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How to Smoke Ribs in an Electric Smoker: Cooking Time, Top Ingredients, Tips

by Outdoor Cooking Pros October 30, 2021

How to Smoke Ribs in an Electric Smoker

Admit it or not, not every kitchen has fancy offset smokers suited for smoking ribs. And while many home cooks gave up the idea of preparing smoked ribs, did you know that you can whip this awesome recipe with an electric smoker? In this post, let our resident chefs guide your rib smoking experience and help you achieve that delicious smoky flavor.  

Ingredients You’ll Need 

If you’re serving smoked pork ribs for many people, the rack of ribs you should get must be at least two or three. Besides that, you need to get ingredients like salt, brown sugar, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard, and smoked paprika for the BBQ rub prep time. 

You’ll also be needing a mop sauce to coat your amazing ribs with flavors, so our kitchen experts suggest preparing unsalted butter, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, and Cholula sauce. 

Smoking ribs wouldn’t be complete without a delightful BBQ sauce. Besides another half a cup of apple cider vinegar, the species required for a barbecue sauce includes dark brown sugar, sea salt, ketchup, mustard, honey, ground pepper, Worcestershire, and bourbon. 

After getting the ingredients for the BBQ sauce, keep the apple juice and water mixture on standby for the water pan as it would be of great help during the smoking process.

How to Smoke Ribs in an Electric Smoker: 8 Simple Steps

Step #1: Choose the Right Meat 

The primary key to smoking ribs perfectly is selecting the right meat to cook. Whether you’re shopping for spare ribs or baby back ribs, make sure to avoid vacuum-sealed ones. Because it’s tightly sealed, there is no way for you to check how much meat is in those bone ribs.

Choose the Right Meat

If you prefer more lean meat, then our resident chefs recommend buying baby back ribs. Spare ribs also have a good amount of meat, so we wouldn’t discourage you from using it for your smoke ribs recipe. 

It will save you time if you ask for the fatty parts to be trimmed away from the pork ribs you’re buying. If not, we’ll tell you how to remove those excess fats in the following steps. 

Last but not least, check if it has a great marbling. This formation of fat in the tender ribs will keep its surface moist and help it withstand all the smoke. Cooking a rib with marbling also guarantees enhanced flavor[1]

Step #2: Prepare and Pre-Season the Smoker

Part of learning how to smoke ribs in an electric smoker is prepping your cooking chamber. Not only does it make the smoking process safe, but it also extends the life of the smoker itself. First and foremost, ensure that the smoker is thoroughly clean and air-dried. And then, liberally coat the interior with canola oil or any type of sort. 

Next, you can proceed to set the electric oven smoker in slightly medium heat for around 275 degrees. Typically, we would recommend keeping the smoker heated for at least three hours. However, the best you can do is check the manufacturer’s manual to see if there’s a specific instruction regarding this. 

Prepare and Pre-Season the Smoker

On the 45-minute mark before the timer goes off, put some wood chips in the smoker tray as it’ll help you eliminate the metallic smell of the cooking chamber. Once that’s done as well, let it cool down for a while before letting the air inside. 

And because an electric smoker may often be greasy, our kitchen experts suggest doing this procedure repeatedly to maintain its tip-top condition. 

Step #3: Trim the Membrane Off the Ribs

When you buy pork ribs for a recipe like this, you could ask the butcher to remove the rib membrane along with the excess fats. If not, here’s how you can trim it yourself before applying the BBQ rub. Keep in mind that removing the membrane makes rib recipes tender and gives you a perfect rack for consistent smoking. 

If you’re not familiar with this kind of meat, you can find the membrane at the middle rack in-between the rib bones. 

Using a paring knife, pry the membrane away from the ribs and meat. Our resident chefs recommend using a paper towel to pull the loose membrane out as it can be a bit slippery. Don’t be in a rush to wrap up this tedious process, as it can result in ruining your rack of ribs. 

Step #4: Prepare the Rub and Apply

Another key step to cooking the perfect electric smoker ribs is making the right mix of rub. As previously discussed in the ingredients section, your dry rub should be composed of kosher salt, sugar, black pepper, garlic, and paprika. Measure the spices according to the size of the rack you prepared earlier. 

Prepare the Rub and Apply

Mix these spices together in a small bowl with a spoon and stir until every bit of these ingredients is combined. Even if you’re cooking with a top-tier brand like Masterbuilt electric smoker, none of that will matter if you don’t apply the mixture properly. 

