How to Smoke Baby Back Ribs (Dry-Rub Style)

Smoked Ribs Cheddar Mash BBQ Sauce

Smoked Ribs (marinated in Apple Cider Vinegar and Apple Juice), dry-rubbed, and smoked are our family favorite. We had them twice this weekend! The plan was to smoke 8 racks of ribs on Saturday but we were surprised by a desert storm, complete with wind and hail. We managed to get 4 racks smoked before company arrived. So we fired up the smoker on Sunday for the next 4 racks and invited some more friends over to help us eat them.

 What You Will Need to Prep the Ribs

Smithfield Baby Back Smoked Ribs

3 racks of Baby Back Ribs

(I prefer Smithfield Back ribs. Each rack has around 12-14 bones and comes in at about 2.5 to 3 lbs. While still having a little bit of fat, they don’t have as much as the spare rib cut and you get a lot of meat in every bite.)

Apple Cider Vinegar

Unsweetened Apple Juice (100% juice)

Deep Pan or Bucket

  • Take the ribs from the package and rinse off any excess solution.
  • Flip the ribs over and look for the membrane that covers the back. You can use the tip of a knife or spoon to pull up an edge. Once you’ve got it, pull the entire bit off. You’ll find folks are split down the middle about doing this. As for myself, I’ve tried both ways and I feel that I can get more flavor into the ribs without the membrane.
  • Place your ribs into a deep pan or bucket (I use an orange project bucket from Home Depot) and cover them fully with a 50/50 mixture of the vinegar and juice. You’ll then want to place a good thick layer of ice to keep the temp down and prevent potential food hazards. I’ll leave them in this mixture for a minimum of 6 hours. The acids in both the vinegar and apple juice will help to tenderize the meat and all the while it’s soaking up the apple flavor into the pork.
  • While the ribs are soaking prep the dry rub.





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Dry-Rub for prepping baby back ribs for the smoker.
  • Difficulty:Easy

Nutrition per portion

  • 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbsp. ancho chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp. chipotle chili powder
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh black pepper
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. ground white pepper
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. dry mustard
  • ½ tsp. celery salt
  • 1 Tbsp. sea salt
I always mix up a little extra but this makes enough for the 3 racks of baby back ribs. The brown sugar gives the rub an extra sweetness that comes into play with the heat later and the sugar helps to caramelize the spices to the meat as it cooks. So here’s the caveat to the dry rub, we all have varying tastes when it comes to heat. Over the years, I’ve played around with various peppers and chilies to find what works. Personally, I like a range of heat that gives you a little bite up front but sneaks back for another hit a couple minutes later. I invite you to use this as a baseline to find what works for you and yours.      



Rub the Ribs

  • Take the ribs from the vinegar & juice and pat them dry with a paper towel.
  • Stretch a good length of plastic wrap onto your work surface (don’t tear it just yet), a little longer than your ribs and place the rack on it.
  • Generously spread the rub across the surface of the ribs, working it in a little with your fingers. Flip the rack and repeat. Once done, pull the wrap across and tear, tightly wrapping the ribs.
  • Place them in a deep pan and into the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  • Soak your chips in a bowl of water while the ribs are in the fridge during the rub treatment. This will keep you from having to put out a fire during the cooking process.

I’ve left mine wrapped for over 24 hours – the longer the wrap is holding the rub to the ribs, the more flavor you’re going to get at the end. The dust storm mentioned above ensured that 4 of our racks of ribs this past weekend had an extra 24 hours. They were falling off the bone and into the smoker as we were taking them out. No complaints from our guests, or us. They were just as good if not a little better.

Smoked Ribs

I use the Orion Cooker Convection BBQ Smoker which can do up to six racks at one time and they’re done in just under two hours. I know you’re probably scratching your head on that one but more to come in a later post….. 


I use a mix of cherry, apple, and hickory chips for smoked ribs. The mix of different woods imparts a great overall flavor to the meat and helps to pull out the taste of the apple juice from earlier. The wood chips go inside the smoker, circling the tray. Fill the tray 2/3 full with either water or apple juice. Put down one of the grills (some of the ribs will fall off in the process of smoking). Then hang your racks of ribs.

WESTERN 28065 Apple BBQ Smoking ChipsWESTERN 78075 Hickory BBQ Smoking ChipsWESTERN 28067 Maple BBQ Smoking Chips

When the ribs are ready to smoke and the smoker is prepped and ready, take your tongs grab the rack at roughly the halfway point, they should hang at almost at 90-degree angle.

smoked ribs in convection smoker


Pour charcoal into the base, put the lid on, fill the top with charcoal and light! Do not open until done. It should take 1 hour and 30 minutes.

If you’re going to cook in a conventional smoker it will take about 4-6 hours keeping the temperature around 250oF. Low and slow is the key.


Good luck getting them to the table! The family is more than helpful with carrying them into the house and sampling the pieces that have fallen off the bone.

Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get more great recipes. When you subscribe you will receive access to our Fireball Whiskey BBQ Sauce Recipe that pairs perfectly with these ribs.  Be sure to share this recipe with a friend. Maybe it will be what’s for dinner next time you visit.

Once you’ve tried these smoked ribs be sure to come back and tell us your thoughts in the comments. Did you change them up any? Who did you eat them with and what did they think? We’d love to hear! Come back later this week for the perfect side to go with the smoked ribs: Chipotle Cheddar Mash.