ribs. From the upper portion of the ribs you have the Pork Back Ribs, lovingly called Baby Back Ribs. Down from there you then have Pork Spare Ribs, which are the remainder of the rib down to the belly. 

When you trim pork spare ribs, removing the rib tips, you end up with St. Louis Style Ribs. I rarely see whole spare ribs at the market so the chances of you needing to trim ribs are pretty minimal. I avoid it when I can as there is not a good use for the trimmings that come off spare ribs. 

Diagram showing The Different Cuts of Pork Ribs

Types of Beef Ribs

Unlike pork ribs, Beef Back Ribs, or the spare ribs, are not the desired cut. Since these ribs are coming off the Ribeye they are trimmed very close to the meat leaving minimal meat on a fatty rib. 

The best smoking ribs come are th Short Plate, or Short Rib. This is the famous cut that people are going for.

This is where the famous Dinosaur Ribs come from. For one of the best smoked beef ribs, you have to try it with Snake River Farms American Wagyu.  

Smoked Dinosaur Beef Ribs

Chuck Ribs are going to be similar to the Short Plate but they are a little thinner and more commonly cut down to flanken ribs.

Flanken, sometimes called English Cut, is a cross-cut rib and is commonly found in Asian and Hispanic meat markets. These are great additions to when you are grilling up fajitas for a large group.

This is one of my wife and I’s favorite types of beef ribs to grill up at home. 

English Cut Grilled Short Rib, One whole Piece and One Sliced between the Bones


The following directions work for Pork Ribs only 

Smoking beef short ribs is a different game.  Cooking ribs, beef short ribs specifically, on your traeger grill is more in line with smoking brisket.

You have a lot more internal fat to render in addition to more time on the pit. Plus you want a much simpler dry rub in addition to stronger wood pellets. Mesquite and Hickory blends are perfect wood pellets to use on beef ribs.  

Rib Rubs

If you want to make a homemade dry rub for your ribs try out my Red Chile Rub which goes great with all things pork. It is a simple combination of brown sugar, kosher salt, chile powder, cayenne, and a few other ingredients.

Check out the link to see the breakdown and links to other recipes I use it in. For smoking ribs this is the one that I go to. I used it at several restaurants and my barbecue joint.  

If premade dry rubs are more of your thing then by all means go for your favorite. If you are looking for a new rub you really can’t go wrong with anything by MeatChurch, Hardcore Carnivore or my new favorite 2 Gringos Chupacabra.

My buddy also swears by the Traeger Pork Poultry Rub. Regardless of the seasoning, you are going to use, do not be shy when seasoning. You want to get an even coat from top to bottom.

Hold the shaker about 8 inches above the rib rack and use your wrist to gently shake from left to right while moving your way down. Season the back of the ribs first then the meat side. 

Meat Church BBQ Rub Combo: Honey Hog (14 oz) and Holy Gospel (14 oz) BBQ Rub and Seasoning for Meat and Vegetables, Gluten Free, One Bottle of Each
Traeger Grills SPC171 Pork & Poultry Rub with Apple & Honey
2 Gringos Chupacabra Ribnoxious Rib Rub, 25 Ounces
Hardcore Carnivore Sweet BBQ Seasoning (Large Shaker)
Meat Church BBQ Rub Combo: Honey Hog (14 oz) and Holy Gospel (14 oz) BBQ Rub and Seasoning for Meat and Vegetables, Gluten Free, One Bottle of Each
Traeger Grills SPC171 Pork & Poultry Rub with Apple & Honey
2 Gringos Chupacabra Ribnoxious Rib Rub, 25 Ounces
Hardcore Carnivore Sweet BBQ Seasoning (Large Shaker)
$25.50
$9.85
$21.50
$12.98
Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime
-
Meat Church BBQ Rub Combo: Honey Hog (14 oz) and Holy Gospel (14 oz) BBQ Rub and Seasoning for Meat and Vegetables, Gluten Free, One Bottle of Each
Meat Church BBQ Rub Combo: Honey Hog (14 oz) and Holy Gospel (14 oz) BBQ Rub and Seasoning for Meat and Vegetables, Gluten Free, One Bottle of Each
$25.50
Amazon Prime
Traeger Grills SPC171 Pork & Poultry Rub with Apple & Honey
Traeger Grills SPC171 Pork & Poultry Rub with Apple & Honey
$9.85
Amazon Prime
2 Gringos Chupacabra Ribnoxious Rib Rub, 25 Ounces
2 Gringos Chupacabra Ribnoxious Rib Rub, 25 Ounces
$21.50
Amazon Prime
Hardcore Carnivore Sweet BBQ Seasoning (Large Shaker)
Hardcore Carnivore Sweet BBQ Seasoning (Large Shaker)
$12.98
-

What do I look for in ribs at the grocery store?

