How To Grill Ribs


Grilling ribs is a timeless summer tradition that brings family and friends together around the barbecue. However, if the meat isn’t cooked right, this classic dish can quickly turn into an unappetizing mess. Fortunately, grilling perfect ribs isn’t as complicated as it may seem. With a few simple tips and techniques, you can easily elevate your barbecue game and cook tender, juicy ribs every time.

Choosing The Right Ribs

The first step towards grilling perfect ribs is choosing the right cut of meat. The type of ribs you use – baby back, spare, or St. Louis-style – will affect the cooking time, texture, and flavor of the dish. Baby back ribs are typically leaner and more tender, making them a bit more expensive. Spare ribs, on the other hand, are meatier and have a more intense flavor. St. Louis-style ribs are somewhere in the middle – less fatty than spare ribs but thicker and more flavorful than baby back ribs.

Selecting The Right Wood And Seasoning

The next important factor is choosing the right wood and seasoning. For flavor, ribs are best cooked with hardwoods such as mesquite, hickory, or oak. These woods lend a unique smoky flavor to the meat, creating an unforgettable taste. When it comes to seasoning, it’s best to keep it simple. A good rub of salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika will do the trick. Rub the mix generously all over the ribs, then let them sit for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

Preparing The Grill

Before throwing the ribs on the grill, it’s crucial to properly prepare the grill. Ensure that the grill is clean and that the grates are oiled to prevent the meat from sticking. Preheat the grill to medium-low heat (about 250°F to 275°F) so that the ribs cook through without charring too quickly. If using a gas grill, only light one side of the burners and place the ribs on the unlit side for indirect cooking. If using a charcoal grill, set up a two-zone fire by stacking the charcoal briquettes on one side of the grill and leaving the other side empty.

Cooking The Ribs

When you’re ready to cook the ribs, place them bone-side down on the grill grates, then cover the grill and let the ribs cook for about 3-4 hours. The key to cooking perfect ribs is keeping a close eye on the temperature. If the grill is too hot, the meat will cook too quickly and become tough. If it’s too cold, the meat will never fully cook, leaving it raw in the middle. Adjust the temperature as needed throughout the cooking process to ensure the ribs cook evenly without burning.

After the first hour of cooking, it’s important to start mopping or basting the ribs with a sauce of your choice. This helps to keep the meat moist while adding extra flavor. Be sure to brush the ribs lightly with the sauce, rather than slathering it on too thickly. Too much sauce will cause the sugar to burn and the ribs to become too sweet.

Checking The Temperature

After 3-4 hours of cooking, it’s time to check the temperature of the meat. Use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness. Pork ribs are safe to eat at an internal temperature of 145°F, but for truly tender ribs, aim for a temperature of 185°F to 195°F. Once the ribs reach your desired temperature, remove them from the grill and let them rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.


Grilling ribs is a skill that can take some time to master, but with a bit of practice and patience, anyone can become an expert. Remember to start by choosing quality meat, using the right wood and seasoning, properly preparing the grill, and carefully monitoring the temperature and cooking time. With these tips and techniques, you’ll be cooking perfect, tender, and flavorful ribs every time. So fire up the grill, invite some friends over, and get ready to enjoy one of summer’s most delicious meals.

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How long should I grill ribs?

Grilling time for ribs

It depends on the type and thickness of the ribs, as well as the grill temperature. In general, you should grill ribs for 1.5 to 2.5 hours at a temperature of 225-250°F. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the ribs, making sure they reach at least 165°F.

Should ribs be wrapped in foil when grilling?

Wrapping ribs in foil

Many grillers wrap ribs in foil during the cooking process to help keep them moist and tender. This is called the “Texas Crutch.” After a few hours of smoking, wrap the ribs in foil and add some liquid such as apple juice. Place the foil-wrapped ribs back on the grill and continue cooking until they are tender.

What is the best way to season ribs for grilling?

Seasoning Ribs

Everyone has their own favorite seasoning blend for ribs, but a good basic rub includes paprika, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper. Mix together the spices and rub onto the ribs generously, making sure to cover every surface. Let the seasoning sit on the ribs for at least 30 minutes before grilling.

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