Smoked Ribs

Hickory Smoked Ribs

Some of my favorite meals to make include smoked ribs as they are always a crowd-pleaser. This recipe for Hickory smoked St Louis ribs with espresso rub and Cuban coffee sauce was inspired by my home city of Miami, especially for the flavors in the Espresso Rub and Cuban Coffee BBQ Sauce which make this unique recipe come together with a Southern Florida twist. I used hickory logs to smoke the ribs which complimented the coffee notes perfectly. I smoked the ribs for 6 hours using the 3-2-1 method. After six hours the end result were ribs that pulled easily from the bone without sacrificing the texture of the meat.

The starting point for the ribs is the rub and sauce. I wanted a hint of espresso but I didn’t want it to overpower the hickory flavor from the smoke. If you are following my recipes for the rub and sauce you will see there is not too much espresso used. When preparing the ribs put a light dusting of the rub on after removing the membrane. Then refrigerate for one to four hours before smoking. The end result is a hint of coffee which is not overpowering.

ribs with rub

The wood

With St. Louis ribs I like to use apple, pecan, oak and hickory woods. These woods work well on their own and can also be used in different combinations but feel free to experiment with different woods to suit your palate. When getting the smoker ready, and in all aspects of smoking meat, I have found that having patience and allowing extra time is key. Start your smoker early and allow it to gradually come to temperature. I averaged 240f for these ribs and I was happy with the texture of the meat. Go a little higher if you want softer meat and lower if you want meat with a bit more pull. Once the smoker gets to temp and holds for about 20 minutes it’s time to get smoking.

3-2-1 explained – 3 hours smoking

For ribs the tried and proven formula is 3-2-1. If you follow this formula your ribs will come out tender and juicy. First smoke the ribs for 3 hours.

2 hours in foil

Following three hours on the smoker remove the ribs and wrap them in foil. Next add a little moisture to keep the ribs from drying out and to help cook them with steam. I used orange juice to keep with the Cuban flavor theme. You can use water, apple juice, beer or anything else you think might work. My ribs came chopped in half from Butcher Box. I wrapped each half rack with three table spoons of orange juice and used two layers of foil to insulate.

1 hour with sauce

The final step of hickory smoked St Louis ribs. When the two hours wrapped in foil are complete, remove the foil and put the ribs meat side down and baste with BBQ sauce. After 15 minutes flip the ribs paint the top with sauce. Then apply more sauce every 15 minutes until they are complete. During this time the lid will be open more and lose more heat therefore I usually get the firebox going hotter because of the lost heat. When the 6 hours are done remove the ribs and let them rest 30-40 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to settle into the meat. Serve with your favorite sides and enjoy.

finished ribs after six hours in the smoker

Hickory Smoked Ribs

5 from 3 votes
Recipe by Brad Course: Main Courses, MeatCuisine: American, BBQ, American BBQDifficulty: Medium


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  • Remove membrane from under the ribs. I use a butter knife to get under the membrane from the side until I can get a finger under and pull it off. You can skip this step but I have found ribs are much more enjoyable with the membrane removed.
  • Evenly coat ribs with espresso rub.
  • Allow ribs to rest with rub in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 4 before putting on the smoker.
  • Get smoker up to temp, 240 f.
  • Smoke ribs for 3 hours.
  • Wrap ribs with two layers of foil and 6 tablespoons of orange juice. Cook for 2 more hours.
  • Remove foil and put ribs meat side down on smoker. Sauce the bottom of the ribs and cook for 15 minutes. Turn the ribs and coat the top with sauce. Apply more sauce to the top of the ribs every 15 minutes until done. Total 1 hour for this step.
  • After six hours total cook time remove ribs from smoker and allow to rest for 30-40 minutes before serving with additional sauce on the side.


  • Adjust smoker temp higher or lower depending on how tender you want your ribs and what your outside environment is like.
  • The cooking method here works with any rub and sauce combination you want to use. You an also cook the ribs dry and use no sauce at the end.
  • This recipe works in the oven if you don’t have a grill or smoker, you won’t get the smoke flavor but you will still get delicious ribs.


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