Sweet and Smokey Dry Rub for Ribs

Sweet and Smokey Ribs

The BEST Sweet and Smokey Dry Rub for Ribs

Smoked ribs are quintessential for a summer BBQ.  About three years ago the hubby bought a big green egg and we (well really he, ventured into smoking). After testing out dozens of rib recipes, from how you cook them, to the dry rub for ribs we used, we have FINALLY perfected our Sweet and Smokey Dry Rub for Ribs Recipe. 

Our Journey to the perfect rib…

Over the years we tried dozens of variations on our rib recipe, sometimes the dry rub was good but the ribs were dry.  Other times, the ribs were perfect (we prefer falling off the bone perfection) but the rub wasn’t good. 

Now, if you talk to a pitmaster they will tell you that ribs that are “falling of the bone” are overcooked, but most people prefer them that way!   Personally, I prefer to go after taste perfection versus winning ribbons…  but that’s me! 

Selecting the right type of Rib:

Baby Back –first they are not from a baby pig (phew!) as baby back ribs are my personal favorite! I learned from Kitchn that they are called baby because they are shorter in relation to the larger spare ribs.

  • Each slab is about 1.5 lbs
  • They tend to be more expensive, but are very tender and lean.

Spare Ribs – Are a rib that is flatter than the baby back ribs and commonly referred to as a St. Louis Spare Ribs.  They are called St. Louis due to the style of rib and how it is cut down and sold.

  • Spare ribs are flatter than baby back ribs and are meatier.
  • Have a higher fat content than baby back ribs. 
  • Each slab is about 2.5 lbs (can take longer to cook than baby back ribs)

The Right Dry Rub for Ribs:

This can really impact a rib, some of the ribs we experimented with were not good, and can ruin the rib experience! Our dry rub for ribs is sweet and smokey using the following seasoning:

  • Brown sugar
  • Paprika
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Dry Mustard
  • Cayenne
  • Salt & Pepper
Sweet and Smoky Ribs

Why do you use Yellow Mustard on the Ribs? 

Fox News has a great article about How to BBQ like a world champion.  Below is a quote from Melissa Cookston, co-owner of Memphis Barbecue Company, which explains why she recommends using the mustard. 

“The mustard acts as a sealant on top of the rub, which will help force that rub down into the pores; as well as it contains Vinegar, so it will help these ribs tenderize,” she explains. “You will never taste the mustard in these ribs, I promise.”

The Right Temperature

You CANNOT rush ribs!  It takes time and LOW heat.  You want to keep the temperature around 225, not to exceed 250.  We will usually start our smoker about an hour before we plan to put the ribs on, this ensures the right temperature and that is steady.  

The Perfect Smoke

Using a smoker is a great way to cook ribs and add that naturally smoky flavor.  You do want to be careful not to use too much wood when smoking, otherwise you could over smoke your meat. For ribs a fruity wood like apple or cherry is our favorite and can enhance the flavor of the ribs. 

To Sauce or Not to Sauce…

Now that I have perfected my dry rub, I typically do not sauce my ribs.  The BBQ sauce takes away from the fantastic and rich flavors from the dry rub.  However, if you are a BBQ sauce fan you can add sauce to the ribs in the step of cooking.  You do not want it to sit too long as it can over-caramelize.   

Now Let's Get Cooking! Sweet and Smokey Dry Rub for Ribs

To begin making the perfect sweet and smokey ribs, you will want to prepare the dry rub for the ribs.  Mix all ingredients together in a small container.  

Next, you will want to lay the ribs out on a piece of tin foil (helps with transporting them to the grill!) 

Sweet and Smokey Ribs

After you have the ribs layed out on the tin foil (I always start with the meat side facing down).  We slather the ribs in yellow mustard.  

Sweet and Smokey Ribs

Once the ribs are covered in mustard we GENEROUSLY apply the dry rub.  

Sweet and Smokey Ribs

I usually coat the underside of the ribs first and then flip over and coat the upper-side (meaty). For applying the dry rub for the ribs, typically use about 1/3 of the rub for the underside and the remainder for the meatier side. 

Sweet and Smokey Ribs

Ribs are now ready for the grill! Cook the ribs using the 3-2-1 method. 

Smoke for 3 hours. The rib should be exposed to the smoke and cooked with low heat around 250.

Wrap for 2 hours. After the initial 3-hour smoke, wrap the ribs in foil and pour a quarter cup of apple juice into the tin foil with the ribs.  Wrap them TIGHTLY in tin foil to help keep them moist.  After about two hours check the ribs for the bones to be exposed on the end at least 1/4 inch.

Smoke for 1 hour. Discard the tin foil and return the ribs to the smoker.  Continue to cook for 1 more hour.  If you are using BBQ sauce you will want to add it in the last 10-15 of cooking.  

Sweet and Smokey Ribs

Are you looking for a great side dish for your Sweet and Smokey Ribs?  Try our Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet and Smokey Ribs

Sweet and Smokey Dry Rub for Ribs

Smoked ribs are quintessential for a summer BBQ.  After testing out dozens of rib recipes, from how you cook them to the dry rub we used, we have the perfect Sweet and Smokey Ribs Recipe. 
4.80 from 5 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 10 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American, BBQ
Servings 2
Calories 809 kcal


  • Smoker


  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne Adjust to your preference
  • 1 rack ribs
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup apple juice


  • Bring smoker up to a steady temperature of 225 F, smoke with a moisture pan (helps to keep the ribs moist and catch the drippings
  • Mix all dry ingredients together in a small bowl.
  • Lay a sheet of tin foil down and place ribs place meaty side down. Cut off the membrane by sliding a knife under and pull (if it is does not easily come off don't worry about it some are pretty thin).
  • Slather about half of the mustard on the underside of the rib until covered. Add about 1/3 of the dry rub and apply to the ribs.
  • Flip the ribs over and apply the mustard to meaty side of the ribs and rub in the remainder of the dry rub.
  • Transport the ribs to the smoker. Smoke for 3 hours. The ribs should be exposed to the smoke.
  • After the ribs have smoked for 3 hours, create a 'boat' with the tinfoil and pour 1/2 cup of apple juice into the tin foil and wrap the tinfoil TIGHTLY around the ribs. Cook for 2 more hours at 225 F.
  • After 2 hours, discard the tin foil and cook the ribs for 1 more hour. If you want BBQ sauce apply it to the ribs in the last 10-15 minutes of cooking. Enjoy!
Keyword 3 2 1 ribs, ribs 3 2 1, Ribs dry rub, ribs how to cook, Ribs in Smoker, ribs on big green egg, Ribs recipe, ribs recipe smoker

Related Post

5 thoughts on “Sweet and Smokey Dry Rub for Ribs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating