How to Make Smoked BBQ Ribs

by A Manly Guest Contributor on May 17, 2013 · 49 comments

in Cooking, Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

final product

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Jeff Mcintyre.

Learning basic cooking skills was not a priority for me while growing up. The transition from a fully fed teenager to a totally independent and clueless in the kitchen college freshman was painful. I quickly lost my appetite for fast food and frozen dinners. Luckily, something about outdoor cooking had always intrigued me. I began reading about grilling techniques and quickly got hooked. Grilling introduced me to the art of preparing great meals. Today I consider cooking one of my greatest passions.

There is good reason why pork ribs are such a dominant fixture on the competition grilling circuit. Cooking delicious ribs shows a great command of the barbecuing process. This may sound intimidating, but the best thing about cooking ribs is that it comprises a series of simple steps you can master and reap the delicious benefits.

How to Purchase Pork Ribs

Pork Ribs are widely available at your local supermarket, meat market, or wholesale grocer like Costco. If you are a Costco member, I highly recommend purchasing ribs there. They offer high-quality meats at an affordable price.

Although there are seemingly endless types of pork ribs with a variety of labels, in reality there are only three types to consider.

Baby Back Ribs

These ribs are commonly referred to as loin ribs, back ribs, or Canadian back ribs. Taken from the top of the rib cage between the spine and the spareribs, baby back ribs are shorter and meatier than spareribs and take less time to cook.


Referred to as spareribs or side ribs, these ribs are taken from the belly side of the rib cage, below the baby back ribs area and above the sternum. Spareribs yield less meat than baby back ribs and contain more fat.

St. Louis Style Ribs

These are spareribs with the sternum bone, cartilage, and rib tips removed. After being cut, St. Louis style ribs have a rectangular shape.

How to Prepare the Ribs

Rinse and Cut

It may seem obvious, but this needs to be pointed out. The first step is to rinse the ribs under running cold water; making sure to get rid of any loose meat, fat, or bone particles. After rinsing, blot the slab dry with paper towels.

Cut off any dangling pieces of meat or fat. If these pieces are kept on the slab, they will burn and leave burn marks on your ribs.

On the bone side of the slab, you will notice a tough membrane covering the bones. Remove this membrane by getting between it and the meat at the wider end of the slab and ripping it off all the way to the narrow end.



Although the effectiveness of marinating pork ribs is debatable, I like to marinate them for a few hours before cooking as follows:

  • Place the ribs in a large, non-reactive roasting pan or a large bowl
  • Pour 3 to 4 cups of apple cider vinegar over them; enough to cover the ribs completely
  • Cut and squeeze the juice of 1 lemon directly into the bowl
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours

Apply a Dry Rub

dry rub

Applying a dry rub to your ribs is essential. The combination of salt, sugar, herbs, and spices will enhance the meat’s flavor, add some heat, and help promote a tasty surface crust. Use the following rub, make your own, or go with your favorite store-bought variation.

This recipe makes about 1 cup. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix with your hands. Store the remaining rub in an airtight jar away from heat or light; it will keep for at least 6 months.


  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika (hot paprika for an extra kick)
  • 3 tablespoons black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons salt (preferably coarse salt)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons celery seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Remove marinated ribs from the fridge and blot dry with paper towels. Apply a thin layer of vegetable oil to the ribs. The flavors in most dry rubs are oil soluble so this step will help the rub penetrate the surface of the meat. Apply a generous amount of the rub to both sides. Finally, wrap the ribs in foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

applying rub

Let’s Grill!

In this article, I describe the process of grilling spareribs with smoke on a gas grill. The meaningful differences when using a charcoal grill are in the way you set up your grill and how you apply the woodchips for the smoking process.

The only difference when grilling the different kinds of ribs is the cooking time; baby back ribs tend to cook a bit quicker due to their lesser fat content.

Grilling on indirect heat.

Ribs grill best with wood smoke and by cooking them slowly at low heat. We achieve this consistent low heat by grilling our meat indirectly. This simply means we turn up the heat on one side of the grill and we lay our meat down on the opposite side.

Indirect grilling on a gas grill.

Setting up your gas grill is pretty simple. If you have two burners, turn one of them on and leave the other one off. If you have three burners, turn off the two burners on the edges, or if you are having issues maintaining your goal temperature of 225 degrees, turn one of the edge burners on and leave the other two off.

Smoking with woodchips on a gas grill.

