Smoked Spare Ribs

These smoked spare ribs are rubbed with sugar, chili powder, cumin, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne then smoked for 5 hours. A Texas-style barbecue sauce is the final flourish.

Two smoked spareribs and a knife on a slab of stone

Learning to smoke ribs to finger-lickin’ perfection is super simple. And this smoked spare ribs recipe is an exquisite example of just how easy it can be. Authentic barbecue flavor in your own backyard. No smoker required. No smoking experience required, either, for that matter. Although bear in mind, there are people who spend a lifetime getting smoked ribs just right, so give yourself some time to smooth out any kinks. Practice, practice, practice. [Editor’s Note: Readers without a smoker, take comfort. We included directions for how to smoke these spare ribs on a grill. (Who loves you?!)]–Renee Schettler

Smoked Spare Ribs

Two smoked spareribs and a knife on a slab of stone
We want to show people that food without grains, legumes, dairy, or refined sugar can be spectacularly delicious and beautiful, while also nourishing the body and sustaining the earth. Praise the lard!
Matthew McCarry and Stacy Toth

Prep 30 mins
Cook 5 hrs
Total 6 hrs
4 servings
962 kcal
5 / 3 votes
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  • Wood chips


  • 2 (2-pound) racks pork spare ribs membranes removed* (see * Note)
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar (or substitute maple, date, or palm sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Texas-Style Barbecue Sauce


  • Let the ribs rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, make the rub by combining the sugar, chili powder, cumin, salt, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, white pepper, and cayenne pepper with a fork.
  • Pat the ribs dry with paper towels. Then coat the ribs with the rub, using your hands to completely cover the surface of the meat with the spices.
  • Following the instructions below, smoke the ribs at 225°F (107°C) for 5 hours (about 1 hour more than the number of pounds of meat). Keep the coals smoldering at low heat so that the ribs don’t burn, catch fire, or overcook. Check the ribs periodically to make sure they aren’t drying out. Flip and move the ribs 90° every hour in order to get crosshatch sear marks across the flesh. The meat is done when it is tender and releases easily from the bone.
    If using a smoker: Put your soaked chips in the smoking basket and your meat on the top racks.
    If using a jury-rigged smoker: If buying a new smoker is too expensive for you, you can build one for yourself with just a large terra-cotta pot and a large terra-cotta bowl large enough to fit a hot plate and a round grill rack, bricks, and an aluminum pie plate. Here’s how to construct it: Raise the pot off the ground with some bricks but leave the hole at the bottom of the pot uncovered for the hot plate cord. Place the hot plate in the bottom of the pot, and pull the hot plate's cord through the hole so you can plug it into an outlet or extension cord. Put your soaked wood chips into an aluminum pie plate and put that on top of the hot plate. Place the grill rack on top of the pot so that it sits inside the pot, but well above the hot plate. Cover with the bowl, which is your lid. Turn on the hot plate and you’re smoking!
    If using a gas grill: Can you smoke meat with a regular gas grill? We’ve done it, and it’s effective if not perfect. This is an unsophisticated version of smoking, and real pit masters frown on it, but we’ve done it many times. The taste is not as intense, but the meat is still tender and delicious. If you want to try it, here’s how: Put your soaked wood chips in an aluminum pie plate and cover the top tightly with aluminum foil. With a butter knife, poke about 10 holes in the foil. Remove the grates from one side of your grill and place the pie plate directly on those burners. Light your grill and set only the burners underneath the wood chips on their lowest setting. If there is a large vent on the side of the grill with the wood chips, plug it with an old rag to prevent the smoke from escaping. Keep your meat on the opposite side of the grill, where the grates are still in place. Wait for the wood to start smoking—at least 15 minutes—before you place your meat on the grill.
  • Remove the ribs from the heat, and let them rest uncovered for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with Texas-Style Barbecue Sauce and lotsa napkins.
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*How do I remove the membrane from spare ribs?

