No talk of America’s love affair with barbecue would be complete without mentioning ribs. Economical, flavorful, and tender when cooked properly, this finger food is one of the mainstays of casual and steakhouse cuisine.
However, the art of barbecuing ribs to butter-soft perfection eludes many. Personal war stories abound extolling the virtues of pre-cooking ribs before tossing them on the grill. I used to bake mine for an hour, slather them with barbecue sauce, and awkwardly arrange them on my backyard grill in a haphazard fashion. They turned out chewy and flavorless.
What if we told you cooking juicy melt-in-your-mouth ribs is not only easy but fun? Grilling beef ribs on a gas grill is an especially user-friendly way to prepare a succulent and delicious meal.
Types of Ribs
When you think about cooking ribs, you may picture pork ribs. Pork baby back ribs are indeed the common go-to when it comes to barbecuing. However, beef ribs are a delectable alternative and where we will place most of our focus.
- Baby back ribs – These classic ribs are best with a seasoned rub and grilled or smoked.
- Spare ribs – fatty and flavorful. Trim them, apply your favorite rub, and toss them into the oven or onto a smoker. Remove the brisket bone and clean up the rack of dangling meat and fat, and you have St. Louis Style ribs.
- Country style – the meatiest cut of ribs; cook them at low temperatures for long periods. These ribs are ideal for an oven or a slow cooker.
- Dinosaur or baby back ribs – Cut from a rib roast, these are served as single ribs. They do well cooked similar to their pork counterparts. Apply a rub, and cook with wood in a charcoal smoker or on a gas grill.
- Short ribs – These ribs are flavorful, fatty and tough at the same time. They need to be cooked at low temperatures for hours, so a smoker is ideal. Grilled beef short ribs will see the collagen melt away, leaving tender and juicy yumminess.
- Flanked style ribs – These are short ribs cut across the bone rather than between the segments. They are best if stewed. You can also braise them.
Introduction to Grills
Grills can be classified based on a few different criteria.
- Open-pit – Primitive as it is, campfire-style grilling is still popular in the United States. It uses radiant heat to roast meats usually placed on stakes. An open pit is great for whole lambs or pigs, beef ribs on racks, salmon, and marshmallows for S’mores.
- Open grill – As the name applies, these grills have no cover, although covered grills can be used without closing the top. An open grill’s high heat is best for quick-cooking tender foods like vegetables, bananas, fish, and steaks.
- Covered grill – A cover enables you to use a grill for smoking meats. It also facilitates the indispensable method of indirect cooking that gives such layered flavoring to meat. It is ideal for thick or fatty foods like ribs, steak, whole birds, and chops.
- Vessel grill – These grills obtain heat from the thick ceramic walls and the charcoal used to light them. They are especially ideal for roasting, although some can also be used as smokers. Use them for chicken, mutton, fish, chicken, and steaks. The tandoor specifically works very well for flatbreads.
- Smoker – Smoker grills, of course, are specifically designed to smoke meats, but a covered grill can be turned into a smoker. Classic smoked fare includes brisket and ribs. Collagen breaks down to produce melt-off-the-bones tenderness with low temperatures long cook times of smokers. Smokers use indirect heating.
- Rotisserie Grill – This grill slowly turns the food and provides indirect heat and even cooking. Exactly as you have likely seen dozens of times, it is ideal for whole birds, roasts, and whole pigs.
- Gas – A gas grill is a type of covered grill. If yours has at least two burners, you can easily use the indirect method of cooking beef ribs, for example.
- Charcoal – A highly convenient fuel for everyday grillers that give subtle accents to the flavor of food.
- Wood – This is the preferred fuel for BBQ competitors.
Tricks to Using a Gas Grill
While you can turn out beef ribs from a gas grill that are just as delicious as the next person’s, you will have to make a few adjustments. However, you cannot beat the convenience of a gas grill.
