Texas Two Step BBQ Ribs with a Low Sodium Rib Rub

The challenge: Grilling baby back ribs so that the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender while having a smokey flavor and a crispy outer bark.  Impossible?  I thought so, until I tried this method I call Texas Two Step BBQ Ribs.

Baby Back Ribs Smoked on a Gas Grill


The Quest for Awesome Smoked Ribs

Each summer in Chicago, there are no shortage of local ribfests.  For those in the suburbs, yhe Village of Naperville puts on a huge ribfest and concert series, and, increasingly, each Chicago neighborhood is getting into the act.  We’re only 4 smoke filled blocks away from one of the biggest, Ribfest Chicago.  At each, the 3-bone sampler is the standard menu item and allows one to try a good 4 or 5 vendors and then vote for a winner.

For years, I’ve tried to create my own competition worthy ribs.  There are a couple of qualities that they all have:

  • Moist, tender meat where the bone is easily pulled out
  • A smooth, crispy bark on the top
  • Sweet and smokey flavor that leads to “smokey meat mouth”

Though without a dedicated smoker, and 6-8 hours of careful tending, I’d found it to be super hard to pull off the trifecta.

Start with a Great Dry Rub for Ribs

Great ribs begin with a great rib rub.  When applied ahead of time and allowed to absorb, they will tenderize and flavorize the meat.  I usually put my rubs on a day ahead of time, wrap tightly and stick back in the fridge.

Now, if you’re following a low sodium diet, you may be horrified to find that most rib rub recipes have a 3:1 ratio of sugar to salt.  If you put down half a rack or more, then you can easily find yourself feeling like a cured ham after dinner.

In the recipe below, I’ve done my best to create a low sodium rib rub that’s still quite flavorful.  This way, you salt the ribs lightly first, then apply a liberal coating of the rib rub.

Texas Two Step Ribs on the grill in a rib rack

Texas Crutch for BBQ Ribs

In a dense, urban environment, owning a smoker, in addition to a gas grill, In my first recipe for grilled ribs, I tried cooking exclusively on the grill and used a smoker box.   While this had the flavor right, the meat wasn’t as tender as I wanted.

Searching for answers, I came across the 3-2-1 Ribs method several times.  3 hours of smoking, 2 hours wrapped in foil, 1 hour more of high heat.  I’m sure they’re great, but I don’t have 6 hours to tend to meat.

What I’ve tried, which I call Texas Two Step BBQ Ribs, cuts the cooking time in half.

The first step is cooking indoors in the oven wrapped tightly in heavy duty foil.  This is the legendary Texas Crutch and is used for brisket and pulled pork as well.  It will keep the meat moist while cooking and prevent drying out.  However, I find the meat soggy to cook it only this way.  So I take it out early and finish on the grill.

Plate of smoked bbq ribs using the Texas Two Step method


Finish by Grilling and Smoking the Ribs

After 2 hours in the oven, you’ll finish on the grill for 1 hour last hour of smoking.  Carefully take the ribs out of the foil and place on the grill in an indirect cooking setup after your smoke is going nice and heavy.  In the final 15 minutes, you can crank the heat up to high to really crisp off the exterior.

Cutting board with bbq ribs

More Great Time Savers

I love finding ways to take really flavorful cuts of meat that traditionally take hours and hours to prepare — and find ways to do it just as tasty but much quicker. Here are some more of my favorites, please check them out!

Slices of Beef Brisket from the Pressure CookerPressure Cooker Beef Brisket
No Sauce Pulled Pork in a Pressure CookerNo Sauce Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork
Pressure Cooker Bone-In HamPressure Cooker Bone-In Ham

Enjoy! If you make these, please come back and let us know how they turned out — and any updates you’d suggest. Thanks!

5 from 3 votes
Rack of Texas Two Step Ribs
Texas Two Step BBQ Ribs with a Low Sodium Rib Rub
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
3 hrs
Total Time
3 hrs 15 mins
Strike a balance between smokey ribs and fall of the bone tender meat using my Texas Two Step method
Servings: 6 Half-Rack Servings
Author: Tony Bailey
  • 3 Racks Pork Ribs
  • 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Mustard Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Black Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian Herb Mix Basil, Rosemary, Oregano, etc.
  1. Rinse and pat dry the ribs. If desired, remove the membrane from the back (or have your butcher do this)
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor and mix well
  3. Apply a liberal layer of rib rub to the top side of each rack.
  4. Optional: Refrigerate for up to 24 hours before cooking.
  5. Wrap each rack individually in 2 layers of Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil and close securely.
  6. Cook on a sheet pan at 300 degrees for 2 hours
  7. Using a smoker, or a gas grill with a smoker box, smoke the ribs at 250 degrees for 1 hour
  8. Optional: Cook on high heat for the final 15 minutes, 450-500 degrees


  1. Eileen Romano

    I love that this is a low sodium recipe. So many rubs are soooooo salty. And these are amazingly tender too. Never would have thought of doing it in the oven and then on the grill.

  2. Peggy Sutter

    Love, love, love this simple recipe for perfectly cooked, fall off the bone ribs. This is the perfect recipe for smoking ribs especially when you don’t have hrs to tend to the smoker. Thank you for sharing a great recipe.

    • Tony Bailey

      That’s great, thanks so much for trying the recipe and sharing the results. I actually made these today as well and was really impressed. Forgot how good they can be. Smokey meat and not salty!

  3. Douglas Jones

    I have been two-steppin’ for years! Both ribs and briskets. I am dying to try the rub since I am low/no sodium these days. For me, 3 hours at 250 in the oven the finish on the makes ’em fall off the bone. Briskets get 1-hour/lb at 250 then onto the grill to finish. Wrap everything tight in two layer of foil. Roil the edges to make a foil pack.

    • Tony Bailey

      Great stuff Doug, thanks a bunch for sharing. I’ve never two-stepped with Brisket before in the oven and will give this a shot with your hour per pound approach. I’ve done this similarly with success in the Pressure Cooker and have a recipe on the blog for that approach as well.

  4. Excellent flavor on this low sodium rub! Heavy on the sweetness, but that can be balanced by a finishing sauce. I didn’t do the cooking method described here, I just did my usual 5ish hours at 250, turned out great! Thank you!

  5. Any ideas about cooking this in a slow cooker instead?

  6. Can they be completely cooked in oven or a slow cooker don’t use grill or smoker. Going to try this . I no longer can have salt or sodium.

    • Sure thing. They are basically done at the end of the first step. Finishing on the grill will dry them out (they are super moist and hard to handle out of the foil) and crisp off the outside. You could do the same with the broiler in your oven.

  7. jeffrey brown

    You can not bake ribs then smoke, no, no, no. That will ruin the meat. Smoke then bake. Love the rub.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.