Smoky Southwest Baby Back Ribs

Simple and delicious Smoky Southwest Baby Back Ribs are packed with sweet, herbal flavors and a touch of heat. The dry rub recipe is mild enough for the whole family while satisfying the pickiest backseat-pitmaster. It really doesn’t matter who you are inviting over, baby back ribs are a guaranteed hit. Incredibly meaty, tender, and incredibly easy to cook consistently.

smoky southwest baby back ribs

Balance and BBQ

One of the hardest challenges with creating great BBQ recipes is balance with flavors. Too often recipes for rubs and sauces are heavy with brown sugar, molasses, or another sweet bite. I’m not against sweet and heat, but I really love to taste the meat.

This Smoky Southwest Dry Rub recipe is the first of my signature BBQ rubs, and it’s time to share. The base of it starts with a heavy amount of Ancho chile powder, a fruity, smoky chile with mild heat. Building the base, it expands with herbs and aromatics, and a small touch of brown sugar to round it out.

The first finger-dip has your mind wondering, “What am I putting this on first?”

Pork on my fork, please

There’s always debate on baby back ribs vs. spare ribs. In our house, baby back usually wins. Simple to trim (no trimming), extra meaty, and they just cook faster.

Big bites of porky flavors come through with each bite, the most important decision when it comes to ribs. Part of the reason the Smoky Southwest Dry Rub works so well with these baby back ribs is that it doesn’t overwhelm, but compliments the sweet taste off the bone.

Seasoned with smoky southwest dry rub

Prepping & Smoking Process

Baby back ribs cook differently than spare ribs. I’m going to share some similar information here as I do with other recipes when using baby back ribs, such as my Miso Teriyaki Pork Ribs.

Prepping for the Smoker

  1. Remove the membrane. This is recommended, but not mandatory. It’s the thin skin on the back of the ribs, the side with the bones. You can simply take a paper towel and rip off the membrane pretty easily.
  2. Season the ribs. Apply the rub at least 30 minutes before you put them on the smoker, and allow the pork to sit at room temperature. This is plenty of time for the flavor to set in and bond with the meat.
baby back ribs are going to be wrapped and put back on the smoker

Smoking the Baby Back Ribs

The process for smoking baby back ribs is shorter, a total of around 4 hours instead of the typical 6 hours.

  1. Preheat your smoker for 250°F. This recipe works well using an offset smoker or a pellet smoker, whichever you prefer.
  2. Smoke for 2 1/2 hours. Spritz them every 45 minutes or so with apple cider vinegar, specifically around the edges to prevent them from drying out.
  3. Wrap and season the ribs. This is the time to add butter and a little more of the seasoning, which has a touch of sugar as well.
  4. Throw them back on for 1 hour. Make sure they are wrapped, bone-side up.
  5. Unwrap, glaze, and return to smoker for 15 minutes. Feel free to season the ribs one last time if there are any bald spots.
smoked baby back ribs waiting to be sliced

Frequently Asked Questions

You can see the process for these Smoky Southwest Baby Back Ribs are pretty straightforward, but there’s always a few questions. Please let me know if you have any others you’d like me to address below in the comments!

What should I spritz them with, and how often?

Apple cider vinegar happens to be my favorite (not “from the mother”, too strong). I also enjoy a mix of apple juice and orange juice for a brighter flavor. Acidic is the key.

I want to sauce them, when do I do that?

Feel free to add a BBQ sauce. You can add that at the last step, when you place the ribs on for the last 15 minutes. This allows the sugars to set and bake in to the ribs.

Do I need to use mustard as a binder?

Nope. As long as you have 30 minutes to spare before you put the ribs on the smoker, you’re fine.

What do I wrap them with?

Heavy-duty foil if you want very tender ribs, or butcher paper (as shown above) if you prefer ribs with more of a bite. I tend to choose based on who I’m serving.

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smoky southwest baby back ribs

Smoky Southwest Baby Back Ribs

Smoky Southwest baby back ribs are packed with sweet, herbal flavors and a touch of heat. These satisfy the pickiest backseat-pitmaster.

  • Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 1x




  1. Remove the membrane. Take a paper towel and rip off the membrane pretty easily.
  2. Season the ribs on both sides. Try to do this at least 30 minutes ahead, at room temperature.
  3. Preheat your smoker for 250°F.
  4. Smoke for 2 1/2 hours. Spritz them every 45 minutes or so with apple cider vinegar, specifically around the edges to prevent them from drying out.
  5. Prepare a sheet of heavy-duty foil or butcher paper on a flat surface (see notes for which to use).
  6. Slice each stick of butter into 8 tablespoons (2 sticks = 1 cup butter)
  7. Place 4 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of Smoky Southwest Dry Rub on each piece of foil in a line, where you will set the ribs on top of.
  8. Remove the ribs from the smoker, placing 1 rack on each sheet of foil/paper with the butter and rub, meat-side down.
  9. Add the rest of butter and 2 tbsp of rub.
  10. Fold up the foil and seal tightly.
  11. Throw them back on the smoker for 1 hour. 
  12. Unwrap, add more seasoning if needed on the top, and return to smoker for 15 minutes (bone-side down). 
  13. Remove from the smoker and allow them to rest for about 15 minutes.
  14. Flip the ribs (bones up) and slice between the bones.


Use butcher paper for the wrapping phase if you like more chew. Heavy-duty foil works well if you prefer your ribs more tender. Sauce at the very last phase if you’re planning to add your own sauce, for the final 15 minutes on the smoker.

  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 30
  • Cook Time: 5
  • Category: Pork
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: Pork Ribs

Keywords: pork, baby back ribs, pork ribs, bbq, ancho, chile

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