Ribs Bone Up Or Bone Down? Does It Make A Difference?

Ribs on smoker

Smoking ribs can be challenging, but a set of ribs done right is worth that challenge. While there are a lot of guides out there on how to smoke ribs, there isn’t much talking about the details of smoking ribs. I constantly see people asking, do you smoke ribs bone up or bone down? Do you flip ribs when smoking?

In this article, I’m going to go over some of those basic questions so we can get one step closer to perfecting our smoked ribs.

Do You Smoke Ribs Bone Up Or Bone Down?

You should always smoke ribs bone side down. This will allow for the best smoke penetration into your meat while the natural curvature of the ribs helps prevent pooling of liquid on the meat. Bone side down can also help protect the meat from burning.

4 Reasons You Should Smoke Ribs Meat Side Up

Most Smoke Flavors:

When smoking meat, its often a challenge to see how much smoke flavor we can impart into the meat. When it comes to ribs, meat side up is going to do just that. When you smoke ribs meat side down, the areas of the meat that touch the grates are not going to take on any smoke flavor and create the yummy bark we are after. Instead, by smoking ribs meat side up we can maximize the surface area that our bark can form.

Ribs on charcoal smoker

Prevent Pooling of Juices:

Due to the natural curvature of ribs, if you smoke ribs bone side up, it creates a bowl of sorts that prevents moisture and fat renderings from dripping off the ribs. While this might sound like a good thing, smoke can’t penetrate liquid. The pooling of liquid on meat will prevent the smoke from penetrating and creating the bark.

Protects Ribs From Heat Source If Not Already Indirect:

While most smokers should already be cooking indirectly, smokers can have hot spots or run hot in general. Because the heat source in smokers almost always comes from below, having the bone side down when smoking ribs helps prevent you from burning your ribs. The bone act as an insulator protecting the meat of the ribs from the heat.

bark on ribs


They say you eat with your eyes. When smoking ribs meat side up, you are going to get a nice even bark formation that will look appetizing to all. And while smoking, bone side up won’t change the flavor of the meat, you can be left with marks on the meat from where the meat makes contact with the cooking grates. To make sure your bark formation is even and presentable, smoke ribs meat side up.

Do You Wrap Ribs Meat Side Up Or Meat Side Down?

Once you wrap your ribs, it doesn’t make a difference if you smoke your ribs bone up or bone down. Wrapping your ribs prevents them from taking on more smoke and traps any moisture trying to escape; therefore, the benefits of smoking ribs bone down no longer benefit us.

In fact, most people prefer to smoke ribs meat side down after wrapping. Because the ribs can’t take on any more smoke once wrapped, finishing them meat side down lets the meat baste in the juices and sugar trapped at the bottom of the wrap. This can help add more flavor to the ribs.

Ribs meat down in foil

Do You Flip Ribs When Smoking?

You should not flip ribs when smoking. You should leave the bone side down during the entire cook for all the same benefits mentioned above. There is no benefit to smoking ribs meat side down unless you have wrapped your ribs.

Should You Rotate Ribs When Smoking?

While you shouldn’t flip ribs, there might be a need for you to rotate your ribs 180 degrees. This is largely dependent on the smoker you are using. If you are using a smoker that has hot spots, or areas that cook hotter, or you are using a smoker like an offset smoker where the heat source is coming from the side, you should rotate the ribs every hour.

This will ensure that you are cooking the meat evenly. If your smoker cooks evenly like the Weber Smokey Mountain, then there is no need to rotate your ribs while smoking.

Smoked cherry ribs

Should You Use A Rib Rack When Smoking Ribs?

Rib racks, like this one on Amazon, can be very helpful when smoking multiple racks of ribs at the same time. Rib racks position ribs so that they sit on their side as opposed to flat on the smoker. This allows you to fit more ribs on your smoker.

Subsequently, by using a rib rack, you don’t need to worry about bone up or bone down because the ribs lay on their side. You really only need to use a rib rack when you are smoking multiple racks of ribs and can’t lay them all down on the smoker.

Michael W.

Half of my family lives in Texas and we would visit them often. As a food lover, naturally I fell in love with smoked meat. Smoked brisket and peach cobbler is a staple around where my family grew up and quickly became a favorite of mine. Unfortunately we didn't have good BBQ where I grew up. After enough years, I finally decided to get a smoker so I didn't have to wait for good BBQ until I went to Texas. Getting into a new hobby can be overwhelming. When I first started smoking meat, there was so much conflicting information and so many different styles and techniques that I didn't know where to start. I started this website to help people BBQ better and learn the ropes by sharing my knowledge and experiences.

Recent Posts