3-2-1 Rib Recipe Fail, need pointers!

RemE

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Hi All. I'm actually a long time Traeger user, but small stuff. I had a Junior for years and now have a vista cruiser Timberline 850. In all these years I have never made ribs, however I love them and finally took a shot, and failed! Taste was great BUT, they weren't tender and nowhere close to fall off the bone goodness that the BBQ joints offer.

I have been using the 850 for almost a year, Chickens, Salmon, Jerky etc. I have found that its displayed temperatures are very stable compared to the old Junior. I am also seeing that the cooking results between the two grills is very different when following Traeger recipes. My theory is that the older grills lost more heat and tended to have a hotter fire to maintain the temp vs the insulated models. I have had to really adjust my old standby recipes for chicken etc. as everything was under cooking with the same time/temp settings from before.

I was wondering if the older Traeger recipes are based on uninsulated units? I made a Traeger Corned Beef recipe at Easter that was also an under cooked fail, very embarrassing to ruin the family dinner.

Today I was at my local Ace Hardware store, where I bought the Timberline. The guys there cook all the time. I asked about the 3-2-1 Rib recipe, they use it as well apparently. They said that they smoke for 4, then foil for 3, then on the grill with BBQ sauce for a final 2 hours.

Is anyone else seeing this? I want to make good ribs! My wife and her girlfriend say that ribs need par boiling, but I believe slow smoking ribs is more in line with the "real" BBQ masters, is that right?

Anyhow, thanks in advance for any thoughts on how to get this dialed in!
 

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Hi RemE,

What type of ribs did you go with? Spares or baby backs? I cook these two differently temps and times but for me, I go by look and feel before removing from the grill. Think of the 3-2-1 as more of a baseline and modify from there. Your variables are probably the ribs themselves (cut, size, weight, fat, etc...), grill model, ambient and grate temps.

I tweaked my baby back 3-2-1 pretty well from trial and error. Pull the membrane and remove anything hanging, thin layer of mustard, each side with rub and wait 15 minutes for it to adhere. I don't wait to bring them in temp and put them bone down with my grate in the lower position. 200 in super smoke for 3 hours. I spritz once maybe twice if they look like they're drying with martinelli's apple juice and water 50/50. Once I have the color and texture I want, I'll wrap. I'll make a rib length long line of light brown sugar in heavy duty foil, a few slices of unsalted butter, a quick hit of rub and a couple lines of good quality honey. Make sure you're using heavy duty and a couple of layers - no leaks. Put the ribs on the mixture meat down and right before I close off 1 side, I'll pour in 4-6oz apple juice. I'll increase to 225 and put back on meat down and if I have multiple packs, I'll rotate them maybe once or twice during the cook. Hot spot on my IW650 is at the front. At the 2 hour mark, I'll check one pack by seeing how much play and probe for tenderness with my thermapen. Not really looking at temps, more at the feel. You should also see some bone pulls popping on the ends. Sometimes they're done at this point, other times I've placed them back on for another 30 or so. Once I have them super tender, I'll pull them, unwrap and put them back on for a thin layer of sauce on each side. Probably another 30 to hour for it to set. Pull and let them cool for 10. If I'm doing spares, I'll do a 3-2-1 but higher temps 225-250 instead.

I would pick up a laser gun thermometer if you're unsure of your grate temps. I picked up a Maverick for $30 from GrillGrate and it seems to be accurate as I tested temps alongside my MK4. Hope this helps.
 

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RemE

RemE

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Thanks dsmero for the tips! I was cooking baby backs, I did strip the membrane.
I had smoked 180F super smoke, lower position on the grate for 3 hours.
The ribs just looked more dry after the smoking, not much color change.

The foil step, (225F super smoke) my gut said that logically the meat side would be better down, to soak in all of the sweet goodness. But the recipe didn't say, so I kept the meat side up :(

Final step still 225 super smoke for 1 hour, the ribs looked like the attached picture.