Smoke flavor makes your ribs even tastier! Simply follow the steps below and you will marvel at how rewarding it is to grill with smoke.

Purchase woodchips at home improvement stores or where you can buy a grill. My preferred woods to smoke with are hickory and mesquite. Both woods yield strong flavors quickly. Placing wood chips directly on the flame will cause them to catch fire and burn out quickly; producing a messy pile of ashes and very little smoke. House the woodchips in something that won’t burn; and will not produce toxic chemicals when under high heat. You have two options:

housing woodchips

  1. Purchase a woodchip smoker box — a onetime purchase that will set you back less than $20. These boxes are sturdy, durable, and work very well.
  2. Use foil. Use the simple technique shown in this video to house your woodchips.    

I have used both methods and find making your own “smoking pouch” with foil works just fine. I suggest starting with making your own smoker pouches and stick with this method if it suits your needs.

Most grilling experts recommend soaking woodchips (typically in water, but you can also use wine, beer, whiskey, and even fruit juice) for at least an hour prior to usage. Then drain and place them in your smoking pouch or smoker box.

Time to Turn Up the Heat!


Now that everything is ready, it is time to turn the burners on and play with fire! Place your smoker box or foil smoking pouch directly on top of one of the burners you will be using (refer to the indirect grilling instructions above). Turn the burner you placed your smoke box or smoking pouch on to maximum heat. Wait until you see some smoke coming out of the grill (waiting is key as opening the lid to check will only delay the process by letting the heat escape). Once you see smoke emitting from the grill, turn the burner to medium-low and place the slab of ribs on the grate over the burner not in use. Remember we are cooking slowly on indirect heat. Maintain a temperature of 225 to 235 degrees throughout the cooking duration. Eventually the woodchips will burn out; however, continue cooking the ribs without smoke until they are done. Your ribs will have picked up lots of flavor from the 45 minutes or so of smoke.

cook the ribs

You will need a spray bottle. Spray bottles are available for purchase in the gardening section of most grocery stores. Fill the spray bottle with a small amount of apple cider vinegar. Every 30 minutes or so, lift the lid of the grill and spray a bit of the apple cider vinegar directly on the ribs to coat them and prevent them from drying out. The ribs should be fully cooked within 4 to 5 hours. About 20 minutes before the ribs are done, spread a coat of your homemade or favorite store-bought BBQ sauce onto the ribs. Even better, try my favorite homemade BBQ sauce recipe:



  • 2 cups of ketchup
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite barbecue rub (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
  • 2 chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (optional)

Combine all ingredients (except the garlic cloves) in a nonreactive saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low/medium and add the garlic cloves. Let sauce simmer at least 15 minutes then remove the garlic cloves. Transfer the sauce to clean jars and store in the refrigerator. The sauce will keep for a couple of months.

Check for Doneness

The biggest obstacle with checking ribs for doneness is that you cannot use a meat thermometer. The thermometer will not read accurately because you cannot probe the meat deep enough without hitting the bone. Bones emit heat and will give an inaccurate reading. Despite this limitation, there are a number of ways to check your ribs for doneness:

  • Stick a toothpick between two bones. If it goes in and out of the meat without resistance, they are done.
  • Cut the bone on the end off and taste it for doneness.
  • Cut into the meat with a knife and check to make sure there is no pink juice near the middle of the meat.

final product

Try these ribs and tell me how good they are! Once you have given these ribs a try, I would love to hear how delicious they turned out. Better yet, send me a shout and I can attend! I will bring the cold beverages!

What are your secrets and tips for making awesome ribs? Share with us in the comments!


Jeff Mcintyre is a freelance writer that writes about his adventures as a writer, book lover, poker player, sports fan, prop bet addict, techie and food lover.  You can read more about his thoughts about these topics at and

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 D.D. Driver May 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm


Gas grills do not exist in this dojo.

2 Brant Holland May 17, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Here are my thoughts. Smoking is a misnomer. You should not actually see much smoke at all. The heavy white smoke given off by smoldering wood chips can often taste acrid. True BBQ is slow roasting with indirect heat from a fire. Very little smoke is generated by this but it requires an actual wood or charcoal fire. It also requires humidity and 4 to 5 hours of cooking time. The difference between that method and the recipe above is night and day.

3 Alan May 17, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Another way to eyeball “doneness” is when the meat starts to contract and pull back, exposing the ends of the bone. Don’t go too long after you see this or you will dry out.

