When making Traeger-smoked baby back or spare ribs, you just cannot go wrong. Spare ribs come from the belly area of the pig, while the baby backs come from the loin area. Baby backs tend to be leaner and more tender. Spares will have more marbling, which means more flavor but also a little longer cooking time to break down that marbling and make a tender bite. I recommend trying both and seeing what you and your family like best. Other than trimming and squaring the spareribs, the procedure for cooking both types of ribs is the same. Baby back ribs will cook about 30 minutes faster than spare ribs.
You’ll often find people cook ribs on the Traeger with the 3-2-1 method—smoke for 3 hours, wrap for 2 hours and sauce and smoke for 1 hour—for a total of about 6 hours of cook time. I like this sped-up version, which produces equally amazing results in a little less time. There are lots of ways to cook ribs, but this technique has been the clear winner at our dinner table.
If you’re using spare ribs, use a sharp boning knife to trim each rack of spare ribs to a more uniform shape. Trim the end bones off to leave 10 bones remaining, and square the meat on the long sides to be straighter and more even.
- 2 racks ribs, spare or baby back
- ½ cup hot sauce
- 1 cup Adam McKenzie Smoke Junkie Seasoning
- ½ cup apple juice
- ½ cup agave syrup
- ½ cup raw sugar
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pats
- 1 cup BBQ sauce, such as Head Country’s Original sauce
- Preheat your Traeger grill to 225°F (107°C) and turn on the Super Smoke feature if your grill has it.
- For both types of ribs, pull the silver skin membrane off the back of each rack. Use a small piece of paper towel to help you grip the skin on one edge and pull it off toward you. Then generously coat the ribs on both sides with hot sauce. Sprinkle the ribs liberally with the rub all over, and allow them to sweat on the counter for about 15 minutes as your grill heats up.
- Place the seasoned ribs on the grill, meat side up, and cook until they reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C). It should take about 2½ hours. During the cook, pour the apple juice into a spray bottle. When checking the internal temperature, check how the ribs look too. If they appear dry during this part of the cook, use the spray bottle to spritz them with some apple juice.
- Prepare a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil to wrap each rack of the ribs in. On each double layer of foil, drizzle one quarter of the agave, sprinkle with one quarter of the sugar and arrange one quarter of the butter pats. Once the ribs reach the first benchmark temperature, remove them from the grill and place them on the prepared foil, meat side down on the agave, sugar and butter. Top each rack of ribs with another quarter of the agave, sugar and butter pats, then wrap tightly in the foil. Keep the ribs meat side down in the foil wrap and then return the ribs to the grill to continue cooking. Increase the grill temperature to 275°F (135°C) and cook for about 1½ hours until the ribs reach an internal temperature of 204°F (96°C).
- Remove the ribs from the grill and allow them to rest for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the ribs from the foil, and slice them into individual ribs. Serve with the BBQ sauce on the side.