How to Smoke Ribs in an Electric Smoker

We are sharing our Electric Smoker Recipes and today we are sharing our Award-Winning Smoking Ribs Electric Smoker Style! Electric Smoker Ribs…

Our Electric Smoker Ribs recipe is in our opinion much better than the recipe you will find at the Masterbuilt electric smoker recipes website. Don’t get me wrong their smoked meat recipes are good, but they don’t give you a whole lot of direction, plus we can add a few more insights to make a melt in your mouth rack of ribs. Here is what we will cover:

  • How to pick a good rack of ribs
  • Applying the rub / spices, including our spin on Masterbuilt electric smoker recipes
  • Getting your Electric Smoker Ready!
  • Place Ribs in your Smoker and Start the Smoking Process

Let’s get started!

Step 1: How to pick a good rack of ribs?

Before you can start smoking ribs in an electric smoker, first you must decide what type of pork ribs you want.  There are spare ribs and baby back ribs (the most popular but most expensive).   The spare ribs are generally less expensive and also popular.  The spare rib can be a whole cut or for a little more money you can buy the St. Louis or Kansas City Style Ribs.  For a 30 inch electric smoker, we recommend you do not buy the whole cut spare ribs as they are normally too long and will not fit without cutting them in half (I had this issue with my Masterbuilt 30-inch electric smoker).  My personal favorite cut for electric smoker ribs are St. Louis or baby back ribs (depends which one is on sale – lol).

What to look for when selecting Pork Ribs a the grocery store:

  • Look for good meat coverage with no large areas of fat (some fat is good as it will keep the meat moist during the smoking process)
  • Baby Back ribs are easiest to pick, as all you should do is pick a slab of ribs that all are cut the same length.  Because of the cut, baby back ribs fat areas have already been addressed by a butcher.
  • If the ribs look off color – JUST STAY AWAY FROM THEM!
  • Worst case just asked the butcher to help you pick a slab of pork ribs.

Step 2: Applying the rub / spices – A take on a Masterbuilt electric smoker ribs recipe

We generally like to break this section down for Beginners and Experienced Smokers.

Beginners:  If you are a beginner at smoking ribs, then we have included an easy to make rub you can use to create a delicious rack of ribs.  If you are an experienced BBQ smoker than see my advice below about electric smoker recipes for pork ribs, in particular, the difference between smoking on wood/charcoal grill vs. an electric smoker.  The great news about electric smokers is you can make some tasty ribs without doing a whole lot of advanced smoking or prep techniques.  And because the temperature and smoking process is so straight forward, using an electric smoker is great for beginners.

Our Pork Ribs Recipe:

Rib Rub:

  • 4 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons lemon pepper
  • ½ cup Brown Sugar (If you like your ribs with a sweet flavor)

BBQ Sauce (Beginner Recipe):

How many hours before smoking should you marinate the ribs?  It depends on how much time you have.  You should marinate the ribs the night before.  However, the truth is that some of my best ribs had the rub applied right before cooking. Let’s be honest, we are busy people and applying rub on ribs isn’t always on our mind the night before. Long story short, if you have time apply the rub in advance and put them in the refrigerator with some plastic wrap.  The longer they marinate, the more time the rub will have to infuse the meat.

Applying the Rub: Once you have mixed the Rib Rub, apply it generously on only the top (meaty) portion of the rib.  Below is a picture of what your ribs should look like after applying the rub ( Top Picture is Spare Rib and the botttom picture is St Louis Ribs)

Experienced Cooks: The number 1 question experience wood and charcoal BBQ cooks have when trying an electric smoker is how should my prep process change or not change? Based on my experience you need less time of advance prep because the electric smokers do a great job of infusing meat with smoke flavor. With respect to the spices/rubs, you do not need to change your spice blends. Also, take a read of the below tip regarding humidity.

Masterbuilt Electric Smoker Recipes Tip: Specific to ribs, there are plenty of BBQ chefs that like to mop their ribs every hour while cooking on a wood-burning pit. With electric smoker ribs, every time you open that door you will lose temperature and humidity. You’ll notice later that for ribs, we recommend using a cup of apple juice in the drip pan, which will increase the humidity and add flavor to the ribs. The key to using the electric smoker is keeping that door closed as much as possible. My recommendation is that after 4 hours of smoking, pull the ribs out and wrap them. Before sealing the wrap apply your sauce. Then put the ribs back in for another hour.

Step 3 Getting your Electric Smoker Ready!

