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Traeger Baby Back Ribs Inspired by Franklin BBQ

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  • With these easy-to-follow steps, you too can make mouthwatering smoked baby back ribs in Traeger! These ribs are rubbed with a simple dry mix and smoked until fall-apart tender then basted with a homemade BBQ sauce. So good that you can’t stop eating!

    Smoked baby back ribs with bbq sauce.

    With a wife who is a talented cook and a master in Japanese food, I sometimes forget that I should help out more in the kitchen. So one of the goals I have set out to achieve is to lend Nami a hand whenever I can. It’s also a reminder to the kids that ‘Hey, Daddy can cook too!”.

    Since my cooking expertise leans toward barbequing, I’ve been studying some recipes that would earn approval from my family.  They can be a tough crowd, but they have always loved our friend John’s smoked baby back ribs recipe which I cook regularly. It was time for a new surprise.

    Today I’m excited to share our family’s new favorite – Traeger Baby Back Ribs inspired by Franklin Barbecue in Austin.

    Smoked baby back ribs with bbq sauce.

    Visiting Franklin Barbecue in Austin

    Over the past few years, I’ve attended conferences in Austin, Texas and I always make it a point to hit up a few renowned Texas barbecues spots when I’m there. I’ve tried the smoked meats at the popular Salt Lick and Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. The meats were juicy and tasty, and they did live up to their reputations.

    Assorted bbq meats at Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que
    Assorted meats from Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que

    Until last year, when we started to receive a flood of recommendations from readers on the famed Franklin Barbecue, I knew I had to make a visit there. In the city where you can find plenty of great smoked meat, why are people willing to wait three hours starting at 8 am (the restaurant opens at 11 am) just for some meat? What is the hype all about? I was too eager to find out.

    customer waiting outside the door at Franklin Barbecue in Austin TX

    It was a Thursday and I arrived at 12:30 pm, the line was out the door and down the side of the building but it doesn’t seem too long. Is it my lucky day? The lunch hour rush should be over soon and I can enjoy my food promptly. As I waited patiently, an hour went by and it felt like the line had come to a halt. Luckily, the restaurant has folding chairs for customers to sit on while waiting so I didn’t have to stand the entire time.

    customers waiting outside Franklin Barbecue in Austin TX
    About 2 hours wait from here

    Another hour went by, the staff came out and greeted the train of people. They were letting us know they can’t guarantee what meat will be available by the time it’s our turn, but we should be able to get some food. WHAT??? Out of food? My hunger was attacking me by the minute and it was getting harder and harder to wait.

    Finally, at 2 pm, I got through the restaurant’s door. Oh no, the line continued inside with 30 people ahead of me and at the same moment, it’s officially announced. Turkey has sold out.

    customers eating and waiting in line at Franklin Barbecue in Austin TX

    The Brisket at Franklin Barbecue

    At 2:19 pm, it was finally my turn at the counter and I got a brisket sandwich and sausages along with the potato salad. By this time I was famished. I took my food tray to a table and poured the BBQ sauce on the brisket.

    Menu at Franklin Barbecue in Austin TX

    I took a giant bite of the brisket sandwich, OMG, is this what heaven tastes like? The brisket more or less melted in my mouth, it had a perfect amount of smoky flavor and the seasoning was just perfect. The house BBQ sauce had the perfect amount of sweetness, saltiness, and tanginess that mixed in with the fatty brisket. The two-hour wait, it was well worth it. Unfortunately, it was all over in 5 minutes. I should have gotten two brisket sandwiches and take one with me for later.

    I have to say Franklin Barbecue exceeded my expectations!

    Beef brisket sandwich with sausage and potato salad at Franklin Barbecue in Austin TX
    Beef brisket sandwich… or is it heaven?

    Back Home Testing and Tasting

    Inspired by the life-changing experience at Franklin’s Barbeque, after returning from Austin, we purchased a Traeger smoker from Costco (much cheaper than most retailers) and Aaron Franklin’s two cookbooks, Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto and Franklin Steak: Dry-Aged. Live-Fired. Pure Beef.

