2 2 1 ribs method explained | How to make fall off the bone smoked ribs

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 9, 2022

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Let’s face it. You just can’t beat those melt in your mouth, fall off the bone smoked ribs.

There’s nothing better than reaping the rewards of your smoking and barbecuing methods with some perfectly cooked meat! 

2 2 1 Ribs - How To Make Fall Off The Bone Smoked Ribs

But it does take some practice. You may not get those fall-off-the-bone smoked ribs the first time around…or the second time you try it.

But, with our guide, we can help you nail this dish and get it just right every single time.

Sound good to you? Then, get your barbecue or smoker hot and ready, and let’s dive into the method. 

What Is the 2 2 1 Method?

The 2 2 1 method is a popular method for grilling and barbecue enthusiasts. What it involves is unwrapping and wrapping the ribs at the precise moment, for optimal results.

The 2 2 1 term refers to the amount of time that the ribs go on the grill, which is split into three stages. 

In short:

  • First, the ribs are unwrapped and placed on the grill for two hours.
  • Next, they are wrapped in foil and returned to the grill for another two hours
  • Finally, for the last hour, you’ll take the foil off and allow them to finish cooking.

So, 2 hours unwrapped, 2 hours wrapped, and 1 hour unwrapped again. Get it? 2-2-1. 

It should be noted that this is a general guide and rule, and you may need to cook your ribs for longer if they are particularly large.

In those cases, you may prefer the 3 2 1 method. This is much the same, but the ribs cook for 3 hours unwrapped, for 2 wrapped, and then left for 1 hour unwrapped to finish up. 

This gives it plenty of time for the connective tissue to melt down and soften up to give you that melting meat that you love.

For most smoked ribs, cooking with the 2 2 1 method is the perfect way to get them to fall off the bone and simply melt in your mouth.

So, what’s the exact method? Read on to find out. 

How to make fall off the bone smoked ribs with 2 2 1

So, let’s get down to it.

The first step is to choose your smoking wood. You’re best off with a mild-flavored wood as the ribs will be flavorful in themselves.

Stronger flavored words such as hickory can sometimes overpower the ribs, but it does come down to personal preference. 

Learn more about the best wood choices for smoking ribs here

The next step is to trim the membrane from the rack of ribs, and get rid of any excess fat. Then, rinse under cold water and pat dry.

Next, set your smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit, and let it warm up. 

Then, you’ll want to mix together your seasoning in a bowl.

We recommend using a combination of brown sugar, kosher salt, ground black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.

Another tip is to add yellow mustard to the ribs, so that the seasonings really stick to the rack and coat it evenly.

Once you’ve coated your ribs, place them bone side down on the smoker, allowing for indirect heat.

Then, leave to cook for two hours without any interference. After two hours, wrap the ribs in aluminum foil.

You may want to add some sauce when you do this to give a little more moisture and flavor. If not, add some melted butter to give it that juiciness. 

Tightly seal the foil around the ribs, and make sure the bone side is facing down again, and return them to the smoker.

Leave to cook for another two hours until tender. Then, unwrap and keep any juices from the meat, and use this as a baste. 

Finally, return the ribs unwrapped to the smoker, basting every ten minutes for thirty minutes.

Then, remove them and coat in your best barbecue sauce for the last 30 minutes.

Remove your perfectly cooked ribs from the smoker and rest for 10 minutes before serving it up!  

See the whole show in action here for more guidance:

Cooking tips for juicy & tender bone ribs

The best way to get your smoked ribs to fall off the bone tender is to cook them with the low and slow method.

This means cooking at a low temperature for a long amount of time.

When you cook meat fast and at a high temperature, the result will always be tough and dry meat, which no one wants!

When it’s cooked low and slow, you’ll have juicy, tender and flavorful meat. 

Here are the best grills for cooking ribs low and slow reviewed

Frequently Asked Questions

For more queries about perfectly smoked ribs, check out this handy frequently asked questions section!

What temperature do ribs fall off the bone?

For the best results, you’ll want to cook the ribs between 190 and 205 degrees. This will give you that delicious juiciness that you’re looking for! 

Do you smoke ribs bone up or down?

Most pitmasters will argue that it’s better to smoke the ribs with the bone side facing down.

This is because the heat source is typically below the cooking grate, and the ribs will cook better over indirect heat. 

What is the 3 2 1 rule for smoking ribs?

The 3 2 1 rule is simple, and much like the 2 2 1 rule for smoking ribs.

What it stands for is cooking the ribs for three hours unwrapped, then cooking them for a further 2 hours whilst wrapped in foil, and finally leaving them to cook for a final hour unwrapped again.

This is the optimal method for bigger rib racks. 

What temperature should I wrap my ribs?

The best temperature for wrapping smoked ribs is about 150 to 160 degrees, which is typically the point where the meat hits the stall.

By wrapping them at this point, you can encourage an even smoke and better heat distribution. 

Conclusion

To conclude, with the 2 2 1 cooking method, you’ll always have the juicy, tender, soft, fall- off-the-bone ribs that you’ve always wanted to master!

With this guide and some of our hints and tips, you’ll never shy away from using the smoker for ribs again.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.