I get it, you snagged a new Pit Boss Pellet Grill and you can’t wait to smoke your first set of 321 Ribs that seem to be all the rage.
I’ve been there, in-fact, I’ve been there almost every decent Saturday for the last few years making all sorts of great (and not so great) 321 Ribs.
After all of these trial-and-errors, I have come to really enjoy this specific version of 321 Ribs on the Pit Boss Pellet grill that consistently comes out tender, juicy and (most importantly) TASTE AMAZING!
So, let’s get your Pit Boss fired up and get you making the best 321 Ribs you have ever had and leaving your friends and family thinking you are an undercover Pit Master!
Why Do They Call it The 321 Ribs Method?
321 Ribs is a recipe that produces tender, falling-off-the-bone ribs in just a few hours.
The 321 Method involves cooking the ribs at a low temperature for three hours, wrapping them in foil for two hours, and then cooking them at a high temperature for one hour.
This results in meat that is cooked all the way through, but remains moist and juicy.
The foil also traps in any flavorings or sauces, which makes 321 Ribs an ideal recipe for those who want to add their own unique twist.
Traditional Pitmasters Aren’t Huge Fans of 321 Ribs
Why? Well, it’s a point of argument along the BBQ circuit, but essentially, most pit-masters do a traditional “fast and hot” rib smoke and aren’t huge fans of these Tik Tok and YouTuber pitmaster ideas. Personally, I like it and 321 Ribs work well on a pellet grill.
But, let’s be honest, people like pellet grills because they are “set it and forget it” style grills.
Chance’s are, if you are reading this, you are looking to use your pellet grill to its true potential.
BTW, maybe you are just shopping for a pellet grill or researching their potential, if so, check out our guide to pellet grills here.
What I Learned When I Failed At 321 Ribs
When I set out to try the 321 Ribs method, I went to YouTube and watched a few folks cook their ribs with the 321 ribs method.
All of the YouTubers had their ribs come out darn near perfect and it didn’t look too hard.
So, I got my ingredients together and went cooking. Unfortunately for me, they didn’t turn out great, in-fact, they turned out drier than I expected and not what I wanted, specifically lacking tenderness and moisture.
So, what went wrong? The temps on my Pit Boss were clearly wrong and I was cooking much “lower and MUCH slower” than I should have.
A Warning on Pit Boss Built-In Thermostats
Like you, I trusted the built-in, digital thermometer on my Pit Boss Pellet Grill.
However, after making several attempts at BBQ and seeing my results take much longer than they should have, I needed to diagnose why.
First, I checked the body of the Pit Boss itself looking for anything I incorrectly installed or assembled, but all looked good.
Then, I ran a test where I set the temp on the Pit Boss to 225 degrees, but then also added 2 other thermometers to check the ambient air temperature inside the smoker to see if they matched what was on the digital reading of the Pit Boss.
One thermometer was a digital prong style, and the other was a more traditional, meter-styled thermometer that your mom likely used growing up.
I figured between the 3 different thermometers, I should have a good idea of where my temps were actually hitting.
After a couple tests, it turns out my Pit Boss was running a FULL 30-40 degrees UNDER what it was reading.
For example, if the Pit Boss Thermostat measured the temp at 225 degrees, it was often more like 190 degrees.
So, as you can imagine, leaving the meat in to cook for a longer period (due to temps being wrong) made the meat always overcook and dry out.
With all that said, if you are having “dry meat” issues with your Pit Boss, test your thermostat asap!
Ok, enough chatter, on to the 321 Ribs recipe!
What You Will Need For The 321 Ribs Recipe
In order to cook your 321 Ribs, you will need the following items:
- Rack of Ribs
- BBQ Rub of your choice.
- Tin Foil (or Aluminium Foil)
- Paper Towels
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Apple Juice
- Brown Sugar or Honey
- Spritzer Bottle
Step 1: Preheat Your Pit Boss Pellet Grill To 225 Degrees
Set your Pit Boss to 225 Degrees and then start to prepare your ribs. Do not put your ribs on as the Pit Boss is heating up, wait for the grill to come up to temp before placing the ribs.