    His cookbooks are really well written. They’re not stuffed with 100 recipes that most readers would never make. Instead, most of the contents educate the readers on meat, wood, fire, and the science behind seasoning, barbeque, grilling, and all aspects of cooking meat. They’re my new bibles for grilling and I highly recommend both books for anyone who loves barbeque.

    Smoked baby back ribs with bbq sauce.

    Traeger Baby Back Ribs with Franklin BBQ Sauce

    The first recipes we tried from the cookbook were Franklin’s spare ribs and barbeque sauce. Both were really good. The BBQ sauce alone is worth purchasing the book for. Our family absolutely loved the spare ribs but the proportion of meat to bone is much less than baby back ribs. We ended the meal hungrily and wanting more meat to eat.

    In case you weren’t aware, spare ribs and baby back ribs are connected to each other on a pig. They are like the human rib cage, with large bones on the chest side (spare ribs) and smaller bones on the back (baby back ribs).

    We then had the idea of cooking with a similar method on baby back ribs! That would be the best of both worlds. Time to test recipe!

    Smoked baby back ribs with bbq sauce.

    After many tests and trials, we are really happy with the recipe below. If you never smoked meat before and have always wanted to try, this is a foolproof method with an incredible result!  Best of all: the ingredients are simple and what you probably already have in the kitchen. The basic steps are:

    1. Make dry rub (mostly salt and pepper).
    2. Season meat and set aside for 1 hour.
    3. Smoke for 2 hours.
    4. Brush the sauce and smoke for 30 minutes.
    5. Wrap in foil and bake for 1-2 hours.
    6. Rest for 30 minutes and eat!

    Easy right? Now let’s make it!

    What is a Traeger smoker?

    We shared smoked turkey breast (also inspired by Franklin’s recipe) over the holidays and talked about why we like the Traeger smoker. The short answer is the Traeger works pretty much like an electric oven, set the temperature and cook the food.

    It is so easy to use and on average, we cook with it once every two weeks to test different meats. Unlike a barbeque grill, Traeger doesn’t burn food easily as it cooks with indirect heat. We would not recommend it for searing a thick steak since it doesn’t get as hot as a gas or charcoal grill, but it’s perfect for cooking chicken, pork shoulder, and other thick cuts of meats that require some time to cook.

    We have the junior size smoker which can fit up to 3 racks of ribs (feeds 6-8 people).

    Recommended Wood Pellets

    For wood pellets, we find the Traeger branded ones have less flavor than Lumber Jack brand (same price on Amazon). Our go-to Lumber Jack pellet is an oak-hickory-cherry blend that goes well with almost all types of meat.

    Traeger Baby Back Ribs | Easy Japanese Recipes at

    Tips for Traeger Baby Back Rib

    Love baby back ribs? You have to give this recipe a try! It’s our family’s favorite and our daughter requests it at least once a month. There are no fancy ingredients required and the prep time is very short. Here are some tips based on our meat smoking journey:

    1. Use 16-mesh black pepper for seasoning, the flavor is much more consistent and powerful than regular black pepper.
    2. If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, substitute with apple juice or white vinegar.
    3. Franklin’s BBQ sauce is not “sweet” profile; it’s more tangy and acidic. It’s up to each person’s preference on what their favorite BBQ sauce flavor is. We’ve used Sweet Baby Ray BBQ Sauce for the ribs and it turned out really tasty as well.
    4. Take extra care not to puncture the foil while wrapping. We’ve had that happen before and the ribs didn’t turn out as tender.
    5. Based on Franklin’s recommendation, the meat side of the rib should be on the hotter side of the grill. For our Traeger, the bottom side of the grill is hotter. However, when we smoked with the meat side down, the bark got stuck on the grate and we lost some precious meat. So we smoke with the meat side up.

    These smoked baby back ribs are perfect for entertaining, and win the best cook award in the family! They are seriously finger-licking good, so get the napkins ready.

    Looking for other Traeger recipes? How about mouthwatering reverse sear steaks or smoked turkey breast for the next gathering?