I do have a Thermapen that I use all the time for chicken and fish, and an IR Thermometer on the bench, so I'll check grate temps today.

I'll find some more ribs and give this another shot, I don't have that intuitive feel for when meat is done, I'm a meter guy, love to measure things for repeatability!

Still much to learn, looking at picture, my ribs look raw compared to yours.

Traeger, if you read these, your 3-2-1 recipe is not correct for the newer grills!
 

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dsmero

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Let me know it goes. Probably meat side down in the foil pack and meat side down in the foil on the grate. Give them direct contact with that mixture and heat and you're good to go (y)
 

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Well I hope your next set of ribs turn out a little more tender! I found the first time i did ribs, I did the super smoke at 180F for the first 3 hours, wrapped at turned up to 220 for the remainder of the cook super smoke off at the wrapping point due to smoke cant penetrate foil and the ribs turned out tough as they didnt cook long enough. For the next cook and all the following cooks now I start and stay at 220F from beginning to end. Gives the tenderness I want and the family likes. Let us know how the next try turns out!!
 

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I've never failed with the 3-2-1 method, but as others have stated it's based on the type of ribs. If I am doing several racks of baby back's I'll do 3-2-1ish but if I am doing a single rack or two I usually have to drop the time in foil or they'll fall apart. Spare ribs usually take the full 3-2-1.

My own personal method is:

1) Remove the membrane, and rub with whatever rub you want (I like a sweeter brown sugar based rub, apple wood rub if I can find it).
2) Smoke at 225 with Apple Wood, or whatever smoke you prefer, for 3 hours.
3) Pull them, and wrap in a layer of foil, and add about 1/2 cup or so of beer (whatever you like, I will use Shiner Bock most of the time). Wrap tightly and return to smoker
4) Cook for up to two hours, if temps are keeping up, I will usually pull one rack at 1.5 horus and see how easily a fork slides in, usually they are just right and I can un-foil them.
5) SAVE THE DRIPPINGS! Add some to your favorite sauce recipe, I will simply use Sweet Baby Ray's Hickory and Brown Sugar in a pinch. The addition of the drippings with the beer will make an incredible sauce.
6) Return the ribs to either your smoker, or in my case generally my gas grill on low heat and let them tighten up a bit. I like to start with the meaty side down for a while, then before I flip them I'll put a light layer of sauce on the back, flip, and sauce the top heavily and let them sit until its caramelized. This generally doesn't take an hour, more like 20 to 30 minutes max.

This method has never failed me. Only time I've ended up with tough ribs was in the cooler months when the smoker couldn't keep up the temps, or if I pulled them too early when in foil.

So in general for me, Baby Back's are 3-1.5-.5 and Spare Ribs are 3-2-1.
 
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Success! Thanks guys for all the pointers, upping to 225F for the smoking, then meat side down in the foil with smoke off, finally finish at 225-250F until they looked caramelized.

Final product was outstanding!!! They were tender and off-the-bone perfect, family approved.

BTW, I did take I/R Temp readings at the various set temps and the grill is indicating the correct temps. It really holds set temps very well.
 

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jp9724

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Success! Thanks guys for all the pointers, upping to 225F for the smoking, then meat side down in the foil with smoke off, finally finish at 225-250F until they looked caramelized.

Final product was outstanding!!! They were tender and off-the-bone perfect, family approved.

BTW, I did take I/R Temp readings at the various set temps and the grill is indicating the correct temps. It really holds set temps very well.
Did you go the full 2 hours with meat side down? Looks fantastic btw!
 
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RemE

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Did you go the full 2 hours with meat side down? Looks fantastic btw!
Yes,
3 Hrs 225F super smoke.
2 Hrs in foil, meat side down, 225F smoke off.
1 hr 225F with sauce, checked, increased to 250F and ended up going for 1 more hour for the caramelized look.

Next time I will remove from foil, sauce and go with 250F and monitor.

My outside temps have been around 70F with minimal wind.
 
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