4 Drew Berlfein May 17, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I’m not an expert but I have slept at a Holiday Inn Express! Instead of Marinating in Vinegar try using Dr. Pepper or Mr. Pibb, the flavor is amazing and the citric acid helps to break down the meat a little. I never use cooking oil on ribs instead as a base coat for the rub to stick on use your favorite mustard or for some heat use sriracha. Also a tip to check for doneness is to hold one side of your slab with tongs and if the slab bends like a gymnast or breaks THEY ARE DONE! Also you can use the bone method when the bone is visible about a 1/2″ they are done. Enjoy The Grill Gentlemen!

5 Jef May 17, 2013 at 6:05 pm

@ D.D. A lot of people go with Gas for the sake of convenience, to each their own, but I do admire your enthusiasm…

@Brant I agree this is grilling and not purely BBQ’ing… Like I said above, due to convenience, some people prefer gassing with woodchips

@Alan,I am a little weary of the “bone test”, I have had mixed results…

@Drew I find the “bounce method” very reliable and I do this sometimes when I don’t have my trusty meat thermometer around…

6 William May 17, 2013 at 7:29 pm

thank you for this, stuff like this is always been a curiosity to me, but i never had exposure to anyone who had a clue how to do it themselves(well) for me to learn and try it out.
the thought of grilling tugs at me, but my flat out cluelessness holds me back from creating a mess and wasting good meat. appreciated.

7 Brian May 17, 2013 at 10:29 pm

Gas grills essentially steam the meat. If you’re looking for convenience, then just use liquid smoke and do it in the kitchen. Grilling is not convenient. It’s a messy, inefficient way to prepare food that delivers great taste.

As for testing it’s “doneness”, meat cooked at 225 degrees for 4-5 hours is done. It’s beyond done. No need to check for “doneness” because it was cooked through several hours earlier. The prolonged cooking time with pork is one of grilling’s great surprises in that the lengthy process at low heat actually breaks the meat down and creates a more tender meal. The same goes for pork butt.

Bonus points for using mustard and pulling the membrane, though. A lot of people don’t use mustard, but it’s the one item that is a must. It’s a magical ingredient for smoked ribs. and I see too many people who don’t bother to pull the membrane off that end up with subpar ribs.

8 twill May 18, 2013 at 12:26 am

I must object on two ponts:
• I would argue you aren’t marinating, but tenderizing. Apple cider vinegar is just cetic acid and lemon juice is citric acid (yes, there’s a bit of flavor in each, but the acid is what’s doing the work — especially when you only marinate for 1–2 hours). Furthermore, your rub and sauce are bringing the flavor to the party, not the “marinade.”
• Don’t spray! You are just cooling your meat (there’s a reason mammals sweat and it works) and preventing a nice bark on your Q (a hallmark of slow & low smoker cooking).

9 Eric May 18, 2013 at 4:53 am

Nice article! Yet I always wondered about the fact that even when a lot of apple cider vinegar is used (for the marinade), people still add lemon juice. Doesn’t it make it a wee-bit too sour? Or does the brown sugar makes up for it? Here where I live (regards from Latvia :D ) rubs with brown sugar aren’t that popular. Anyway’s, thanks for the recipe. Eric.

10 bobster May 18, 2013 at 6:56 am

a minor variation: I put the rub on BEFORE the oil, rubbing it into the meat first, then slathering the oil on.

11 Mike Sweeney May 18, 2013 at 9:14 am

Someone using this recipe will be sorely disappointed in the results if they have every had good ribs. The dry rub is weak on the spices. You want kosher salt, not table salt. Add a touch of heat to the sweet with Chipotle pepper powder (just a touch, it goes a long way) and dipping chocolate powder (TJ) adds a smoky richness that will get people talking about the mystery ingredient. marinating is a joke. More importantly is to forgo the oil (dont need it) and rub a generous amount of the dry rub into the meat. Then cover and leave on the counter for a couple of hours. No, it wont go bad but the spices work their way into the meat and the meat normalizes in temp. I use an IR gas grill with Applewood chips. The applewood adds a touch of sweetness that works really well with the spicy peppers. The temp of the grill should be 200 degrees, not much hotter if you can avoid it. And the ribs will be done in about 2-3 hours. Less than conventional smoker but tender and tasty. Dont forget to turn them a few times. And make more than you think. I do 5 racks at a time and they evaporate at the block parties in 10 minutes or less :)

12 Jeremy S. May 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I grew up in the school of gas, but had to self teach in the charcoal/wood dojo.