When you are selecting a rack of ribs, look for one that looks and feels heavy for its size. Don’t think about how long it is going to take to cook yet.

Picking a rib with plenty of meat to it is more important to your overall experience than how long it will take to cook. 

Now that you have the rack of ribs remove them from their packaging over a trash can then pat the rack dry with paper towels. 

The big question: do you have to take the thin membrane off the back of ribs?

If you are smoking beef ribs then the answer is absolute yes! The membrane on the back of the ribs is much thicker than beef ribs.  Pork ribs, it is a personal preference.

I prefer to take the membrane off so that my guests do not have to deal with it. It just adds to a better smoked rib eating experience. The best way to remove the membrane is to use a small sharp knife to peel back a corner and then using a firm grip, pull across the back of the ribs.

When you get it down, you can get the thin membrane off with one shot. Beef ribs can take a little more work.

Removing the membrane before smoking ribs also allows the rub to penetrate from the inside as well. Otherwise if you leave the membrane on then use minimal amounts of rub on that side as it will not add flavor to the finished smoked ribs. 

Using Mustard as a Primer on your Pork Back Ribs

If you are going to use yellow mustard as a primer to help keep the seasoning in place during the smoke then use this rule. A little goes a long way! Remember, you are just wanting to get a light even coat that creates a stick for the spice rub. Too much mustard and you will know, and not in a good way.

It is not required either but with all things barbecue, it is a personal preference so take your shot at it and see if you like it. Just put a small amount and then use your hand to rub it around the entire rack. It will take no more than 2 teaspoons of yellow mustard to cover the entire rack. 

And please, do not use olive oil, or any oil for that matter, as a primer. Smoked Ribs have enough fat to them, you do not need to add more. 

How Cook Pork Ribs on your Pellet Smoker

Assuming you working on a Traeger Grill, set the temperature to 225º. Once at temp place the ribs directly on the grill grates, bone side down and uncovered. For your first cook, look for an initial cook time of roughly 3 to 4 hours at 225º.

Check for doneness at the 3-hour mark. Use the bend test to see how firm or tender the ribs are. As the connective tissue breaks down, you will see the meat want to pull apart when you lift one side of the rack.

At this point, I will pull the racks off and turn the Traeger temperature up to 250º to finish. I will reapply a little seasoning and give a light spritz of apple juice from a spray bottle then wrap in aluminum foil. 

Place them back on the Traeger, this time meat side down. Cook for another 30 minutes and then give them another bend test. After some time you will know exactly how much time they need after your first doneness test.

If you want to fall off the bone ribs then give them about an hour more. Fall off the bone ribs is just overcooked ribs compared to the ribs you get from top-tier bbq restaurants. This is why we are also wrapping the ribs.

Another alternative to wrapping your ribs is to baste them every 30 minutes with barbecue sauce after the first 3 hours. This will lock in the moisture and create a nice glaze on the ribs.

Basting ribs on the grill until they fall off the bone is not recommended as you will struggle to get them off the grill in one piece.

The 3-2-1 Rib Method on your Traeger Grill

Some people swear by this method but I don’t follow it myself. This method of smoke ribs is designed for St. Louis and spare ribs. If you are cooking baby back ribs then I would cut these times in half.

If you want to try it to see if it works for you then go for it. This is all about learning and creating your signature style. So for this method, you are going to smoke the rib racks for 3 hours, uncovered, spritzing with a blend of apple cider vinegar and apple juice every hour.

Wrap them with bbq sauce or margarine and brown sugar in heavy duty aluminum foil and continue cooking ribs for another 2 hours.

The final step is then to unwrap the bbq ribs and then smoke for an additional hour. 5 hours of total cook time will give you tender, juicy fall off the bone ribs. I’m just not sure if the extra time is worth it.

What Barbecue Sauce works best for Pork Ribs?

Experiment with different barbecue sauces from the store to use as a baste and glaze. If you are up to it make your barbecue sauce. I make my homemade bbq sauce using ketchup and apple cider vinegar as my base so it takes minutes to throw together in a small bowl.

I prefer Central Texas bbq sauce as it is not as sweet as KC or Memphis style barbecue sauce which is heavy on sugar and molasses. If that is your thing then go for it. It is a personal preference rather than a right way vs wrong way.

Just be careful when basting with a sauce heavy in sugar and molasses as it will burn easily. If you prefer a thinner barbecue sauce then a little apple cider vinegar is a great way to thin it out and balance out the sweetness.

What are the best Wood Pellets for Pellet Grills

The type of pellet is a pretty hot topic with those that use pellet grills. Everyone has their opinion but the one they can all agree on is that make sure you are buying a quality wood pellet that does not have any filler.

I like Knottywood Plum and Almond wood. They produce a clean smoke light smoke that works well with poultry and pork. If you want more aggressive flavors then look for mesquite blended with a little hickory. This will give you a more distinctive smoke flavor.

