Love ribs? So do we! We’ve done the research, tried lots of recipes, and we’re sharing our tips for the best ribs in town. Follow along and get ready to enjoy.
Gosh, it’s hard to beat well-seasoned, tender, juicy ribs. They’re messy, delicious, and bring out a little of the cave man (and woman) in all of us. It might seem intimidating to grill ribs because of the long amount of time required to get them “just right” – many deem it more of an art than a science. However, because the best method is low and slow, you actually have a greater margin of error because a few minutes extra won’t cost you like it would when cooking a steak on the grill. The key is prepping your ribs well and following a few tips on indirect and direct heat to make you feel like a “seasoned” (pun intended) BBQ legend.
We’re guessing you’ve noticed that all ribs are not created equal. There are three more common types of ribs you can purchase at the store, each with a slightly different texture and flavor. (Pro Tip: don’t forget to look for the G.A.P. Animal Welfare Certified label – quality does indeed start with better animal welfare.)
- Baby back ribs – the most common rib at the store. They are smaller, meatier and leaner, and the bones are more curved.
- Spare ribs – these are larger than baby backs with flat bones. They have more connective tissue, which means they’ll meld together and get very tender after cooking them (slow and low) for awhile.
- St. Louis-style ribs – these are spare ribs with the tips removed. If you don’t notice by looking at the bones, check the label. You’ll also notice that these come in a smaller, more rectangular package.
Now let’s get down to business…
Step #1: Prep the meat
Most store-bought ribs have a “silverskin”, a membrane on the underside of the ribs. You need to remove this before you cook. Insert a knife between the membrane and the meat at one end of the ribs (on the side with all of the bones), and work your fingers or the knife under the skin until you can get a hold on a size-able piece of it. (It’s going to be slippery, so you might want to use a paper towel to help get a better grip.) Then, just slowly pull it all the way off. It should peel off cleanly – pretty satisfying if you ask us.
Step #2: Marinate
Pork is tasty as is, but marinating adds so much flavor! Making a marinade is easy. You just combine a few ingredients and spices and let the ribs soak in the mixture overnight. We’ve got a great marinade recipe on our site, so check it out. Place the ribs in a shallow baking dish or deep cookie sheet, and pour about 2/3 of the marinade over the meat before placing in the fridge overnight. If you think about it, flip the ribs before you go to bed so that both sides fully marinate. Keep the rest of the marinade in a container in the fridge to use the next day while you’re grilling.
Step #3: Rub
To really kick things up a notch, add a spice rub to your marinated ribs the next day before grilling. Here’s the link to the marinade recipe that also includes an easy rub recipe at the bottom. Take the ribs out of the fridge and throw away the marinade from the pan. Pat the ribs dry a bit to help the rub stick, then rub the spice mixture over both sides of the ribs, patting it down to help it stick. Use most of the rub on the meaty side and only about ¼ on the side with the bones.
Step #4: Grill
The key is to cook ribs over an indirect flame, to give them time to get tender and juicy. The connective tissue in the rib slowly melts away, which is what makes them so tender. If you cook them over high heat, the meat will turn chewy and tough, so don’t rush them. Cook on a (clean) charcoal grill or gas grill over indirect medium heat and oil the grates of the grill before placing the ribs on. Grill them covered for 30 minutes on each side. After about an hour, move the ribs to direct medium heat and cook 20-30 minutes longer, or until they reach an internal temperature of 190°F. Remember to turn and baste with the reserved marinade (or barbecue sauce, if you prefer) every 5 minutes or so (but only in this last 20 minutes). Warning: if you’re basting, make sure that the caramelized sauce on the outside isn’t burning or turning too dark. You don’t want to ruin your masterpiece at this point!
Note: if you’re cooking ribs on a Big Green Egg, use the plate setter for indirect heat. You will want to heat your Egg to about 275-300F.
Step #5: Test
We’ve all heard the saying: Good ribs should “fall off the bone.” But that’s a tricky statement. If they actually started falling off of the bone while you’re cooking, you’re going to a) lose the precious meat in the bottom of your grill and b) have overcooked the meat until it was so dry that it fell off. Once you start to see the meat begin to pull away from the ends of the bones, they are probably ready. Just pierce the meat with a fork and make sure it glides through the meaty part of the rib easily. Try a meat thermometer too, and make sure they’re at about 190°F. If everything checks out, remove the ribs from the grill and cue the mouth-watering!
Step #6: Rest and enjoy
After letting your ribs rest for 10-15 minutes, carefully cut them into two-bone sections. Make the cuts as close to the bone as possible so there’s a lot of meat on each one.
Serve with your favorite sides, your favorite beer or drink, and a stack of napkins or wet naps. We hope you take the time to enjoy the “meat” of your labor and take a delicious bite out of summer. Happy grilling!