Some tips: If you’re starting out or wanting to learn charcoal/wood, use “pork steaks” (sometimes “blade steak”. It’s basically a sliced Boston pork butt) (butt=shoulder. Don’t ask.). Pork steaks are pretty cheap, very forgiving (direct or indirect heat, no problems), and you can practice smoking, marinating, tenderizing, rubbing, saucing, etc. without breaking the bank on expensive cuts.

Finally, my hard earned method for any pork: Rub meat with olive oil, then yellow mustard, then rub of your choice (I use a sweet rub, Kansas City style). This method will not let you down.

13 Jeff May 18, 2013 at 12:51 pm

@William, your welcome. My advice is to just dive in. It might seem intimidating, but these techniques are quite simple, my advice is to just dive in… If you find it a bit intimidating at first, cook for yourself, or make sure you have a backup plan (anyone up for some pizza?) If you are looking for more info, look up Steve Raichlen’s how to grill or Jamie Purviance’s “Weber’s way to grill”.

@Brian I disagree about gas grills steaming meat. But again I do admire the enthusiasm of hardcore BBQ’ers (vs grillers). I personally think there is a place for gas grills, some people don’t want to fuss with charcoal and ashes, they don’t want to struggle with temp control (just turn a dial) and they don’t like to have too much cleanup. That being said, I do understand your points. Also, I do agree with overcooking (gradually) pork, melting collagens are magical!!! But this being a how to type of article, one of the most common questions asked by beginners is “how do I know when it’s done”
@Twill, yes tenderizing a lot more than flavoring. Good tip about spraying, I try to limit the amound I do so. Would you advocate using a mop sauce instead?

@Eric, I like brown sugar in my rubs, I find it promotes a nice bark… I don’t find this marinade produces a sour taste, but your comment provides food for thought…

@bobster Interesting, I might try that…

14 Brad May 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm

I am surprised that out of 13 comments (so far), no one has mentioned my favorite tip: Wrap the ribs tightly in heavy duty foil for about the last 45 minutes or so and let sit on a cooler part of the grill. This helps preserve juices and helps to “tenderize the meat. As for knowing when they are done, you know you have arrived at the master level of grilling when you can “smell” that they are ready. This is the most reliable way to know. If it smells right, it is!

15 Nate B May 18, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Quick suggestion that I have picked up since living in the south: Instead of Oil before the rub, try yellow mustard; It will caramelizes to a good bark quite nicely without leaving any off-putting mustard flavor. This is what I do now with all smoked pork!

16 Jeff May 19, 2013 at 12:31 am

Nate – That’s a few suggestions for mustard, I am definitely giving this a try next time I put some ribs on… Thanks for the tip

17 Matt S. May 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Wrapping your ribs in aluminum foil is good technique I’ve picked up on in my years of smoking ribs. I usaully do 3 hours of smoking and 3 hours of cooking the ribs wrapped in aluminum foil. Also if you like hickory try oak chances are you can get it for free.

18 Matt Matt May 19, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I agree with Brad wrapping in aluminum foil is a great tip!

19 John T May 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm

I have found that ribs that come in vacuum wrap packages have added salt. The spice rub does not need salt if you are using theses ribs. I wrap my ribs in double aluminum foil and pour in some apple juice or cider for the last hour. Then I unwrap them and add sauce.

20 minuteman May 19, 2013 at 8:59 pm

In m neck of the woods where its cold and snowy in the winter so we don’t BBQ year round, you can buy ribs for dirt cheap in the winter, Buy them on sale for 3 bucks a pound and throw them in the freezer for the summer when they are 10 bucks a pound.

I am familiar with dry rubs an marinating and cooking for five hours, but I can never plan that far ahead. I just put them on th top shelf of the BBQ, keep the heat low and cook for about three hours. I make a dipping sauce out of what ever is in the fridge. I am not going to claim they are as good as when you go the whole nine yards, but they are damn good with very little effort.

21 Matt May 20, 2013 at 7:41 am

If you don’t wanna make your own rub I suggest McCormick’s Smokehouse Maple. Its awesome.

22 Brandon May 20, 2013 at 8:23 am

Good article! I’m slowly working my way up the grilling/smoking skill ladder. Started with hamburgers/brats then steaks and chicken, moved on to pulled pork, and now I think its time for me to take the next step to ribs and then brisket. All of the homemade ribs i’ve had have been boiled then finished off on the grill. I honestly thought these tasted great. What’s the taste difference like compared to ribs cooked fully on the grill?

