How to Grill Ribs
Don’t have access to a smoker? Well you can still cook a mouthwatering rack of ribs on your grill. Want to become a Yoda of the grilled rib? Just follow these simple steps and you will receive legendary wisdom and become a master of perfecting time and temperature each time!
Picking Your Ribs
Choose your ribs – go beef or pork. Want pork – you can go baby back (these can be a bit trickier to prepare) or the easier to prepare pork spare ribs. No matter which type of meat or cut you choose I still recommend getting them from your local butcher. Your rack of ribs should be pink in color, and should not have been frozen. For maximum flavor do not pick these up more than a day or two before you planning on grilling them.
Prepping Your Ribs
Preparation is the key. The night before you are going to grill your ribs, remove the membrane off the back side of the ribs. There is some debate on removing the membrane but almost all competitive BBQ teams do this.
Slather your ribs. Slathering is a thin coating of mustard, olive oil, vinegar, honey or Worcestershire that is thinly (this is a key) applied and becomes a bonding agent that better holds the dry rib rub to the meat and more rub means maximum flavor. After you’ve slathered then generously season your ribs with dry rib rub. I like to use roughly 2 tablespoons of rib rub per lb. of meat. Shake the rub onto the ribs and then with your hands rub it into the meat. Be sure to evenly coating both sides.
Place the slathered and rubbed ribs in the refrigerator overnight (we like 12-24 hours). Remove the prepared ribs from the fridge at least 1 hour before you are going to start grilling them. Place on the counter and let them warm to room temperature by cooking time.
Prepping the Grill
The grill you use is another personal choice --- a gas grill is easier to use, is faster to set up and clean while proponents of charcoal grills like the flavor better. But no matter which one you have the prep steps are the same.
1. Clean your grill grate. A clean grill minimizes sticking and picking up flavors of past adventures (or mis-adventures).
2. Wipe your grill grate down with olive oil. This helps to eliminate sticking.
3. Get a handy oven thermometer and place it on the part of the grill where you are going to be doing your rib grilling.
Using a Gas Grill
Now even though you are using a grill instead of a smoker you can still get that amazing smoked taste on your ribs. Pay attention to these little details and the payoff is enormous.
1. Using heavy duty aluminum foil, turn up the edges and form a cup or pouch. Fill the cup or pouch with wood chips (roughly 2 oz). For the most authentic flavor for your ribs here are 5 of the most popular smoking woods --- Hickory, Mesquite, Oak, Alder and Apple. Close the pouch and put a few slits in the top for the smoke to escape. Place the pouches close to the burners. Helpful hint --- have a few extra pouches on standby so that you can quickly replace the exhausted wood supply as needed.
2. Turn on your grill and heat it to 240 degrees (use you oven thermometer to check).
3. For added moisture for your ribs you can place a disposable aluminum pan, filled with water, on top of the grill grate.
Using a Charcoal Grill
Using a charcoal grill is a little trickier than a gas grill but still workable.
1. Time for the charcoal – I prefer to use briquettes instead of lump coal as lump coal tends to burn hotter and faster.
2. Heat your charcoal – once they are white hot push them to one side of the grill.
3. Place your favorite flavor of wood chips (see gas grill section for the most popular flavors) directly on top of the charcoals. Helpful hint – start with a little wood (i.e. no more than 2 oz.) then next time you grill ribs add a little more. You want to find the ideal balance for your tastes and your grill ribs that are too smoky do not taste good).
4. Place a disposal aluminum pan on the bottom of the grill opposite the charcoal and wood chips.
5. Using your oven thermometer heat the grill to 240º F .
Time to Start Grilling Ribs
The big secret As soon as your grill has reached the desired temperature it is time to place your seasoned ribs onto the grill grate. Make sure that these are placed opposite of the burner or coals and then cover with the lid. The key to great rib grilling is balance. Balance in your seasoning, moisture and smoke. Top tip – cook slowly, a good rack of ribs when properly cooked will take 3-5 hours.
1. Check on your ribs every 45 minutes to be sure that your temperature remains constant.Are They Done Yet?
2. When you check your temperature check your water levels as well – add more water as needed.
3. For additional moisture and flavor use a mop sauce during cooking to keep your ribs moist. A super simple mop is to add 2 tablespoons of your dry rub to one cup of apple cider vinegar or beer. Then using a small brush you can “mop” this on the ribs during cooking or you can even just use a clean spray bottle and just spray it on during cooking.
4. If you are using a charcoal grill, add more coals as needed to maintain your desired temperature.
5. Add wood chips to keep your smoke consistent in order to penetrate the meat (again stay with small amounts of wood until you’ve cooked several times).
6. Do not open the lid. You should only open the grill when checking at 45 minute intervals. The more often you open the top the more the temperature drops, the more charcoal and wood you have to add and the longer it takes to cook.
At the three hour mark check your ribs. Follow these three tips to see when you’re done.
1. Using a meat thermometer, insert into the thickest part of the ribs. It should be at least 165 degrees (if not they aren’t done).
2. A toothpick slides easily into the meat (if not they’re not done).
3. The meat should be whitish towards the bone and pinkish towards the surface (if not…)
Depending on how thick your rack of ribs are and how many slabs you are trying to cook at one time, it will take 3 to 5 hours to grill. With some practice you’ll become a Yoda of the grilled rib in no time.
Want to learn how to smoke ribs like a pro? Then be sure to check out The 12 Secrets to Cooking Smoked Ribs.