Step 2: Remove the Membrane From the Ribs
I like to remove the membrane from the ribs so the smoke is able to better penetrate the rib meat.
First, you can flip the ribs upside down and you will see a very thin layer of “membrane” that covers the underside of the rib.
Place your finger in the middle of the ribs and locate the edge of the membrane at the upper or lower portion of the ribs center.
Then, dig your finger (or a butter knife) in between the meat and the membrane.
Once you can grab the membrane with a couple fingers, then take a dry paper towel and grab the membrane and with your other hand hold the ribs down while you lift the membrane straight up and off the ribs.
It takes a little elbow grease to pull it off, but once it starts moving, it peels off pretty quick. Hardest part is just getting a hold of the darn thing.
If you are unable (or dont care) to pull the membrane off, you can simply take a shark knife and score the membrane in the criss-cross pattern and you should be fine in the end result.
Step 3: Rub the Ribs With Your Favorite BBQ Rub
Nothing fancy here, slap your favorite rub all over the ribs (and don’t forget the ends and sides of the ribs!).
Step 4: Cook for 3 hours at 225
Place the ribs on the smoker and let them sit for 3 hours (no peeking!)
Step 5: Remove and Wrap
After 3 hours, remove the ribs from the smoker and wrap them in tin foil.
Before you close them up inside the tin foil, be sure to add in some butter, apple juice and brown sugar in the mix so as it streams inside the foil for the next two hours, those savory sweet flavors penetrate the meat. I like to tell my wife I am making “meat candy”.
Step 6: Cook for 2 Hours Wrapped
Place the ribs on the smoker wrapped in foil and let them sit for 2 hours (I’m serious, no peeking!)
Step 7: Remove Wrapping and Sauce it up!
Remove the tin foil and baste on your favorite BBQ sauce. I always prefer something with some sweet and some heat.
Step 8: Cook For The Final 1-Hour
Cook ribs directly on smoker with tin foil removed and sauce applied for the final hour.
Step 9: Eat your amazing 321 Ribs!
Thats it, the work is done and you can now sit down and enjoy those juice, tender, 321 ribs!
What To Do If Your 321 Ribs Turned Out Dry
If your 321 Ribs turned out dry, the first thing to do is check your Pit Bosses built in thermometer and compare it to some other thermometers you have laying around the house.
If the temps seem good, remember that humidity, ambient temps and the region you live in affect the pellet grills performance.
You may need to reduce the time you cook the ribs or lower (or raise) the temperatures a bit to dial in the results,
There is a reason they say BBQ Pitmaster and smoking meats in general is a bit of an art. Even if all the settings and timers are correct, things can just go wrong.
321 Ribs FAQ
You may have some questions I haven’t yet covered regarding these famous 321 Ribs. So, here are some answers to some frequently asked questions about 321 Ribs.
How Is 321 Ribs Different Than Traditionally Smoked Ribs?
Traditionally, pitmasters have been cooking excellent ribs in large offset smokers with a more “hot and fast” approach.
The “hot and fast” approach is generally smoking the ribs at 275-300 degrees for a couple hours with the rub and sauce applied for the entire duration.
Whereas the 321 Ribs are more of a “low and slow” method with a tin foil wrapping step as well.
See Harry Soo’s thoughts on 321 Ribs here:
Can You Cook 321 Ribs in The Oven?
Yes! You can cook 321 Ribs in your oven. This works great if you don’t have a smoker or pellet grill, or, you just have crappy weather and want to cook inside.
Can You Cook 321 Ribs in an Electric Smoker?
Yes! You can absolutely cook 321 Ribs in an electric smoker. Just be sure to ensure your temperatures remain consistent and follow the recipe above!
Does the 321 Ribs Method Work For St. Louis Ribs?
Yep! Babyback, Beef Ribs, or St. Louis Style ribs all work when using the 321 Ribs Method.
That’s it! That’s how you make 321 Ribs the right way! Now, you can fire these up for your family and friends and sit back and enjoy all the pitmaster compliments. No need to tell them where you learned it, it will be our little secret.