23 TJ May 20, 2013 at 8:43 am

For a little variety and it actually comes out delicious I make ribs as follows:
Put your favorite rub on the ribs and leave out for about an hour.
Cook on low heat with a smoker pouch for approximately 45 minutes…basically until the outside is cooked. Put the ribs in heavy duty foil that you fill with apple juice to cover the ribs…the apple juice and ribs are inside the foil. Let the ribs cook like this over low heat for an hour. Remove the ribs from the foil and cook on indirect heat until done. These come out great every time.

24 Jeremy Anderberg May 20, 2013 at 11:49 am

Jeff — I tried your BBQ sauce recipe this weekend, and it’s FANTASTIC. Thanks for that! I’m gonna make up a few batches and give it as Father’s Day gifts. Perfect timing there!

25 Jeff May 20, 2013 at 2:05 pm

@Brandon You dilute the flavors when you boil ribs. Flavor/Vitamins/Minerals, they are all pulled away from the meat. So I guess Grilled ribs taste more like ummm Ribs then parboiled.

@TJ Interesting, sounds like a no-fuss way to cook them…

@Jeremy – Glad you like the sauce!!!

26 Jon May 20, 2013 at 3:14 pm

I was taught with the 2-2-1 method by a (winning) competition cook and you can’t beat it for flavor or ease of cook.

1. Remove membrane and rinse.
2. Apply rub.
3. Put on smoker between 220-250 for 2 hours
3. Wrap ribs in foil with a little apple juice, beer, or any other liquid you like. I’ve gone as fancy as a mango nectar concoction and as rudimentary as a few splashes of the Leinenkugel I had in my hand. Place back on smoker for 2 hours.
4. Unfoil, coat with your favorite bbq sauce, and back on the smoker for 1 hour.

2 hours on the smoker
2 hours foiled and on the smoker
1 hour sauced and unfoiled on the smoker.

Great Success!

27 Jess May 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm

I always put the sauce on an hour into smoking, candies it up a bit.

I’d also suggest trying your hand at building an ugly drum smoker. Cheap, easy and smokes some mean ribs.

28 Kit May 20, 2013 at 7:01 pm

I make smoked pork ribs all the time (as well as brisket and pulled pork). I like to braise my meat before I smoke it… Its simpler to me and the meat falls apart – in a good way.

No need to brine/tenderize/marinate. (brine = salty, marinate = oily, tenderize = acid which makes pork a bit… yucky.)

Prep the ribs with dry rub (I go light on the sugar, and add herbs). Put on a cookie sheet, pour in some cheap beer (Miller High Life or PBR is best, don’t ask me why) to the halfway mark, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Cook in the over for 1.5 hours or so. Then transfer to the BBQ/smoker/grill with just smoking wood chips (I usually soak mine).

Oh yeah, and use kosher salt.

And you should definitely put bourbon in your BBQ sauce.

29 Dave May 20, 2013 at 7:59 pm

I prefer baby back ribs and use charcoal myself. After applying rub of choice I cook them for about 1 1/2 hours. I haven’t tried mustard yet but I will try it next time. Then they come off, get wrapped in foil with hot sauce, brown sugar, butter, etc. and cook for another hour and a half. Next, the ribs come out of the foil and cook for another hour. During the last half hour or so apply sauce of choice. Dripping from inside foil can be used in the sauce. Enjoy!

30 Jeff May 20, 2013 at 11:58 pm

@Kit, how much Bourbon would you recommend keeping in mind the measurements in the recipe ( 2 cups of ketchup)

31 Jono May 21, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Is the manly guest contributor Canadian, by chance? It looks like he got most of these ingredients at Sobeys.

32 Jeff May 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm

@Jono Guilty as charged, Atlantic Canada…

33 twill May 21, 2013 at 5:46 pm

@Jeff — I actually like my ribs “nekkid,” maybe with some sauce on the side (personally a big fan of a S. Carolina-style mustard sauce). I don’t mop or spritz but I do throw a water pan in there to add some moisture to the air, but I try to pop that lid open as sparingly as possible (“If you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’.”). For a couple years now, I’ve been a disciple of Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn (of, which you linked in your article). His site has a fantastic amount of information and a lot of it is science based (such as why bigger cuts hit a temp. stall, how effective brining is, etc.). Regardless, everybody tending a pit thinks they’re the master and everyone else is doing it wrong. You want to do it right? Do it how you like. Gas, fine. Charcoal, fine. Stick burner, fine. Just get out there, make some Q and enjoy it with family and friends.

