Fire up the grill and brace yourself for our succulent grilled pork ribs. This tender, juicy meat is infused with smoky flavors, perfectly caramelized edges, and mouthwatering flavor that will have everyone gathering around.
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What Type of Ribs to Use
Ribs are known for their rich flavor, tenderness, and the many different ways you can prepare them.
Pork ribs come in different styles, including baby back ribs, spare ribs, and St. Louis-style ribs. I’m using baby back ribs in this recipe, but here are more options:
- Baby Back Ribs: These ribs are taken from the upper part of the pig’s ribcage, near the spine. They are smaller and leaner compared to other rib cuts, with meat between the bones. Baby back ribs are known for their tenderness and delicate flavor.
- Spare Ribs: These come from the lower portion of the pig’s ribcage, closer to the belly. They are larger and meatier than baby back ribs, with more fat and connective tissue. Spare ribs are popular for their rich flavor and juicy meat.
- St. Louis-Style Ribs: These are a specific cut of spare ribs. They are trimmed to remove the sternum bone, cartilage, and rib tips, resulting in a more rectangular shape. St. Louis-style ribs are known for their meaty texture and balanced flavor.
- Rib Tips: Rib tips are the small, meaty sections that are trimmed off spare ribs when preparing St. Louis-style ribs. They are often considered a delicious and flavorful treat, perfect for snacking or adding to dishes.
How to Season/Spices to Use
I love to use my Homemade BBQ Rub and Seasoning for these. It’s a combination of the following:
You can also use your favorite store-bought BBQ rub or pork rub seasoning.
Allow the Dry Rub to Sit
Ideally, you should let the ribs sit with the dry rub for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This allows the flavors to begin to infuse into the meat. However, for more intense flavor, you can let them sit for a longer period, up to overnight in the refrigerator.
Do You Have to Marinate
Marinating is not required, but it can be a great way to enhance their flavor and tenderness. Marinating involves soaking the ribs in a mixture of seasonings, herbs, spices, and often an acidic ingredient like apple cider vinegar or citrus juice. The marinade helps infuse the ribs with additional flavors and can also help tenderize the meat.
Marinating is a personal preference, and it depends on the desired taste and texture. Some people enjoy the natural flavor of the pork ribs and prefer to simply season them with dry rubs or sauces before cooking. Others prefer the extra flavor depth and tenderness that marinating provides.
If you decide to marinate your ribs, it is recommended to marinate them for at least a few hours or even overnight in the refrigerator. This allows the flavors to penetrate the meat. Before cooking, make sure to drain off excess marinade and pat the ribs dry to promote better browning and caramelization during cooking.
How to Grill Pork Ribs
Detailed measurements and full instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Preheat the grill.
- Pat the rack of ribs dry and generously coat both sides of the ribs with the spices. Press the rub onto the meat to ensure it adheres well.
- Place the seasoned ribs on the grill, bone-side down, over indirect heat.
- Close the grill lid and cook.
- Rest the ribs before serving.
Cook Time/How Long to Cook
The cooking time can vary depending on factors such as the thickness of the ribs, the heat of the grill, and your desired texture. On average, they will take 90 minutes to 2 hours to cook.
How to Tell When They Are Done
Here are some things to look for:
- Bend The Ribs: Pick up the rack of ribs with a pair of tongs or grill gloves and gently lift it from one end. If the ribs are done, they should bend easily and the meat should start to crack slightly.
- Pull Away the Meat: As the ribs cook, the meat will start to shrink and pull back from the ends of the bones. Look for a noticeable pull-back, revealing a bit more of the bone. They should be tender and the meat should easily pull away from the bone.
- Toothpick Test: Insert a toothpick or a thin skewer into the meat between the bones. If it slides in and out with little resistance, the ribs are likely done.
- Internal Temperature: Use a meat thermometer. For juicy ribs, the ribs should reach an internal temperature of about 190-203 degrees if you want them super tender. For safety purposes, always cook the ribs to a minimum internal temperature of at least 145 degrees. At this temp they may not be tender enough.
Pair With these Recipes
Patti Labell’s Potato Salad
Southern Corn Salad
More BBQ Recipes
Pork Rib Tips
Pickle De Gallo
Hot Dog Chili
Grilled Pork Ribs
- 1 rack ribs I used 3 pound baby back ribs.
- 1 cup BBQ Sauce Optional.
Homemade BBQ Rub (Feel free to use your favorite store-bought rub)
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar or sweetener
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika Regular paprika is fine.
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare your grill for indirect grilling by preheating it to medium-low heat or around 250-300 degrees. This lower heat will help cook the ribs slowly and evenly.
- Pat the rack of ribs dry with paper towels. If there is a membrane on the bone side back of the ribs, you can remove it by loosening it with a butter knife and then peeling it off. This step is optional but will help the flavors penetrate the meat and reduce tough ribs.
- Generously coat both sides of the ribs with the spices. Press the rub onto the meat to ensure it adheres well. Make sure to cover the entire surface of the ribs for maximum flavor.
- Place the seasoned ribs on the grill, bone-side down, over indirect heat. You don't want to place them on the area of the grill with the most heat. Cook them low and slow.
- Close the grill lid. Let the ribs cook for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Adjust the cooking time as needed, depending on the thickness of the ribs and how tender you like them.
- Check for doneness: Gently lift the ribs from one end with tongs. If the ribs bend easily and the meat starts to crack slightly, they are likely done. You can also check if the meat has pulled back from the bones. Use a meat thermometer. Ribs are safe to eat when they reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Tender, juicy ribs will need to reach an internal temperature of 190-203 degrees.
- Optional: For saucy ribs, brush them with your favorite BBQ sauce during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking. This allows the sauce to caramelize and add extra flavor.
- Once the ribs are done, carefully remove them from the grill and let them rest for a few minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute and the meat to become more tender and flavorful. I recommend at least 20 minutes.
- You can use any cut of ribs in this recipe.
- A lot of recipes call for mustard. Mustard is used to rub down the ribs prior to applying the dry rub to help it stick. I don’t have a problem with getting the rub to stick. Feel free to use mustard if you wish.
- You can use any BBQ Rub or seasoning you like. Ensure the ribs are fully coated.
- I don’t find a liquid marinade necessary for ribs because they are slow-cooked and have a nice amount of fat on them to keep the meat tender and juicy. Feel free to use a liquid marinade if you wish.
- Cook time will vary based on the grill you use, temperature, and the size of your ribs. Check in on them and always use a meat thermometer to ensure doneness.