How to Smoke Ribs in an Electric Smoker

Smoking BBQ ribs in an electric smoker is a fantastic way to achieve delicious, smoky ribs without the hassle of a traditional smoker.
electric smoker ribs on a wood butcher block

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Did you know you can make delicious ribs in an electric smoker?

I’m talking juicy and tender ribs that rival ribs I’ve cooked on smokers than cost ten times as much.

By selecting the right ribs, preparing them properly, setting up your smoker, and monitoring the temperature throughout the smoking process, you will get great results.

The BEST electric smoker ribs

Lots of people start off with an electric smoker because thy’re cheap and simple to run. Barbecue snobs like to look down on electric smokers, and you may even have been told you can’t make great ribs on an electric smoker.

That’s simply not true.

While electric smokers lack some of the bells and whistles of more expensive smokers, there’s no reason you can’t produce ribs that rival your local bbq restaurants.

What you need

  • Electric smoker – I’m using a cheap Cuisinart COS 330 to show you that any smoker will work.
  • Wood chips – I like pecan for pork, but any type of smoke wood will work
  • Pork ribs – I used St Louis cut ribs for this recipe which is really just spare ribs trimed into a square shape.
  • BBQ rub – I used a combination of our Smoke Kitchen Honey Garlic rub and Pit Master’s Pick rub, but you feel free to use a homemade rub and experiment
  • BBQ sauce – Optiomal but I like to apply a few layers of bbq sauce at the end of the cooking process
  • Heavy-duty foil – I really like using the heavy duty stuff to wrap ribs because the bones can be sharp enough to pierce regular foil.

Selecting the best ribs for smoking

To make the best ribs, you need to start with the best ingredients. There are three types of ribs you can choose from, baby back ribs, St. Louis-style ribs, and spare ribs.

know your pork ribs diagram

Baby back ribs are small and lean, while St. Louis-style ribs are meatier and have a higher fat content. Spare ribs are the largest and meatiest of the three.

Choose the type that you prefer, or experiment with each to find your favorite.

In this case, I used St Louis Style ribs from Snake River Farms. I like the way they taste, and most of the time, you can get them pre-trimmed like the ones I used for this recipe. 

You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg on ribs. A rack of ribs from Costco will do just fine.

What kind of wood should you use for ribs? 

The wood chips are what create the smoke flavor, and the type of wood you use will impact the flavor of your ribs.

For example, mesquite or hickory wood chips create a bold, smoky flavor, while applewood chips create a sweet, mild flavor.

I used pecan wood chips as I love the way it flavors pork. It’s not too strong and has enough punch to give you a noticeable taste. 

Some people will tell you to soak your wood chips in water, but I disagree. Soaking your wood chips only delays the amount of time it takes for them to start smoking and the type of smoke, soaked wood chips produces isn’t as clean as those that haven’t been soaked. 

How to make smoked ribs in an electric smoker 

1. Prep your ribs

Before you start smoking your ribs, there are a few steps you need to take to ensure they turn out well.

Start by removing the membrane from the back of the ribs to help the smoke and seasoning penetrate the meat more effectively.

Then, trim any excess fat off the ribs to avoid any flare-ups. 

Now it’s time to season with a dry rub. A dry rub is a mixture of spices that are rubbed all over the ribs.

seasoned pork rib on a wooden chopping board
Make sure to get all the edges with the rub as well.

You can use our ultimate dry rub for ribs or go store-bought.

I used a combination of Smoke Kitchen Honey Garlic rub and Smoke Kitchen Pit Master’s Pick rub.

Apply an even layer of the rubs on both sides and let the meat sweat for 30 minutes while your smoker heats up.

2. Set up the electric smoker

To set up your electric smoker, start by preheating it to 225°F.

I’m using a Cuisinart COS 330. This model has two trays on the bottom. One to use as a water pan and one for wood chips.

Fill up the water pan about 3/4 of the way, which will help provide extra steam to keep your ribs moist.

a tray of water and a tray of wood chips in an electric smoker
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different wood chips and seasonings to find your favorite flavor profile.

Take your favorite wood chips and fill up the other tray about halfway. 

After 10-15 minutes or so, your smoker should be up to temp, and your wood chips will start to produce smoke. 

3. Smoking the Ribs

Place the ribs in the smoker with the bone side facing down. This allows the fat to melt away from the meat, keeping it tender and moist.

ribs in the electric smoker with a silver tray underneath it
Place a tray underneath to catch all the drips.

Close the front lid and let the smoker do its job.

It’s essential to monitor the temperature of the smoker throughout the smoking process to ensure the ribs cook evenly. 

During this part of the cooking, keep the lid closed as much as possible and only open it to add more wood chips or to spritz with water if the meat looks dried out.

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I added fresh wood chips every 30-40 minutes.

After around 3 hours, your meat should have a nice bark, you’re looking for an internal temperature of 175°F, and it’s ready to wrap.

ribs after cooking for 3 hours

I like to overlap two pieces of heavy-duty foil and place a few pats of butter down, along with a nice drizzle of honey. Some people also use brown sugar but I tend to skip that part as I don’t like my ribs overly sweet. 

ribs on aluminum foil with honey drizzled on it

Place the rib’s meat side down on top of the butter and honey and wrap them tight and then place them back on the smoker to finish.

ribs wrapped in foil back in the smoker
Wrapping the ribs in foil helps tenderize them and is a great way to finish cooking them.

When the bones are sticking out of the ribs, and they have an internal temperature of around 190°F, it’s time to unwrap and sauce them. 

ribs unwrapped on foil

At this point, I flip the ribs meat side up and lay them right on top of the foil, and brush on a few layers of bbq sauce.

ribs with bbq sauce brushed on them sitting on foil

Then I turn the smoker to 275°F and let the sauce tack up on the meat for about 20 minutes. 

After the sauce has stuck onto the ribs and you have a nice glaze, carefully remove them from the smoker and onto a cutting board. 

Let them rest for a few minutes before cutting into them.

sauced up ribs on a wooden chopping board
Resting the ribs allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, making them even more tender and delicious.

Looking for other electric smoker recipes?

electric smoker ribs on a wood butcher block

How to Smoke Ribs in an Electric Smoker

Classic juicy, tender pork ribs cooked in the electric smoker.
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 783kcal
Author: Jordan Hanger

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Trim your ribs and remove the membrane from the back.
  • Season with bbq rub making sure to get the edges and both sides.
  • Add wood chips to your smoker and fill the water pan, then heat your smoker to 225°F.
  • Place the ribs in your smoker and smoke them until the bark is set and the internal temp of the meat is about 175°F.
  • On two sheets of aluminum foil place a few pats of butter along with a nice drizzle of honey, put your ribs on top, meat side down, and place back into your smoker for up to 2 more hours or until the internal temperature reaches 195°F.
  • Unwrap the ribs from the foil, place them meat side up and brush on bbq sauce. Then turn the temperature up to 275°F for 20 more minutes.
  • Remove ribs from the smoker, let them rest for a few minutes and slice between each bone to serve.

Notes

Choose the type of rib that you prefer or experiment with each to find your favorite.
How do I remove the membrane from the ribs? Check out our article here on how to remove the membrane.
What type of wood should I use? I used pecan wood chips as I love the way it flavors pork. It’s not too strong and has enough punch to give you a noticeable taste.

Nutrition

Calories: 783kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 62g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 22g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 205mg | Sodium: 371mg | Potassium: 634mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 432IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 92mg | Iron: 4mg
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