To remove the membrane or silver skin from a rack of ribs, slip a small spoon (bowl side down) under the corner of the membrane and then grab it with a paper towel—it's slippery—and slowly pull it off. And if you're not feeling confident about this, any butcher will do it for you.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portion without sauce, 1/2 rackCalories: 962kcal (48%)Carbohydrates: 18g (6%)Protein: 51g (102%)Fat: 76g (117%)Saturated Fat: 24g (150%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 13gMonounsaturated Fat: 28gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 254mg (85%)Sodium: 1464mg (64%)Potassium: 918mg (26%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 14g (16%)Vitamin A: 744IU (15%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 107mg (11%)Iron: 6mg (33%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

I chose to make these smoked spare ribs because my family loves barbecue pork. This recipe, along with the Texas-Style Barbecue Sauce recipe, was a HUGE hit! Even my 4-year-old grandson loved the meat. The rub was wonderful, with beautiful earthy flavors, and it was simple to mix. I had all the spices in my cupboard, too. The first time I made them, it was a bit rainy to use my outside smoker, so I ended up using my oven at 225°F for 5 hours, then started a fire in my Big Green Egg with natural wood charcoal. I made sure the grill was at a temperature of about 225°F and took the spare ribs out of the oven and placed them in a foil pan on the grill and smoked them for about an hour.

While smoking the ribs, I made the barbecue sauce. Super easy and quick and a perfect match with the ribs. All the rich, earthy flavors went so well together. Everyone ate everything on their plates and even wanted more. There was only one tiny plate of leftovers left. I served this with rosemary carrot mash, sweet potato cornbread, and caramel ice cream for dessert. Beautiful presentation and everything tasted so wonderful together. Big wins for all!

The second time I make the spare ribs, I smoked a rack on my outdoor smoker. Wow, am I glad I did. Fantastic! The flavor of the rub is so wonderful, you don’t need a sauce. I loved the sugary sweet and rich chili spices of the rub. The ribs were moist, tender, a little chewy, and the meat released easily from the bone. Followed the recipe instructions to a tee (set the smoker at 225°F for 5 hours) and they turned out just perfect. I know what I will be bringing to our next party or event. I bet they won’t last long.

Great smoked spare ribs recipe! I smoked these on my Weber Rocky Mountain Cooker and was pleased with the results. The preparation was easy and straightforward.

The time estimate was accurate; I had 5 pounds of ribs and smoked them at 225°F for just over 6 hours. I served them with my own barbecue sauce and they received rave reviews.

Originally published November 7, 2013


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  1. 5 stars
    My first time smoking ribs. Using a Masterbuilt electric smoker that I received as an anniversary gift from my employer, I chose this recipe basically because it was the very first one I found in my internet search and it had a five star rating. My expectations were low as I’ve only used the smoker a few times since getting it. To my surprise the ribs turned out perfectly and, although I’m definitely no connoisseur when it comes to ribs, I thought they were the best I’ve ever tasted. (Not bragging on my cooking abilities at all, I just followed the rub recipe to the letter.) The only deviation for mine was that I cooked a single slab that was 5 lbs vs the 4 lbs shown on the recipe. The rub recipe still yielded just enough to cover the entire slab front and back. The meat cooked for about 6 hours and 15 minutes as I had not preheated the smoker. I chose hickory wood chips, soaked them in water and added chips to the smoker 4 times in the first several hours. The meat came out juicy, tender and delicious with just the right amount of spiciness for my wife and I. The ribs I cooked were pork spare ribs from Kroger. I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey BBQ Sauce that you can find at most any grocery store. My wife, who is not a fan of anything spicy and typically prefers the vinegar based, thin BBQ sauces thought the ribs were great as well as the Sweet Baby Ray’s. I will definitely be cooking more of these ribs and highly recommend this recipe.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Mitch! Do keep us posted on your smoking adventures.

    1. Martha, I suggest you follow the directions for the grill in this smoked turkey recipe, adjusting the timing and temperature according to the smoked spare ribs recipe. Good luck! If you desire more information, I suggest you check out this site, which is our bible for everything related to grilling and smoking…

  2. 5 stars
    I bought a used smoker at a garage sale months ago. My husband did a wonderful job of refurbishing it, even buying me a new chip kettle for Mother’s Day, but I have been too intimidated, or have not had enough time, to use it. This recipe has changed all that! I will be making time to make these ribs very soon! Thanks for posting!

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