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Memphis-Style BBQ Ribs Recipe (3-2-1 Method)

Mouth-watering Memphis-style BBQ ribs, prepared using the classic 3-2-1 method. This recipe ensures tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs with a perfect balance of smoky, tangy, and slightly spicy flavours. Paired with traditional Southern sides and refreshing drinks, these ribs are perfect for any BBQ gathering. Enjoy the authentic taste of Memphis with every bite!

  • 3 kg meaty pork ribs (not shiners)
  • 120 ml apple cider vinegar
  • 120 ml apple juice
  • 60 ml yellow mustard
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp dry mustard powder
  • 240 ml BBQ sauce (Memphis-style, tangy and not too sweet)

  • Preparation:
    • Preheat your smoker to 110°C (225°F).
    • Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs by sliding a knife under the membrane and pulling it off with a paper towel.
  • Rub and Smoke:
    • Mix the yellow mustard with 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar to create a thin paste. Rub this mixture evenly over the ribs.
    • In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground black pepper, salt, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, and dry mustard powder. Coat the ribs generously with this dry rub.
    • Place the ribs in the smoker, bone-side down. Smoke the ribs for 3 hours at 110°C (225°F).
  • Wrap and Smoke:
    • After 3 hours, remove the ribs from the smoker. Lay out two large sheets of aluminium foil. Place the ribs on the foil.
    • Pour the apple juice and remaining apple cider vinegar over the ribs. Wrap the ribs tightly in the foil to create a sealed packet.
    • Return the wrapped ribs to the smoker and cook for an additional 2 hours at the same temperature.
  • Sauce and Smoke:
    • After 2 hours, carefully remove the ribs from the foil and return them to the smoker.
    • Brush the ribs generously with Memphis-style BBQ sauce.
    • Smoke the ribs for 1 more hour, allowing the sauce to set and the ribs to develop a beautiful, sticky glaze.
  • Rest and Serve:
    • Remove the ribs from the smoker and let them rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting into individual portions.

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Sides That Pair Well with Memphis-Style BBQ Ribs

Coleslaw: The crisp, tangy taste of coleslaw provides a refreshing contrast to the smoky and savoury ribs. It adds a nice crunch and helps balance the richness of the meat.

Baked Beans: The sweet and smoky flavour of baked beans complements the BBQ ribs perfectly. The beans add a hearty and comforting element to the meal.

Potato Salad: Creamy potato salad with a touch of tanginess from the mustard is a classic BBQ side. Its smooth texture contrasts well with the tender ribs.

Cornbread: Sweet, moist cornbread is an excellent side to soak up the delicious BBQ sauce from the ribs. It adds a touch of sweetness to the meal.

Grilled Corn on the Cob: Charred, buttery corn on the cob is a staple at BBQs. Its natural sweetness and smoky flavour pair wonderfully with the ribs.

Macaroni and Cheese: Rich and creamy macaroni and cheese is a comforting side that pairs well with BBQ ribs. The cheesy goodness adds another layer of flavour and texture to the meal.

Green Beans with Almonds: Fresh green beans sautéed with butter and almonds provide a lighter, healthier side option. The crisp beans and nutty almonds complement the richness of the ribs.

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Hot Tips

  • For even better flavour, let the ribs sit in the refrigerator with the dry rub overnight before smoking.
  • Use a spray bottle with a mixture of apple juice and apple cider vinegar to mist the ribs occasionally during the first 3 hours of smoking. This keeps them moist and adds extra flavour.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the ribs reaches at least 85°C (185°F) for tender, fall-off-the-bone meat.



  • IPA: The hoppy bitterness of an IPA cuts through the richness of the ribs and balances the smoky flavours.
  • Lager: A cold, crisp lager provides a refreshing contrast to the spicy and savoury notes of the BBQ.
  • Amber Ale: With its malty sweetness and slight bitterness, amber ale complements the caramelised, smoky flavour of the ribs.


  • Zinfandel: A fruity, robust red wine like Zinfandel pairs well with the bold flavours of BBQ ribs.
  • Malbec: This full-bodied red wine has dark fruit flavours and a hint of spice, making it a great match for smoky, savoury ribs.
  • Rosé: A dry rosé offers a refreshing and slightly fruity pairing that cuts through the richness of the meat.

Non-Alcoholic Options:

  • Iced Tea: Classic sweet or unsweetened iced tea provides a refreshing and light contrast to the heavy BBQ flavours.
  • Lemonade: The tartness of lemonade cuts through the richness of the ribs and offers a palate-cleansing effect.
  • Sparkling Water: For a simple, refreshing option, sparkling water with a slice of lemon or lime can cleanse the palate between bites.