Tender and Moist Smoked Rib Brine Recipe

spices for ribs
To create a smoked rib brine, combine 4 parts water with one part brown sugar. Add plenty of Kosher salt, black pepper, and any seasonings you want to infuse into the meat such as garlic powder, onion powder, or paprika. Soak the ribs (membranes removed) in the mixture overnight. Then pat dry before smoking as usual.

A delicious smoked rib brine brings out the best in your rack of ribs. Brining infuses the ribs with moisture and makes them tender while giving them some flavor, depending on what spices you’ll use.

How to Brine Smoked Ribs

To brine ribs, you’ll need to mix a solution of salt, sugar, and water and then soak the ribs in the mixture for several hours or overnight.

The salt and sugar in the brine solution help to break down the fibers in the meat, making it more tender. The liquid can also add moisture to either smoked or BBQ ribs, which can be especially useful if you plan on cooking them for a long time.

Simply follow this step-by-step guide to brining smoked ribs:

  1. Combine salt and sugar in a large pot or container. Add enough water to cover the ribs and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve.
  2. Add any additional seasonings or flavors to the brine – such as garlic powder, smoked paprika, onion powder, black pepper, chili powder, cumin, or other herbs and spices.
  3. Place the ribs in the brine, making sure they are fully submerged. Cover the pot or container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours minimum or up to 24 hours.
  4. Remove the ribs from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.
  5. Smoke your ribs according to your recipe, and enjoy!

Tools Needed to Brine Ribs

To brine ribs, you will need the following equipment:

  • A large container to hold the ribs and the brine solution – can be a large pot, plastic container, or food-grade plastic bag.
  • A refrigerator to store the ribs and brine solution while they are brining.
  • A whisk or spoon to mix the brine solution.
  • Measuring cups and spoons for portioning ingredients.

What Ingredients Are Usually Added to Brine?

The most common brine ingredients for ribs include:

  • Herbs and spices. Herbs and spices help to customize the flavor of the meat.
  • Salt. This is the main ingredient that helps to tenderize the meat and add flavor.
  • Sugar. The sweetness of sugar balances out all the flavors and is also a preservative.
  • Water. This is used to dissolve the salt and sugar and create the brine solution.
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bbq ribs on grill

Cinnamon & Peppercorn Smoked Rib Brine Recipe

  • Author: Alexandra
  • Total Time: 28 hours


I’ve got a little trick to make your ribs so tender you’ll be able to cut them with a butter knife. The cinnamon sticks and peppercorns add a little spice to your beef or pork ribs, and the apple cider makes it sweet, so it’s a perfect balance for baby back ribs!


Units Scale
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 cups apple cider or apple juice
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves


  1. Put a large pot on your stove and pour the water and apple cider inside along with the rest of the brine ingredients.
  2. Cover the pot with a lid and allow the mixture to boil for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the pot from the stove and let it sit at room temperature until it cools down. You can add ice to help it cool faster.
  4. Place about 1 cup of the cooled brine into a spray bottle.
  5. It’s time to trim your rib rack: remove the membrane from the back of the ribs (bone side) so that the brine flavors can better penetrate the meat.
  6. Place ribs in the brine mixture. Both sides of the ribs should be completely submerged.
  7. Cover your ribs with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
  8. Place the ribs in the fridge and let them sit for 24 hours.
  9. After brining, prepare your smoker – preheat to 225°F and place your desired wood chunks (hickory, mesquite, applewood) inside.
  10. Place ribs on grill grates and smoke until it reaches the ideal internal temperature
  11. Get ribs out of the smoker, place them on the cutting board, and cut right between the bones. Serve with your favorite sides and barbecue sauce!
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Brine Time: 24 hours
  • Cook Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes


  • Serving Size: 6 ribs (half rack)
  • Calories: 668kcal
  • Sugar: 11g
  • Sodium: 531mg
  • Fat: 45g
  • Saturated Fat: 16g
  • Carbohydrates: 13g
  • Fiber: 0.3g
  • Protein: 48g
  • Cholesterol: 176mg

Should Ribs be Brined Before Smoking?

There are a few different reasons why you might want to consider brining ribs before smoking them:

  1. Brining can help to tenderize the ribs by dissolving the protein in the muscle fibers. This can make the ribs softer and easier to chew.
  2. A brine solution can prevent meat from drying out during the smoking process and keep ribs moist.
  3. Brining can add flavor into the meat. You can add herbs and spices to the brine you like to enhance flavor.

Should Brined Ribs Also Be Marinated?

Both brining and marinating can be helpful techniques for adding flavor and tenderness to ribs, and they can be used in combination or separately, depending on your needs.

Marinades usually involve an acidic element like lemon or cider vinegar that break down the protein. When left for more extended periods, it can make the meat mushy. With brining, you can let your ribs sit for a longer time.

Marinades are typically used for smaller meat cuts while brining is done for larger meat cuts. Brining helps bring moisture, while the point of marinating is to increase the flavor of your ribs.

Ultimately, whether or not you choose to brine or marinate your ribs will depend on your preferences and the specific recipe you’re following.

Do Brined Ribs Need a Rib Rub?

If you dry brine (rub the ribs with salt), you don’t have to use a rib rub. However, you can combine your dry rub in the brining solution – a wet brine is excellent for encouraging the formation of moisture, and a dry rub is good for flavor (and you can pick the rub ingredients you want to flavor your meat with).

The primary purpose of brining is to make the meat juicy, not to add flavor. So complementing this with some herbs, spices, and other flavorings will do your ribs some good.

Some people may prefer the flavor of brined ribs without a rib rub, while others may find that the additional flavor and texture provided by a rib rub enhances the overall dish.

How Long Does it Take to Brine Ribs?

The amount of time it takes to brine ribs will depend on the type of ribs you have and the specific recipe you’re following. In general, ribs can be brined from several hours to overnight, with the exact timing depending on the size and thickness of the ribs and the desired level of flavor and tenderness.

Unlike marinades, you can brine a piece of meat for a long time without affecting its texture so that it won’t become mushy.

Benefits of Brining Ribs Before Smoking

There are several benefits to brining ribs before smoking them:

  • Enhanced juiciness
  • Enhanced moisture retention.
  • Improved flavor
  • Improved tenderness
  • Increased shelf life
  • Prevents drying out

Brine Flavor Variations for Smoked Ribs

The best brines add layers of flavor to your meat, and you can do this by adding different seasonings to the brine.

Here are 5 ways to change up your brining liquid:

1. Coffee Brine

To add a kick of bitterness to your brine that will also add a depth of bold flavor, add a few cups of cold brew to your brining liquid.

2. Beer Brine

This is nice and light and can be made with any beer. For example, you could use a pale ale or a stout, depending on what kind of flavor profile you’re going for.

3. Apple Cinnamon Brine

This brine is excellent for fall flavors, but it’s also perfect all year round.

4. Citrus and Herbs Brine

The combination of bright citrus, pepper, herbs, vinegar, and brown sugar is a fit for any pork meat you can imagine, including ribs!

5. Spicy Citrus Brine

A spicy and zesty citrus brine is perfect for adding an extra punch of flavor to ribs!


Alexandra is a passionate writer who loves everything related to food: from buying local produce and sourcing the best ingredients to finding the perfect spice mix and sauce to complement each dish. She loves getting together with friends near a campfire and grilling up some barbecue goodness while having quality conversations - no screens allowed.

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