Is this your first time using an electric smoker? If so, make sure to follow the curating process described in your user manual.  Now, Pre-heat the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.  It should only take about 15 minutes or so to get up to temp. Then put in the wood chips in the wood chip box.  Every smoker has a little different way to place the wood chips in, so make sure to follow the user manual for this step.

But hold on – we haven’t discussed what type of wood chips you need.

Beginners: If you have a preference, the good news is they make wood chips for every wood type and wood chips are not that expensive.  You also don’t use a whole lot, so they will last a while. I am personally partial to using mesquite wood because that is what my family grew up using, but I have many friends who grew up using Oak or pecan. If you don’t have a preference or don’t know where to start, no worries we included a simple guide below. As a general rule of thumb, balance a strong wood with a mild or moderate. For ribs, we generally recommend using Mesquite and Apple. We like to use the Western BBQ brand below.

Masterbuilt Electric Smoker Recipes Tip: Most electric smokers have a water / drip pan.  This serves two purposes a) to capture most of the fatty oils dripping down and b) adding liquid to keep the humidity up in the smoker, which prevents meats from drying out too quickly.  I recommend adding a cup of apple juice to the water pan, mixed with water (i.e., ½ water).

How often do I put wood chips in the electric smokehouse? Add wood chips every 1 hour for the first 4 hours. Now if you are using a Bradley Smoker model, they have a separate heating element and control for adjusting the smoke levels – which I happen to think it’s pretty cool and definitely a “set it and forget it” electric smoker. Check Out the Bradley Smoker Click Here, as we conducted a product review on a couple of the most popular models. And if you are a Jack Daniels fan you will really want to check it out.

Step 4: Place Ribs in Smoker and Start the Smoking Process

Double check that the temp is up to 225 degrees and the wood chips are loaded.  Now it is time to put the ribs in the smoker. We recommend putting the meat side up.

The next step is the best part of owning an electric smoker – GO DO WHATEVER YOU WANT!

I have mentioned before with shuttling the kids around to their sporting events or just the unending to-do list, sometimes smoking meat in a wood grill just becomes unrealistic, which is why I love my electric smoker. During this time I normally go and get to work on the to-do list.  If you will be gone from the smoker for longer than 1 hour, no worries, just make sure to add extra wood chips.

Cook Time: Total cook time will be 5 hours.  Also, this cooking time of 5 hours is good for cooking 1 rack or 4 racks of ribs. After every hour, add additional wood chips.  After four hours take the ribs out and add your BBQ Sauce Recipe (see above beginner recipe).  Generously add the BBQ sauce mix to only the top portion of the ribs and then wrap them with aluminum foil.  Put the ribs back in the smoker and let them cook for another hour. Below is a picture of my ribs after 4 hours of smoking and right before putting my BBQ sauce recipe on them.

Below are a few pictures of the finished product, YUMMY!  The first picture has a normal layer of BBQ sauce and in the second and third picture, I opened the aluminum foil and applied extra sauce while in the smoker. Now you have an electric smoker recipe for pork ribs. The next step is for you to try it yourself! This electric smoker ribs recipe will soon be one of your favorites.

If you still don’t own an electric smoker and need a little help picking one out – check out our Best Electric Smoker Reviews! CLICK HERE!

How to Make Delicious Smoked Ribs


Getting the perfect, tender and tasteful ribs and grilling to get a smoky texture is quite a challenge for barbecue and grill lovers. However, smoked ribs are an incredibly popular delicacy but getting the right smoky texture and taste is very difficult and hence not many people are willing to try it at home. Another issue is that there are different types of ribs derived from pigs, cows, and lambs, and each is cooked in different ways. If you would like to try your hands in grilling ribs then this article is your best bet. Below we have mentioned a general method on how to cook ribs on a gas grill, as well as on a charcoal grill, to get those smoky ribs you always desired.

Low and Slow: Grilling ribs on a gas grill

Truth is, indeed it takes a long time to grill using natural gas but the results are worth it. If you want to smoke your grilled ribs but do not have an electric grill or charcoal grill then this method might just be the right choice for you.