If you are new to the art of barbecuing, gas grills are more forgiving as they do not get as hot as charcoal grills. They also do not require the setup and the intense babysitting of their charcoal cousins. Finally, gas grills are much easier to clean.
The challenges you will face with a gas grill are flavor and smoke. Smokers and charcoal grills run circles around the gas grill on smoke production. You can somewhat get around this by using a smoker box or a smoke bomb.
While you can easily create juicy and tasty beef ribs with a gas grill, you may often struggle to obtain that signature barbecue flavor. Here is where the strategic use of sauce and wood comes into play.
You cannot exactly replicate the subtle blend of wood and charcoal flavors you get from a charcoal grill or the bold smoky accents from a smoker. Your ribs, however, will have a signature flavor of their own.
*Pro-tip – A gas grill will not produce a large amount of smoke. Nevertheless, this is a good thing because excess smoke in a gas grill will ensure your food has a bitter flavor.
What kind of wood should you use on a gas grill? Use a dry hardwood. For beef ribs, you will do very well with mesquite, oak, or hickory. You can also try cherry.
How to Grill Beef Ribs on a Gas Grill
What You need
- Gas grill with 2 or more burners
- Oven thermometer
- Metal drip pan
- Aluminum foil – optional
- Basting brush or mopping tool
- 1 to 3 Racks of ribs – 7 or 8 ribs per rack
- Apple juice – optional
- Basting sauce
- Finishing sauce – optional
Step 1: Prepare your rub
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 3 Tablespoons black pepper, coarsely ground
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine ingredients until well-blended. You can store the mixture in an air-tight container in a cool dry location for future use.
Step 2: Prepare Basting Sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup olive
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
Mix well. Notice how your basting sauce complements the ingredients in your rub. Remember this when your experiment with your recipes.
Step 3: Prepare Finishing Sauce (Optional)
- 1/2 pound butter
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice -about one lemon
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Once the butter is melted, add all remaining ingredients except the vinegar and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar. Let cool while you make your other preparations.
Step 4: Prepare your wood chips
Soak your chosen flavored wood chips for 15 minutes, then drain. Bundling the wood is what will cause smoldering to produce that coveted smoke. You can accomplish that with two methods. A smokebox is simplest. You can also create a smoke bomb without too much effort.
Pro-tip #1: To make a smoke bomb, wrap your drained wood chips in a loose pouch of aluminum foil and poke two or three holes into the packet.
Pro-tip #2: You can soak wood chips in advance, put them in a freezer bag, and freeze them until you need them for your next barbecue. You do not even need to thaw them.
Step 5: Prepare your ribs
Thaw if frozen. This is a quick process whereby you can simply place the entire vacuum-sealed package in water for 15 to 20 minutes.
Clean the beef ribs by trimming excess fat and meat around the edges. Do not remove any of the fat that would sit between the ribs if they were together. You need that to assist with keeping your beef ribs succulent.
Remove any of the tough thin membranes you encounter. Run the trimmed ribs under water and pat dry.
Step 6: Prepare and apply your rub to all sides of the ribs.
Lightly coat your ribs but do not overseason. Be prepared to move your ribs to the grill within 10 to 20 minutes of applying the spices. Any longer than an hour and any rubs will begin to change the texture of the meat. Some accept this for additional flavoring.
*Pro-tip #1 – If you apply a light coat of mustard to your ribs before the rub you will help the spices stick to the meat during cooking. You will never taste the mustard, and the smoke can penetrate the meat just fine.
*Pro-tip #2 – To give your ribs more flavor, you can apply the rub, wrap the ribs tightly in plastic, and refrigerate them for up to 24 hours.
Step 7: Prepare your grill.
Place your metal drip pan under the area rack where you will cook the ribs. This will be over the unused burner for indirect heating. Pour a shallow layer of water in the pan. You can also use apple cider for additional flavoring.
