Baby Back Ribs For The Best BBQ Ribs On The Grill
Are you ready for the best BBQ ribs on the grill recipe? This is our first article in our new section for BBQ recipes (i.e. the actual grilling recipes for meat, ribs, chicken, etc.) so you can compliment all of the great BBQ sauce recipes we’ve been stockpiling for years now.
As a challenge to everyone, I’ve picked what’s probably the hardest thing to do. Slow cook BBQ ribs on the grill. For years I used to boil them in a brine of beer and spices as slow cooking ribs is hard to do because it’s hard to keep them moist. I don’t know how many times I’ve ruined ribs by letting them dry out. Hence my personal love for slow barbecuing pork shoulder most of the time. It’s just easy. But everyone likes ribs and the best (at least my opinion) and the most common now is Baby Back Ribs. So, Baby Back Ribs it is for our first step by step guide on proper slow barbecuing.
RULE #1 Slow cook!
The whole purpose of proper barbecuing is slow and low heat. That allows the meat to NOT overcook but to properly break down the fats, mylin, and other connective tissue in the meat to slowly melt away leaving that awesome tender texture we love about great BBQ.
Cooking Time & Temperature: We will be cooking low and slow at about 225°F, so allow 3 to 4 hours for baby back ribs. Thicker, meatier slabs take longer and if you use rib holders so they are crammed close to each other, add another hour.
Proper BBQ Grill: You can use a smoker or any charcoal grill as long as it has a cover, decent vents for controlling airflow. Gas grill, hummm, I’m not a fan of gas, but if you have a gas grill, okay. Needless to say, gas is easier to keep the temperture consistent but I think hardwood charcoal is the only way to go.
Charcoal: Hardwood Charcoal. It’s just the best, period. But do NOT use any lighter fluid of any kind. Use a chimney starter. I’ve been using these for years. Not only are they quick and easy, but you save the money on not having to buy starter fluid. And, most importantly, you never have the nasty smell or risk getting that starter fluid flavor into your food.
Hardwood for Smoke: 8 ounces by weight of hardwood chunks or chips. It doesn’t matter how much meat you are cooking, half a pound of wood is enough. I prefer chunks of Hickory or Mesquite. For whatever reason, Mesquite is my favorite. Be sure to soak the wood chips or chunks for at least 15 minutes so they smoke nicely and don’t just catch on fire when you put it on the coals.
Wood Chip Smoker Box (Optional): I’ve also used a wood chip smoker box. Home Depot had it and I gave it a try and they do work nicely. I don’t always use it as it can be a bit of a pain getting it on and off the coals as you need to add more charcoal as you slow BBQ.
1 pair of long handled tongs
1 sauce brush
1 oven thermometer
Prep the Meat:
1.) Rinse. Rinse the ribs in cool water then pat dry with paper towels.
2.) Remove the membrane from the back side of the ribs if it hasn’t already been done by the butcher. If you bought this from a butcher, they can do it for you but most likely you are just buying your meat at the local grocery and they don’t bother with this step. This can be a pain, but worth it when you go to eat the ribs. (Sometimes I just get lazy and I don’t bother with this step.)
3) Rub. Coat the meat with your favorite BBQ spice rub. You can make a basic Kansas City Style Rib Rub using this recipe. Or, take a look at our wide selection of BBQ dry rub recipes.
Kansas City Style Rub Recipe
- 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
- 1/4 cup paprika
- 1 Tablespoon black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 Tablespoon onion powder
- 1 Teaspoon cayenne
Simply mix all the ingredients together.
Grill Setup and slow barbequing:
4.) Setup your cooker for indirect cooking with 2 zones. That means the meat sits over a pan of water and not directly over the heat/coals. This the most important setup issue to properly grill ribs on the grill or any meat you wish to BBQ. You want the meat to slowly cook. Remember Rule #1! SLOW COOK!
5.) Keep your cooking temperature between 225°F and 250°F. Use your intake and exhaust vents to control the heat on your grill. Intake vents are more effective than exhaust vents for controlling the temperature because they reduce the supply of oxygen to the coals. Take your time getting the temperature right as this is the most important part of the whole process. Cooking at 225°F will allow the meat to roast low and slow, breaking down the collagen in connective tissues and melting fats without overcooking the meat. Try to keep the temperature as close to 225°F as possible. Don’t go under 200°F and try not to go over 250°F or you’ll either under cook or over cook the meat.
6.) Sprinkle your soaked hardwood chips on the fire. Don’t dump all your hard wood chips on the coals all at once. I like to put about 1/4 of them on at a time. Let them finish smoking and then put another handful on throughout the cooking process. That way, you get a nice slow smoking throughout the cooking process. Any one handful of chips burns up fairly quickly unless you are using the wood chip box. But dumping them on in 4 different batches during the cooking process seems to work well for me. I like the meat to be well smoked but you can over smoke. I’ve never managed to over smoke the meat, but I’ve heard you can do it by constantly putting too much wood onto the fire.
Some hints and tricks:
Spray bottle with apple juice: One technique to keep the meat moist is to have a spray bottle with apple juice in it. Once in awhile, simply mist the meat with the apple juice to keep the meat moist.
Wrap ribs in aluminum foil: This one is an age old trick to keep some of the juices in the meat but be careful as this can speed up the cooking process because you are in essence steaming the BBQ. When I’ve done this, I often make good size holes in the top of the aluminum foil so you balance keeping moisture in but not overcook or steam the ribs. I wouldn’t do this for longer than an hour of the cooking process as you can’t get the meat smoked if it’s wrapped in aluminum foil.