  1. Fill the smoker box of the gas grill with wood chips, preferably hickory or cherry wood.
  2. Fill 3/4th of a pan with water and keep it next to the smoker box. Light the heat under the smoker box and set it to high temperatures.
  3. Preheat the grill for around 20 minutes. Prepare the rib rub and coat it on all sides of the rib meat. After an hour or so, proceed to the grilling process.
  4. Place the ribs opposite to the smoker box. The rib pieces have bones so ensure the bones face down while the meaty part stays up.
  5. Allow the ribs to cook for 1 or 1.5 hours. Make sure to refill the smoker box with wood chips and fill the pan with water every once in a while but not too often. Doing too often will drop the temperature down a bit and slow down the cooking process.
  6. Shuffle the positions of the ribs. So the ribs closer to the heat are now moved away to another side and the ones a bit far away are brought closer. This is done to prevent overcooking. Close the lid and cook for 1.5 hours at least.
  7. Turn the ribs upside down. So this time the bone side would face up. Cook the ribs like this for around 45 min. Keep checking if wood chips or water need to be refilled.
  8. Swap the positions of the ribs and cook for another 30 min after closing the lid. Use this time to prepare a barbecue sauce.
  9. Coat all sides of the ribs with barbecue sauce and set the all burners to high. Remove the water pan. Allow the barbecue sauce to set on the ribs for 10 minutes after removing them from the grill.

Fast and Smoking Hot: Grilling ribs using charcoal

Grilling ribs on gas is a slower and more controlled process that can be easier for people who just got into grilling. However, people who want to get the best grilled ribs in a shorter period of time with heavy smoky texture, this method is perfect for them.

  1. Remove the rib membrane from the ribs, as keeping this on makes it more difficult for the ribs to get tender. Remove any loose meat.
  2. Sprinkle rib rub all over the ribs and ensure to heavily coat them. Let the flavor sink in for a while.
  3. To begin the process of grilling you will need two aluminum pans. Use enough charcoal so that it covers half of the coal grate, which is around three layers of charcoal.
  4. Place an aluminum pan on the charcoal grate and pour some charcoal on to the other side. Then add long chunks of wood. This is because the larger the wood, the more time it takes to burn hence more smoke.
  5. Place a second aluminum pan directly on the charcoal grate and fill it with water. Keep the grilling temperature at around 250 F. As the water heats to steam, it will keep the ribs in low heat.
  6. Place the ribs next to the water-filled aluminum pan and cook for around 3 or 4 hours. Ensure that the final temperature reaches around 180 F. Also turn and swap the positions and sides of the ribs for even cooking. If need be, replenish the water and coal from time to time.
  7. After about an hour wrap the ribs with aluminum foil in double layers. Place the wrapped ribs on to the grill and cook for another one hour.
  8. Remove the foil and cook for another 30 minutes. Now that it is nearly done, coat the ribs with barbecue sauce in thin layers. Repeat this about 5 times. Then remove the ribs.

Some General Tips on Smoking Ribs:

  • How long to grill ribs: Ideally for this method, you could opt to use a rack of lamb or pork spareribs, but if you use baby back pork ribs then ensure to reduce 5 min cooking time at each step of the process. Using rectangular shaped spareribs is a better option as cooking it evenly would be much easier. The overall process should take no more than 2 hours.
  • Trimming hacks: If the ribs are uneven, do make sure to trim away excess meat or fat and remove any connective tissue before cooking the ribs. In fact, trimming is quite a popular option. The lower ends of the spare ribs are cut to create rib tips, and the curved part of the ribs split in half are cut to create riblets. Both rib tips and riblets can be separately grilled.
  • How to prepare rib rub: The rub should heavily coat all sides of the rib and should be applied evenly. Mix, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tsp white pepper, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tbsp paprika, 2 tbsp kosher salt, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp granulated onion, 1 tbsp granulated garlic and 1 tbsp chili powder into a large bowl and keep it in an airtight container for further use.
  • Aluminum foil use: if you want your ribs to be smoking hot, then you can add an extra two hours of cooking time to the end by wrapping them in aluminum foil with apple juice coated on the insides. Close the lid and increase the temperature so that the juice can steam the meat and tenderize it for 30-45 min.
  • How to prepare barbecue sauce: For ribs grilling, coat a heavy amount of barbecue sauce. To prepare a barbecue sauce for ribs, heat a pan to medium level and add 2 tbsp olive oil. When the oil is warm enough, add ¼ cup minced onion and water which should be made into a puree. After simmering for 3 minutes, add 2 cups of ketchup, 1/3rd cup brown sugar, 3 cloves of crushed garlic, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp dry mustard and fresh ground pepper. Mix all the ingredients and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

These are two general ways of making deliciously grilled ribs but there are other recipes. There are different types of rib rubs and rib barbecue sauces that can be made to enhance flavors. Also for beef ribs and lamb ribs, the rubs, sauces and brine composition can be different but the techniques are all fundamentally the same. So any of these two methods can be used to make the perfectly smoked grilled ribs of your choice.