100% Plum Wood BBQ Cooking Pellets 20 lb Bag 100% Natural Sweetness Knotty Wood, KnottyWood-Plum20#
Traeger Grills Hickory 100% All-Natural Wood Pellets for Smokers and Pellet Grills, BBQ, Bake, Roast, and Grill, 20 lb. Bag
Bear Mountain BBQ 20 Pounds Premium All Natural Hardwood Red and White Smooth and Smoky Oak BBQ Smoker Pellets for Outdoor Grilling and Smoking
100% Plum Wood BBQ Cooking Pellets 20 lb Bag 100% Natural Sweetness Knotty Wood, KnottyWood-Plum20#
Traeger Grills Hickory 100% All-Natural Wood Pellets for Smokers and Pellet Grills, BBQ, Bake, Roast, and Grill, 20 lb. Bag
Bear Mountain BBQ 20 Pounds Premium All Natural Hardwood Red and White Smooth and Smoky Oak BBQ Smoker Pellets for Outdoor Grilling and Smoking
$39.95
$18.99
$20.99
-
Amazon Prime
-
100% Plum Wood BBQ Cooking Pellets 20 lb Bag 100% Natural Sweetness Knotty Wood, KnottyWood-Plum20#
100% Plum Wood BBQ Cooking Pellets 20 lb Bag 100% Natural Sweetness Knotty Wood, KnottyWood-Plum20#
$39.95
-
Traeger Grills Hickory 100% All-Natural Wood Pellets for Smokers and Pellet Grills, BBQ, Bake, Roast, and Grill, 20 lb. Bag
Traeger Grills Hickory 100% All-Natural Wood Pellets for Smokers and Pellet Grills, BBQ, Bake, Roast, and Grill, 20 lb. Bag
$18.99
Amazon Prime
Bear Mountain BBQ 20 Pounds Premium All Natural Hardwood Red and White Smooth and Smoky Oak BBQ Smoker Pellets for Outdoor Grilling and Smoking
Bear Mountain BBQ 20 Pounds Premium All Natural Hardwood Red and White Smooth and Smoky Oak BBQ Smoker Pellets for Outdoor Grilling and Smoking
$20.99
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What should the internal temperature be for ribs?

I will be honest here. I have never in my 30 odd years of cooking pork ribs tried to take a reading of the internal temperature. They are ready when you try to pick them up. If they give and start to tear a little then you have great competition style ribs.

If you pick them up and it wants to just fall apart on you. Now you have tender fall off the bone ribs. Just let them cool a little before trying to handle them. 

For beef short ribs, or the dinosaur beef rib. You are aiming for an internal temperature between 195º to 203º. It depends really on how much time you plan to give them to rest.

If time is on your side then pull your beef short ribs at just over 195º, wrap them in pink paper and let them rest for at least an hour. Play with it too. Everyone has that sweet spot that they love. Yours may be a higher internal temperature than 195º.

How do you Reheat Pork Spare Ribs

When making ribs I will usually do a few extra racks of ribs more than I need to use for dinner later in the week. My version of meal prepping I guess. To reheat them you can place them with the bone side of the ribs down on a rimmed baking sheet and then lightly cover with some more foil.

Bake at 325º for about 20 minutes. Careful about reheating at too high of a temperature as this can cause the sugars to burn before the ribs have warmed through. Brown sugar begins to burn at 350º so it won’t take long at this temperature to end up with an unwanted burnt glaze.

If you are like me and hate turning the oven on during the summer then fire up your Traeger smoker to 325º and place the ribs, bone side down on the grill grate. No need for a lined baking sheet. 

Pro Tip: When the bone marrow begins to bubble, the ribs have warmed through. Give them a quick baste of BBQ sauce and they are ready! 

How Do you make Burnt End Syle Ribs

Cut the cooked, and chilled, ribs down into individual ribs and then toss them with BBQ sauce and brown sugar in a medium sized bowl. Smoke, super smoke if that is an option for you, uncovered at 275º for 30 minutes. Stack ’em on a plate and enjoy! 

Individual Ribs, Glazed and resting on a grill grate

More Recipes to use with your Traeger Grill

Even if you are not a Traeger Grill owner, you need resources and ideas to keep things fun and interesting with your pellet smoker. Check out our other recipes that work great on pellet grills.

A lot of my recipes that I develop during the summer I create using my Traeger Pellet Grill so I don’t have to turn the oven on in the house. So next time you need to crank on the oven ask yourself, “Can I throw this on the Traeger?” Chances are the answer is yes. 

I hope I have been able to answer your questions about How to Cook Ribs on Traeger Grill.

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AUTHOR

Chad Kelley
Hi!! This is Chef Chad. I'm a former restaurant chef and turned stay-at-home dad. My wife Yvette and two amazing kids live in North Dallas and are Huge FC Dallas fans.

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