How To Cook Ribs On A Charcoal Grill

How to Cook Ribs on a Charcoal Grill

Few things are as satisfying as the taste of perfectly cooked ribs straight from a charcoal grill. Though many may prefer to leave the rib cooking up to the professionals, it is possible to achieve delicious results right at home. In this article, we’ll guide you step by step through the best way to cook ribs on a charcoal grill, from selecting the right cut of meat to selecting wood chips and monitoring temperature.

Selecting the Right Meat

The first and most important step in preparing ribs is selecting the right cut of meat. For grilling, pork ribs are the most common and readily available. St. Louis-style ribs are an excellent choice, as they have more meat and less bone than other cuts. When selecting your ribs, look for meat that is fresh, with a bit of marbling for extra flavor and tenderness.

Preparing Your Ribs

Once you’ve selected your meat, it’s time to prepare it for the grill. This starts with removing the membrane, or silver skin, that covers the underside of the ribs. Use a small, sharp knife or a butter knife to loosen the membrane, then grip the edge with a paper towel and pull it off. Removing the membrane is essential for allowing spices and smoke to penetrate the meat.

Seasoning Your Ribs

One of the keys to delicious ribs is seasoning them properly. Though there are many great dry rubs available for purchase, it’s easy to make your own. A basic rub might include salt, brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, and onion powder, though the spices can be adjusted based on your personal preferences. Be generous with the rub and coat both sides of the meat, gently patting it into the surface.

Using Wood Chips

Adding wood chips to your charcoal grill can take your ribs from good to great. Soak your chips in water for at least 30 minutes before using them, then add them to the coals just before placing your ribs on the grill. Hickory and mesquite chips are popular for smoking, but don’t be afraid to experiment with different woods for varying flavors.

Heating Your Grill

The best way to grill ribs on a charcoal grill is through indirect heat, which means that the heat source will be placed to one side of the grill, and the meat will be placed on the opposite side. Preheat your grill to 225°F to 250°F, making sure that the coals are spread evenly before placing a drip pan beneath the meat to catch any excess fat and juices, helping to keep the grill clean.

Grilling Your Ribs

After you’ve properly prepared your meat and preheated your grill, it’s time to start cooking. Place your seasoned ribs on the opposite side of the grill from the coals, over the drip pan, and cover the grill with the lid. You’ll want to monitor the grill temperature, keeping it at 225°F to 250°F. Cook your ribs low and slow for several hours, depending on the size and cut of the meat.

Basting Your Ribs

During the last 30 minutes of cooking, you can start to baste your ribs with a barbecue sauce or mop sauce. This will add an extra layer of flavor while also helping to keep the ribs moist. Use a brush to coat the meat with sauce, and be careful not to let it burn.

Checking for Doneness

The best way to check if your ribs are properly cooked is to use a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, being careful not to touch the bone. Pork should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F, but for ribs, you’re looking for 165°F to 175°F for a fall-off-the-bone tenderness. If the meat needs more time, cover it and keep cooking, checking the temperature every 30 minutes.


Cooking ribs on a charcoal grill isn’t always easy, but with a bit of practice and attention to detail, anyone can achieve delicious results. By selecting the right cut of meat, properly seasoning and preparing it, using the right wood chips, and monitoring the grill temperature, you can make mouth-watering ribs that are sure to impress your guests.

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Frequently Asked Questions – How To Cook Ribs On A Charcoal Grill

What is the best way to prepare ribs for grilling?

To prepare the ribs for grilling, remove the membrane from the back of the ribs and trim off excess fat. Apply a dry rub or marinade and let the ribs sit in the refrigerator overnight to enhance flavor. Take the ribs out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before grilling to allow them to come to room temperature.

What temperature should I cook ribs on a charcoal grill?

Heat the grill to 225-250°F and maintain that temperature throughout the cooking process. Cook the ribs directly over the charcoal for about 4-5 hours, flipping them every hour or so.

How do I know when the ribs are done?

The best way to check if the ribs are done is to use a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer between the ribs, making sure not to touch the bone. When the internal temperature reaches 160-170°F, the ribs are done. Another way to check if the ribs are ready is to perform the “bend test”. Pick up the ribs with tongs and gently bend them, if the meat pulls away from the bone easily, then they are done.

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