Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: May 24, 2023

There are many barbeque methods developed to cook different dishes and different cuts of meat.

The 3-2-1 barbeque method is one such method you should master to enhance your barbecue skills.

Our expert advice will get you up to speed with this awesome barbeque method to add to your outdoor cooking toolbelt!

Quick Summary

As part of our discussion on the 3-2-1 barbeque method, we will advise you on the following important aspects of the process:

  • The best cut of meat to use with the 3-2-1 barbeque method.
  • Ideas for adding moisture to the meat.
  • The best temperatures to maintain throughout the process.

The 3-2-1 barbeque method is a low and slow method for cooking that takes a while to complete but produces spectacular, lip-smacking results that are hard to beat.

The results with this method are predictable and consistent, so it is such a popular way to barbecue.

How Does the 3-2-1 Barbeque Method Work?

Different meat on grill

The 3-2-1 barbeque method works by a combination of smoking and barbeque.

If you are looking for an easy barbeque method that is difficult to mess up, then the 3-2-1 barbeque method is the one to try.

It is very seldom that you can go wrong with this method if you stick to the basic rules.

The 3-2-1 barbeque method essentially consists of these three stages:

  • 3 hours smoking the meat. This is the first part of the process, taking up half the total cook time.
  •   2 hours indirect cooking in foil. Of the remaining time for the cook, the meat will spend two-thirds of the time wrapped in foil, receiving indirect heat from the grill.
  •   1 hour out of foil directly on the grill. The last hour of the cooking time is done with the meat unwrapped from the foil and placed directly on the grill for the final cooking process.

While the numbers in the 3-2-1 method refer to timings of different stages of the process, the cooking time may vary during each stage for your experience due to differences in grill types and conditions.

Which Meat Is Best for the 3-2-1 Barbeque Method?

Cooking meat on grill

Pork ribs are the best meat for the 3-2-1 barbeque method. This method can be used for baby back ribs or spareribs, with equally good results.

Pork ribs lend themselves very well to this type of cooking. They absorb flavors well, and the cooking method prevents the meat from drying.

Consequently, the moisture is retained in the meat, producing a succulent, tender eating experience for a cut of meat that can be pretty tough.

This cooking process takes time, but the final product is worth the wait and results in meat that falls off the rib bones in your hands.

If you prefer a firmer texture to the meat on your ribs and like to wrestle a little to get it off the bone, then the 3-2-1 method is not for you.

Also Read: How Much Meat per Person for a Barbecue?

Can You Cook Beef Ribs This Way?

Close up image of a meat rib

Yes, you can cook beef ribs this way.

Beef ribs are generally considered less tender than pork ribs and have less fat content in the meat.

As a result, you will need to add some additional fat, such as tallow or ghee, during phase 2 of the cooking operation.

Cooking Pork Ribs Using This Method

We will outline the basics of using the 3-2-1 barbeque method in this section to demonstrate how you can use it for cooking pork ribs.

The method, ingredients, and time may vary with other cuts of meat.

You can also adjust the cooking times of this method to gain the final texture of the meat you prefer.

1. Smoke the Ribs for 3 Hours

Meat cooking inside the smoker

The first part of the process is intensive meat smoke for 3 hours. You will need to prepare your grill and the meat for smoking.

You will need a good, aromatic hardwood to produce the smoke.

Wood such as applewood or cherrywood works well on pork, but you can use your favorite smoking wood. Get your barbeque lit and the wood ready for smoking.

While the barbeque is getting up to temperature, you can prepare the ribs. You can season the meat any way you like, with a dry rub, a paste rub, or even a thick sauce.

Season the top of the meat only, not the bone side.

Once the barbeque is ready, place your smoking wood on the coals and the pork ribs on the grill bone side down.

Close the lid on and maintain a temperature of between 200°F to 225°F in your grill or smoker for 3 hours.

Every hour, re-orient the ribs to ensure an even smoke across the entire surface of the meat but do not turn the ribs over. Keep it bone-side down.

Add additional quality wood for smoking every 30 minutes to ensure a good, heavy layer of smoke throughout the process.

At the end of the 3 hours of smoking, the first part of this low and slow method for cooking ribs is done, and it is time for phase 2 [1].

Related Articles:

2. Wrap the Ribs in Foil and Cook for 2 Hours

Meats that are wrapped in aluminum foil and placed on grill

After the initial heavy smoke session, it is time to cover the ribs, seal them in moisture, and subject them to even, indirect heat for 2 hours.

We will add moisture and some more flavors for this next phase and seal the ribs in tin foil.

You will need a piece of foil that is big enough to cover the entire rack of ribs.

The way you add moisture and flavor is open to interpretation, and you can adapt liquid and flavors according to your preference.

If you don’t have your preference, try our mixture of ⅓ of a cup of apple cider vinegar mixed with ¼ cup of brown sugar and three tablespoons of butter.

You can substitute the brown sugar with honey if you prefer.

Mix these ingredients in a jug rather than applying them individually. Bend the foil into a U-shape to form a hollow along the length of the foil.

Pour the mixture into the hollow in the foil. Place the ribs into the foil and put the meat side down in the mixture.

Wrap the pork ribs up in the foil and place it back on the grill with the lid closed, bone side down again, for a further 2 hours.

The temperature in the grill or smoker should be maintained at 225°F. It is unnecessary to turn the meat over during this phase; leave it bone down.

Adding wood to produce smoke during this phase is unnecessary, but you may need to add charcoal to keep the temperature up.

3. Baste and Grill for 1 Hour

Grilling a rib meat on a grill

The final hour has come for the last phase of the pork rib cook with the 3-2-1 barbeque cook method!

Take the ribs off the grill or smoker and unwrap them to prepare them for the final stage. This will be another smoking stage for the ribs.

Baste the pork ribs with your favorite barbeque sauce on both sides and place them back in the smoker, bone side down.

Leave the ribs in the smoker for the last hour, basting every 15 minutes with your favorite sauce or spritzing with a 50/50 mixture of water and apple cider vinegar.

You need to add more wood chips to the charcoal at this stage to increase the smoke level over the meat. Maintain the temperature at 225°F in the smoker or grill.

Once the hour is up, your sumptuous pork ribs are ready to be served.

Revolutionize Your 3-2-1 Barbeque Method

Once you have tried the 3-2-1 barbeque method, you and your family will find it a firm favorite. The meat is tender and juicy, falling easily from the bone.

It may take some time to complete the cooking process, but you do not need to constantly tend the grill or the smoker throughout the phases.

This makes it ideal for slow cooking of the ribs while attending to other things around the house.

Monitor the process periodically, stick to the timing and temperatures we have recommended, and you will be rewarded with finger-licking-good food for relatively little effort.

Some types of smokers also do not require much supervision. You just need to know what style is the best for you.


  1. https://bbq.tamu.edu/cooking-smoking/
Was this article helpful?

About the author

Leave a Reply

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