I, like many other people am a fan of fall-off-the-bone ribs. I know that won't ever win a Kansas City Barbecue Society event, but I make food for me, not those judges.

Also, I have had to swear off brown sugar and a full-sugar barbecue sauce. I've compromised down to 2.666 ounces of beer, a keto barbecue sauce, and ribs from my favorite butcher, including some of their amazingly low-priced smoking wood.

Beyond a few ingredient changes, this is a pretty standard 3-2-1 ribs recipe, and if you've got the six-plus hours to kill, and a decent smoker, it's totally worth it.

The magic is in the temperature. I try to keep my ribs between 200° F and 225° F the entire time.

First, you'll need a good wood for smoking and a good place to do it. I prefer charcoal with large woods, and Staple's St. Meat Market came through with a huge bag of smoking wood for only $6. It ended up being enough for 3-2-1 ribs and doing Smoked/Sous Vide'd/Seared Tri-Tips twice.

Unlike a good sear with white-hot charcoal going before starting anything else, with the smoking, start it all cold.

When I bought the ribs, I seasoned them immediately, then tossed them in a FoodSaver bag, then off to the freezer. The night before cooking them, I pulled them out, put them in the fridge, and left them overnight. In the morning, they were mostly thawed, but still slightly too chilled; this was remedied by leaving them out in the kitchen for an hour or two - still sealed in the bag - prior to smoking.

Seasoned, thawed, and ready for smoking.

By this point, the smoker should be ready.

Use of indirect heat keeps the temperature down.

One of the best things about 3-2-1 ribs is the possibilities for the spicing of the ribs.  The last time I did this, I used a myriad of different "European" spices. This time, it was a bevy of "Mexican" spices, including garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, black pepper, and a bit of cayenne pepper.

Smoke like this for three hours.

After three hours of smoking it "naked," we remove the ribs, and toss them on aluminum foil, and add liquid.

After three hours

Some great recipes suggest apple cider for the liquid. I opt for a little bit more variety than that, specifically with beer, bourbon, and apple cider vinegar.

I use ⅓ cup each.

After adding ⅓ cup each of the three liquids to the ribs wrapped in water-tight foil, it goes back on the smoke for 2 hours, staying between 200° F and 225° F.

They've got several delicious flavors

After five hours, the ribs are removed from the foil, put back on the grill bone-side down, and bathed in the sauce.  Another hour at the same temperature - 200° F to 225° F.

After this, it's time to serve.


  • Rack of ribs
  • Spices (freestyle this on your own)
  • Smoking wood
  • 4 oz sugar-free barbecue sauce
  • ⅓ cup Black ale
  • ⅓ cup Bourbon whiskey
  • ⅓ cup Apple cider vinegar


  1. Spice ribs as desired
  2. Smoke ribs for three hours over indirect heat - between 200° F and 225° F, bone side down.
  3. Wrap in foil filled with the three liquids
  4. Smoke another two hours over indirect heat between 200° F and 225° F, bone side up.
  5. Remove from foil, baste in barbecue sauce.
  6. Return to indirect heat, over smoke for an hour, bone side down.
  7. Serve.