34 Jeff May 21, 2013 at 7:39 pm

@Twill amen to that!!! I love amazingribs, no mistake that I referenced it…

35 Jason S May 22, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Re: Tenderizing versus marinading
It’s true. That’s just a tenderizing soak. A marinade must have salt and performs the same series of tasks that a brine does; it denatures the meat, changes the sweat temperatures and allows the meat to retain intracellular moisture longer under more heat.

A gas grill doesn’t steam. It cooks. The difference is taste- but even with that, a lot of people that tout taste in charcoal grilling are blowing a bit of smoke if they’re using manufactured briquettes. Ugh. Try some lump charcoal, gentlemen. You’ll thank yourselves for it. Also, if you want to be manly, you can make your own lump charcoal.

I have to admit, though, that this isn’t so much a barbecue recipe as it is a grill recipe. That doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious by any means, of course. It looks amazing! But barbecue is a very overused term these days. I’ve even run into people who braise some ribs and then call it barbecue ribs simply because they slapped a dry rub and a glaze on it at some point. Ugh.

36 Rex May 24, 2013 at 3:34 pm

OK, here’s how I grill my ribs. I’ll probably get crap for it, but my Son (17), the house foody, swears that he LOVES ribs done like this. And it’s ridiculously easy:
Ribs (Duh!)
Good quality BBQ sauce.
Charcoal, I prefer Mesquite myself.

Go out to a nice park, and find an open BBQ pit (park is optional).

Get a nice bed of coals going, and clean the grill & get it warmed up in the process.

Set the grill about 4 to 6 inches over the coals.

Coat the ribs in the barbeque sauce, thickly, and put them on the grill.

After awhile, coat the top with more bbq sauce and turn them over.

Coat, turn, coat, turn until they are done. That’s it.

37 HomeWolf May 25, 2013 at 8:56 am

I am fundamentally opposed to ketchup in bbq sauce. I am fundamentally opposed to rubbing Vegetable oil on the ribs. And I am fundamentally opposed to soaking it in pure apple cider vinegar.
These may seem like huge issues, but they’re just minor in the grand scheme. If you’re smoking your ribs and you’re cooking SLOWLY, then its going to taste just fine. All the other small things are up to personal taste.

38 Jack May 25, 2013 at 12:26 pm

get a fresh rib-rack from the Hutterites, (the best there is), boil the bejesus out of it for like 2 hours or so, drench it in your favourite marinade overnight, slap it on the BBQ for like 15-20 or so, and make sure you wear a bib… MAN!!!! that’s good, we’re having one this afternoon…

39 John May 25, 2013 at 7:52 pm

First and foremost, remove the thin membrane on the back side of the ribs. DO THIS EVERY TIME! Use a BUTTER knife and get under it to start pulling it away from the rack. Take a piece of paper towel between your fingers grab the piece you lifted off with the knife and pull slowly, it should come off in a single sheet.

Forget the “marniating” and simply put any sort of BBQ rub on it. There are plenty of good commercially produced ones or go to a BBQ forum, get a recipe that catches your eye and make it yourself. If you use sugar in the recipe use “Sugar in the raw” or “turbinado sugar” as it burns at a higher temp than regular granulated. If your recipe calls for salt, make sure it it NON-IODIZED to prevent off flavoring. Sea salt is the best I think.

Rub generously and let sit for 1-2 hours unrefrigerated before smoking.

Ribs should be cooked with charcoal. Don’t use the ready light stuff. Get a Charcoal chiminey starter and start it with newspaper…NEVER lighterfluid (can give an off flavor). Cook ribs “low and slow” with indirect heat at 250 degrees (25 degrees either side of 250 is acceptable). Add a bit of apple or cherry wood. Look for a thin blue wispy smoke and not billowing white or black smoke. Use chunks instead of chips and don’t bother soaking them. 3-4 fist sized chunks of cherry/apple wood will give you a nice smokey flavor. Much more than that and you could end up with bitter tasting ribs

Spares should take 4-5 hours @ 250 deg and Babybacks should take right around 3 maybe just a shade over depending on size.

You know they are done when the meat has pulled down from the ends of the bones and a toothpick inserted between ribs in the middle of the rack goes in like it was soft butter.