Preheat your grill to the desired setting. For beef ribs, you want your grill set at 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place your grill thermometer so you can more readily keep on top of what is happening inside the grill.
You are going to use an indirect grilling method. If you only have two burners, only turn one on. When you have three burners, the most efficient way to work them is to leave the center off and turn the other two on.
*Pro-tip – Modern grills are usually set up with indirect heating in mind, so check your owner’s manual.
Place your smoke bomb or smoker box over direct heat right on the cooking grate.
Allow the grill to come up to your desired temperature.
Step 8: Time to Grill the Beef Ribs
Place your beef ribs bone-side down on the grill opposite to the heat source if you have two burners and in the center if you have three.
Allow ribs to cook undisturbed with the lid closed for 30 minutes. This keeps both heat and smoke inside the grill. Adjust your grill so the temperature stays between 200 and 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grilling Boneless Ribs
The method to grilling boneless short ribs, for example, is the same as for bone-in beef ribs. Apply your rub to all sides of the meat.
Cook with indirect heat at 225 degrees Fahrenheit with your wood chunks and drip pan set up. Count on approximately four hours per pound for the ribs to be ready to eat.
*Pro-tip – Without the bone, you can grill a pound of boneless ribs for two hours or until it reaches a core temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit and it is similar to a steak.
Step 9: Basting and Turning
Baste or “mop” your ribs every half hour. This is your opportunity to also quickly turn them to ensure they are cooking evenly.
An alternative to basting: How to Cook Ribs on Gas Grill in Foil
Whether you use apple juice or cider or butter and raw sugar, this step will alleviate any doubts about flavor, juiciness, or tenderness.
Cook ribs for 30 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove your ribs from the grill and place them on a sheet of aluminum foil. Tip-up the edges of the foil to create a makeshift dish. Pour apple juice over the ribs and wrap tightly in the aluminum foil.
Place the wrapped ribs back on the grill and close the lid. Increase the heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit so the apple juice boils, tenderizing the ribs in the process. Unwrap the ribs after 30 minutes of cooking, placing them back on the grill. Turn your heat back down to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
This greatly speeds up your cooking process, so look for your ribs to be ready in another 15 to 30 minutes.
Step 10: Sizzling (Optional)
Apply finishing sauce and cook each side for five minutes.
This is an optional step and you must keep two things in mind. You want to make sure the sauce does not burn, and this step speeds up cooking. Take 30 minutes off your total cooking time with this method.
Step 11: How to Tell Your Beef Ribs Are Done
In this low and slow method, your beef ribs will take six to eight hours to cook. You may see the fleshy part start to loosen from the bone as they reach the end. Use your tongs to see how tender they are. You can also cut into the meat to make sure there is no pink remaining.
If your ribs are in a rack, you can twist the center rib. If it comes away from the meat easily, your ribs are ready.
What about a meat thermometer? Ribs are not the most practical cuts into which to try to insert a probe. Some areas are pretty thin. Temperature measurements near the bone do not tell you about meat in the center of the rib.
However, where meat thermometer placement may be tricky, toothpicks work like a charm. When ribs are ready, a toothpick should slide easily in and out of the flesh between the bones.
Step 12: Serve Beef Ribs
If your rack of ribs is till intact, allow them to rest under tented aluminum foil for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.
What makes barbecuing ribs on a grill so satisfying?
First, once you catch on to the art of grilling, it is quite fun. You can individualize the experience with different rubs or sauces. You can experiment with a variety of wood for smoke or play around with brines or marinades. Try serving them with asparagus, a baked potato, a warm slice of French bread and a glass of Cabernet.
Second, ribs are deceptively easy to grill. And once you finish, they come out meltingly delicious. It seems no matter what, when you barbecue ribs, they always give the impression of a gourmet entree you slaved for hours making. When grilling beef ribs on a gas grill, they will cook for several hours, but the process is a breeze.
If you enjoyed this tutorial or learned anything, leave a comment below and share with your friends who love to grill