For the most part, we advocate smoking ribs at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you want to set the temp a bit lower, you’ll need a general idea of how long the process might take. Here’s our guide on how long to smoke ribs at 175/180 degrees.
How Long To Smoke Ribs at 175/180 Degrees
A rack of spare ribs will need about 10 hours on the smoker when the temperature is set to just 175 to 180 degrees. Baby back ribs should take about 8 hours at this temperature. If you opt not to wrap the ribs partway through the smoke, the process could take even longer.
Why Do Ribs Take So Long To Cook?
Even if this is your first attempt at making smoked ribs, you probably know that the meat will need to cook for a long time before it achieves the right texture. Here’s why.
Pork ribs contain a great deal of fat, collagen, and connective tissue. That means they need to cook slowly at a low temperature. If you were to cook the ribs quickly over high heat, the meat would be stringy and tough.
Spare ribs are cut from the lower portion of the ribcage. As such, their meat is exceptionally fatty and flavorful. When the rib tips and cartilage are trimmed off, a rack of spares is transformed into a rack of St. Louis-style ribs.
Back ribs—also called baby backs due to the fact that these are shorter than spare ribs—are a bit leaner, but they still require a fairly long cooking time. They’re taken from the upper section of the ribcage, around the spine.
Is It Safe To Smoke Ribs at 175 Degrees?
We don’t recommend setting the smoker temperature any lower than 200 degrees Fahrenheit. For optimum results, we like to smoke the ribs at 225 degrees, bearing in mind that cooler ambient temperatures might affect the environment inside the smoker.
That said, it should be safe to smoke ribs at 175 degrees. The process will be a lengthy one, as you’ll learn in the section below, but you shouldn’t have to worry about food safety.
Keep in mind that meat products stand a greater chance of harboring hazardous bacteria if they’re kept in the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees for longer than 4 hours. 175 degrees should be high enough to get the ribs out of this zone in time.
How Long To Smoke Ribs at 175 to 180 Degrees
When it comes to smoking ribs at 175 to 180 degrees, we would suggest using the “5-4-1” technique. If you’re familiar with the 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 methods for smoked pork ribs, you can probably guess what that means.
For the first 5 hours of the smoke, leave the ribs unwrapped, allowing them to absorb plenty of flavor from the burning wood. Next, wrap them in foil along with a few other ingredients. The meat will braise inside this wrapper for another 4 hours.
During the final hour, unwrap the rib rack and set it directly on the cooking grate. If you’d like, you can coat it with your favorite barbecue sauce at some point during this stage. The meat will be tender, succulent, and perfectly juicy.
The 5-4-1 method works best for spare ribs. If you have a rack of baby backs and want to try smoking them at 175-180, you can shave a couple of hours off the cooking time. Try smoking them unwrapped for 4 hours and braising them in foil for 3, then unwrapping for the last hour.
5-4-1 Smoked Spare Ribs
Although this recipe is certainly not quick, it has the benefit of being very easy to make. You’ll get plenty of hands-off time while the ribs are cooking, which makes this a great option for large parties.
Speaking of which, you can adjust the recipe according to how many guests you’re expecting. Assuming that your smoker can accommodate the extra ribs, it should take the same amount of time to smoke three full racks as it would to smoke a single rack.
- 1 full rack spare ribs (about 4 pounds)
- About 1/4 cup yellow mustard (optional)
- 1/2 cup apple juice or cider
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Barbecue sauce (optional)
For The Spice Rub:
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup paprika
- 1/4 cup smoked paprika
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Tip: This recipe yields about 2 cups of spice rub, which is more than you’ll need for a single rack. You can store any excess in a sealed container for up to 6 months, as long as it hasn’t come into contact with raw meat.
1. Prepare the seasoning rub. Mix together all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Remove the membrane from the spare ribs, if necessary. Pat the ribs dry using paper towels.
3. Slather the ribs with a thin coating of yellow mustard, if desired.
4. Use the seasoning rub to coat the entire rib rack. You should need about 1 tablespoon per pound of meat, but use your best judgement.
5. Set the smoker temperature to 175-180 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. When the smoker hits the designated temperature, set the rib rack directly on the cooking grate with the bone side facing down. Close the lid and let the ribs cook for about 5 hours.
7. Remove the ribs from the smoker and set them in a disposable aluminum pan.
8. Set out two sheets of aluminum foil so that they overlap. Each sheet should be about as long as your arm, or roughly twice as long as the rib rack.
9. Fold up the edges of the foil to create a pouch. Add about 1/4 cup of the apple juice or cider to the foil, taking care not to spill any liquid.
10. Place the ribs on the foil with the presentation side facing down. Sprinkle brown sugar over the rack and dot the surface with butter before adding the remaining juice or cider.
11. Carefully wrap the ribs in the double layer of foil.
12. Transfer the wrapped ribs to the smoker and continue to cook for about 4 hours longer.
13. Take the ribs off the heat and transfer them to a work surface. Carefully open the foil pouch, standing back to allow the steam to escape. You might want to use your cooking tongs for this step to avoid burning your fingers.
14. Return the unwrapped ribs to the smoker for another hour, or until the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees Fahrenheit when the probe is inserted in the center of the rib rack.
15. If desired, brush the ribs with barbecue sauce for the last 30 minutes or so of cooking.
16. Remove the ribs from the heat and let stand for 15 minutes before serving with additional barbecue sauce on the side.
How Many Ribs Will I Need?
You should plan on serving about 3 to 4 spare ribs per person. Baby back ribs, as we mentioned, are a bit smaller, so allow for 5 to 6 of these for each guest.
Before you start shopping, remember that there are usually 10 to 13 ribs in a rack. The actual ribcage contains more bones than this, but a few of them are bound to be damaged during processing.
A single rack of spare ribs should feed 3 to 4 people, depending on how hungry they are and what else you’re serving. A rack of baby backs, on the other hand, may only be enough for 2 people.
If the rib rack contains fewer than 10 bones, it should be labeled as a “cheater rack.” Make sure you know how many ribs are in the rack before you buy, especially if you’re purchasing a lot of racks at once.
The Bottom Line
While 175 degrees isn’t our recommended setting for smoked pork ribs, you can use this temperature if you have plenty of time to spare. As a reward for your patience, you should end up with juicy ribs that are melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!