    Smoked baby back ribs with bbq sauce.

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    4.55 from 22 votes
    Smoked baby back ribs with bbq sauce.
    Traeger Baby Back Ribs
    Prep Time
    20 mins
    Cook Time
    5 hrs

    With these easy-to-follow steps, you too can make mouthwatering smoked baby back ribs in Traeger! These ribs are rubbed with a simple dry mix and smoked until fall-apart tender then basted with a homemade BBQ sauce. So good that you can’t stop eating!

    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: American
    Keyword: bbq, pork, ribs
    Servings: 5
    Author: Mr. JOC
    • 2 full rack of pork ribs
    • ½ cup apple cider vinegar (120 ml)
    • 2 cups your favorite BBQ sauce (480 ml; We used Franklin’s BBQ recipe from his cookbook)
    • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter (divided)
    • 4 Tbsp honey (divided)
    • 4 Tbsp brown sugar (divided)
    Dry Rub:
    • 18 g coarse ground black pepper (16 Mesh)
    • 9 g kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; Use half for table salt) (Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt)
    • 1 tsp onion powder
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    1. Gather all the ingredients and equipment you need.
      Traeger Baby Back Ribs Ingredients & Equipment
    To Prepare Dry Rub
    1. Add dry rub ingredients in a jar (18 g black pepper, 9 g kosher salt, 1 tsp onion powder, and 1 tsp garlic powder).

      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 1
    2. Close the jar and shake well. I highly recommend this Maracasifter for sprinkling dry rub on ingredients evenly.

      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 2
    To Prepare Ribs
    1. Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs by pulling it down with a paper towel (slippery!). We usually ask the butcher to do this when we purchase the ribs. If the meat is dry, add 1-2 Tbsp (15-30 ml) apple cider vinegar in a mister and spray the vinegar to wet the meat.

      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 3
    2. Evenly sprinkle dry seasoning on meat including the edge, start with the bone side first. Let the meat rest for 1 hour at room temperature.

      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 4
    3. After 45 min, pre-heat Traeger to 275 ºF (135 ºC).
      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 5
    4. Create a metal cup with aluminum foil and pour 6 Tbsp (90 ml) apple cider vinegar inside.
      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 6
    5. Once Traeger is at 275 ºF (135 ºC), place ribs meat side up along with the apple cider vinegar cup. Smoke for 2 hours.

      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 7
    6. Meanwhile, make your favorite BBQ sauce at this time. We made a BBQ sauce using a recipe from Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto cookbook).

      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 8
    7. After 2 hours, mist apple cider vinegar on ribs.
      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 9
    8. Brush on BBQ sauce on the meat side.
      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 10
    9. Smoke for 15 min.

      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 11
    10. After 15 minutes, flip ribs over, mist on the meat.
      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 12
    11. Brush the BBQ sauce on the ribs and smoke for 15 min.

      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 13
    12. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 275 ºF (135 ºC). Prepare 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil for each rib (leaving plenty of room to wrap the ribs).

      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 14
    13. For each rib, cut up 1 Tbsp of butter into 4 pieces and spread on aluminum foil. Drizzle 2 Tbsp honey, add 2 Tbsp brown sugar.
      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 15
    14. Mist with apple cider vinegar and pour BBQ sauce on top. Make the same aluminum sheet with butter, honey, sugar, apple cider vinegar, and BBQ sauce for the second rib.
      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 16
    15. Take out the ribs from the smoker and transfer to the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 17
    16. Lay the rib meat side down on the mixture.
      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 18
    17. Spray the bone side with vinegar and brush BBQ sauce on.
      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 19
    18. Carefully wrap the meat without puncturing the aluminum foil.
      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 20
    19. Enclose the end of the aluminum foil so moisture can’t escape.
      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 21
    20. Place the ribs on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 2 hours.

      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 22
    21. Take the ribs out and rest in the foil for 20 to 30 minutes. Enjoy the ribs with your favorite BBQ sauce.

      Traeger Baby Back Ribs 23
    Recipe Notes



    Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.

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