Leave the ribs dry and put sauce on the side for those that like it that way. If you’ve followed the advice here and you have a decent rub, you won’t need the BBQ sauce.

Ribs meat should offer a bit of resistance when you bite into it and ribs that are “fall off the bone” are technically “overdone”. But if that’s how you line ‘em…by all means.

40 Andy May 28, 2013 at 2:36 pm

In addition to wood chips, I pull fresh herbs from the garden (rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, rosemary) and alternate them with the wood chips, adding a bunch every 30 minutes or so when I top off the charcoal.
I agree with those above that this recipe cooks far too long. I’ve taken ribs to 4 hours and they dried out. Dry rub, 2 1/2 hours of smoke with some sauce painted on for just the last 1/2 hour.

41 sam June 3, 2013 at 3:35 pm

a lot of you are talking about coating the ribs in yellow mustard before the rub? how coated would you recommend? interested in trying this method but have never heard of it before…

42 Tim Gabe June 16, 2013 at 5:13 pm

I followed your instructions to the T. The ribs tasted like vinegar. I wasted $115
The ribs were not edible. I assume if you used apple juice not apple cider vinegar the result would be great. What is your response to my comment?? I am very disappointed with your rib instructions. You must like the taste of vinegar.

43 Joel July 5, 2013 at 5:36 pm

I used your recipe as a guideline and the ribs came out very well. It was my first time ever smoking ribs and my family ate them within minutes.

Here is what I did different…I chose not to marinade the ribs or use oil. Just washed them and removed the membrane and threw the rub on and allowed the ribs to sit in the fridge for 30 minutes. I used a very gratuitous amount of rub.

(sidenote: I used grillmates pork dry rub and Johnny Harris Hickory smoked bbq sauce from the grocery store for convenience…but I’m gonna try your recipes next time.)

I made 3 smoke bombs and smoked the ribs for about two hours around 250-300 degrees. I used the indirect method and put a water pan underneath the ribs to help regulate the temp. Then I added two more smoke bombs and smoked for another 2.5 more hours. I sprayed apple cider vinegar every 30 minutes.

Total smoking time was about 4.5 hours. I cut the ribs in half, removed the water pan, put the heat on high and grilled the ribs up adding the bbq sauce mentioned above until it was nice and caramelized.

They were awesome! Thanks for the help! Also, I’m curious about adding bourbon to the homemade bbq sauce. Not sure how much to add though.

44 Mandy July 15, 2013 at 2:21 am

Yes! Finally something about firewood rack.

45 Brady July 20, 2013 at 11:33 am

Interesting comments on here. Another consideration on using a gas grill is that it’s the only option some folks have. I live in an apartment complex in the city of Denver. I’m only legally allowed to have a gas grill on the patio. What’s a boy to do? He learns how to make the best damned ribs he can with the tools available to him.

It is said in photography that a good Photographer doesn’t dwell on what his lens isn’t capable of, but rather is concerned with what it IS capable of. I think the same holds true for grilling. I don’t use gas “because it’s convenient”, but rather because it’s what is available. I have to work a little harder, but I get the job done.

46 Tobethemanyougottabeattheman July 20, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I have done these ribs(baby back style) yesterday on a kamado wood charcoal grill with Mesquite wood chunks.I applied the 2-2-1- rule described in the comments below and the result are incredible.Thanks a lot!

47 Ralph "Red" Ruffinsohr July 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm

It’s important to not that when speaking of charcoal to avoid the briquettes. The latter are little more than sawdust held together in a matrix of other wood by-products, with a binder and other additives. The binder is usually starch. Some briquettes may also include brown coal (heat source), mineral carbon (heat source), borax, sodium nitrate (ignition aid), limestone (ash-whitening agent), raw sawdust (ignition aid), and other additives. Do you really want that s**t in your smoker? Try whole wood charcoal…it’ll leave little ash too.

48 ryan September 16, 2013 at 8:54 pm

I don’t suggest using vinegar ether. I use yellow mustard always as a bonding agent. one good stripe down both sides. then dry rub and sit for 30-60 min.

49 Tony April 9, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Tried your method on my propane grill and the results were great. I used to par boil the ribs and finish in the oven or grill, but never again! I used a dry rub and some wood chips, nothing else, not even any bbq sauce which my wife and I both love, and found the ribs amazing. This will my new preferred way of preparing ribs! Thanks

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