How Long to Smoke Ribs? Tips and Tricks

How Long to Smoke Ribs

Is there a better way of spending a lazy summer day than smoking perfect barbeque ribs? With the smoke permeating the air together with the lovely smell of cooking meat? While you endure the heat because you know that in the end it will be worth it?

I don’t think there is, either! As you all know, cooking smoked ribs is not an easy business- it takes time, effort and patience. But you know what they say- “great things come to those who wait.” That’s definitely true for smoked ribs! So, exactly how long to smoke ribs to achieve perfection?

Preparing the Ribs

Seasoned Raw Pork Ribs

Smoking the ribs is not the only thing that might require you time and effort, preparing it for smoking will, too. Though preparing the ribs will not take as much time as the smoking, this one is very important as well. This is where you introduce flavors to the ribs, hence developing the taste of the smoked ribs and also ensure the tenderness!

First off, you have to trim the ribs. You do this so you can make sure that the ribs will fit inside the smoker. But the most important part of trimming is removing the membrane that covers the bone side of the ribs. What is this membrane and why should you remove it?

This membrane, also known as silverskin, was previously thought to hinder the penetration of the rub and the smoke into the meat. Well, that is wrong because in actuality this membrane is porous, meaning that both the rub and the smoke can easily pass through it. So what is the problem?

The problem is that the silverskin turns tough and chewy when you cook it, thereby ruining the texture of your smoked ribs. Also, there is a layer of fat beneath the membrane. When you don’t remove the membrane, you are just hindering the melting of that layer of fat. You can slit the membrane to make the fat melt, but then you’ll be left with the chewy membrane in your ribs.

After that, it is time to cover the ribs with a rub of your choice. You should apply a thin layer of oil into the ribs to help the rub stick into it. As for the rub, you can make some on your own or you can buy pre-made ones. Once the rub is applied, let the ribs rest for a couple of hours or leave it in the refrigerator for up to overnight. Now you’re ready to smoke the ribs!

Smoking the Ribs

Slabs of Ribs on Smoker

What You Need

After preparing the ribs, we are now on the fun part! Now you need to prepare your equipment in smoking. What are you going to need?

  • Grill or smoker that has a cover
  • Thermometer (both for the meat and the smoker, don’t rely on the thermometer that is a built-in feature on your smoker because I’m telling you they are not reliable!)
  • Charcoal (the type that will last long, so you won’t have to keep on piling up charcoal while you are smoking your ribs)
  • Wood (the flavor of your smoked ribs is affected by this, so choose wisely! If you are not familiar with the types of wood, check them here)
  • Foil (the foil will ensure that the ribs turn out moist, of course there is a certain amount of time for you to wrap the meat on the foil and not)
  • Barbeque mop or even a clean spray bottle (some recipes will require you to mop the meat, some won’t)

Let’s Start Smoking! You’ll Find the Answer Here!

Smoking Hot Ribs

Now that you have everything you need and you have your ribs resting somewhere- did I tell you that if you put your ribs overnight in the refrigerator, you will have to take it out about an hour before smoking so it will be closer to room temperature? No? Well, I am telling you now! Better late than never! Okay, so now that that’s all settled, let’s start smoking!

Pre-heat your smoker to about 250-255 degrees Fahrenheit, make sure that throughout the smoking your temperature will be consistent or at least close to consistent. Again, use a separate thermometer because the thermometer in the smoker (if it has one built-in) is unreliable. Now place throw your ribs in there!

Make sure that you keep a close eye on everything that’s happening. Check the temperature regularly; check the charcoal if you need to add more and mop or spritz your ribs every 45 minutes or so. So how long would you have to keep this going? How long to smoke ribs? That will take you about 5 to 6 hours!

Yes, 5 to 6 hours of constantly checking and standing near the fires of hell- or the heat of the smoker, semantics. Since I said “5 to 6 hours” you might be wondering “how can I tell if the ribs are done after 5 or 6 hours?” The answer to that is, you will have to check the internal temperature on the thickest part of the ribs and it will have to read about 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now, let us not forget about the foil! As I have said, the foil’s use in smoking ribs is to keep the ribs moist and tender. So when should you use it? During the last hour or smoking, mop the ribs and then wrap the ribs in the foil (use heavy duty foil to make sure that it won’t tear, that will defeat the purpose of wrapping the ribs up in foil). After wrapping, put it back into the smoker.

Also, make sure that your exhaust damper is open. If it’s not open, it will trap the smoke in the smoker. You don’t want that to happen because it will make your smoked ribs bitter!

Cooking Smoked Ribs in an Electric Smoker

You can also use an electric smoker if you want. Of course the preparations for the ribs will still be the same. If you are using an electric smoker it will also take you about 6 hours to smoke ribs. You will just have to remember 3-2-1.

The first 3 hours, you will be smoking the ribs directly on the racks at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, wrap the ribs in foil, add at least 1/8 of a cup of a liquid of a flavor of your choice and place the wrapped ribs back in the smoker. Leave them there for two hours. For the last one hour, remove the foil from the ribs and smother the ribs in sauce then cook it directly again inside the smoker!


Cooking smoked ribs will take so much time and effort, but it’s a proof that patience is indeed a virtue! Because at the end of long hours enduring the heat of the smoker, not to mention inhaling smoke, your reward is perfectly smoked ribs! And if done right, smoked ribs are heavenly!

How long to smoke ribs? It will take you 5 to 6 hours of undivided attention- manual or electric. Once the thickest part of the ribs reaches an internal temperature of 170, your ribs are done!

Don’t forget to leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section!

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