If you want the ribs to burst with flavor, our team recommends applying the rub generously. Make sure to cover each side with the mixture to make it tender during the smoking process. While it’s common to cook it right away in the smoker, it’s best to transfer the meat in plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator for a night. 

And because an electric smoker doesn’t produce as much smoke as its charcoal alternative, you’d want the ribs to absorb the flavor of the mixture as long as possible. 

Step #5: Preheat the Smoker

Next on how to smoke ribs in an e-smoker is preheating your cooking chamber for at least 20 to 30 minutes. The smoker temperature must reach around 225 degrees Fahrenheit heat to get a good smoking consistency.  

And then, you may now add wood chips to the smoker box. For a strong grill flavor, going for hickory hardwood is a great idea. Hickory and pecan are also highly recommended for beginners as their flavors are easier to manage. 

Preheat the Smoker

Preheating your smoker gives you the chance to check if its interior is cleaned properly. If a thin and blue smoke comes out from the dry wood chips, then you’re ready to go. Don’t forget to place the water pan mixed with oil as well, because it’ll keep the meat moist. 

Step #6: Smoke the Ribs

After confirming that your smoker is in the right heat temperature, carefully put the ribs inside. Close the lid tightly and make sure not to open it until four hours later to let the ribs absorb all the hickory smoke flavor. During this time, the mixture you rubbed on its surface will form into a nice savory bark. 

Step #7: Add Coats of Mop Sauce

On its fourth hour in the smoker, it’s time to coat it with your mop sauce. As discussed in the ingredients section, this mixture is composed of spices that’ll make your ribs tender and flavorful. 

Apply this sauce to the rib every thirty minutes until you reach the 6th hour of smoking. Remove ribs from the chamber and place them in a pan. 

Our resident chefs recommend covering the ribs with aluminum foil before putting it back in the smoker. Ensure that the ribs are covered tightly and leave them there again for two more hours.   

Step #8: Remove the Ribs Once Fully Cooked 

Electric smoker ribs are done once the meat can fall off the bone with a slight pull. Remove the ribs from the electric smoker and wrap them again with aluminum foil for 15 to 30 minutes. Once rested, you can remove it from the aluminum foil and serve it alongside the BBQ sauce you concocted. 

Remove the Ribs Once Fully Cooked

Tips and Reminders

You might be thinking, when do you add the BBQ sauce? Well, the BBQ and Mop sauce you’ll apply in your smoked rib recipes are two different things. The Mop mixture is typically used during the cooking process, while the BBQ ones are for serving purposes intended to wrap your meat ribs with more flavor. 

How to Know When It’s Done 

Another crucial part of learning how to smoke ribs in electric smoker chambers is knowing when it’s done. You wouldn’t want to serve undercooked or overcooked ribs, so we highly recommend using a thermometer. 

Besides ribs falling off of the bone, the doneness of this dish is guaranteed once its internal temp reaches 145 to 165 degrees. 

You can check using a pair of tongs as well. Hold the ribs up, and once it shows cracks, that’s when you’re done. 

Choosing Wood Chips

Choosing the right wood chips is as important as the mixture you rub on your smoked ribs. For pork, our resident chefs would always recommend hickory as it has a flavor similar to bacon. Its strong aroma that sticks is highly suitable for these types of cuts. The same applies to mesquite, with its spicy touch that blends well with the BBQ flavors.

 On the other hand, you can also try oak. With its earthy taste, it can be light on your tastebuds and give you a different experience. 

If you’re not a fan of the savory taste, going for mild flavors like apple and cherry wood is a great idea. It’ll add a different color to your ribs and a fruity touch when served. 


How long do you smoke ribs for in an electric smoker?

You should smoke ribs for eight long hours in an electric smoker. The first four hours are for initial smoking. And then, another two hours for adding mop mixture on its surface. Lastly, continue to let it cook for an extra two hours after placing it in a pan covered with foil. 

How do you keep ribs moist when smoking?

To keep ribs moist when smoking, you’ll need a water mixture and apple cider solution on the water pan. The presence of liquid in your smoker will create enough moisture for your meat. Besides that, you can opt to add honey or butter on the foil you’ll use to wrap the ribs.


Whether you’re planning to cook for Thanksgiving or Father’s Day, it’s never too late to learn how to smoke ribs in an electric smoker. Although it’s undoubtedly hard to get that “fall off the bone” kind of outcome with your smoked ribs, our experts assure you that patience and sticking to the recipe are enough to make this meal a success. 

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