An Overview on Ribs.
When it comes to ribs, there are four main varieties on the market:
- Spare (While similar to baby back ribs, they have more meat and actually come from the rib area).
- St. Louis Style (brisket bones and backbone removed).
- Country-style (a pork loin back cut; loin, not rib).
- Baby back (a pork loin back cut; loin, not rib).
Of the four, anything that’s a spare rib is best for a charcoal grill. The best spare ribs come in under 3 pounds and will consist of at least 11 ribs. in the event that you find a good set of spare ribs slightly over 3 pounds, you will just need to tweak the cooking time accordingly.
A Step-By-Step Guide to BBQing Ribs on a Charcoal Grill.
Here are a handful of different approaches to preparing BBQ ribs on a charcoal grill.
Recipe #1: The Best BBQ Ribs Recipe.
- Pork ribs, 1 rack.
- Mustard, yellow, 1 tbsp.
- Dry rub, 1/4 cup.
- BBQ sauce, 1/4 cup.
- Juice, apple, 2 tbsp.
- Charcoal grill.
- Charcoal briquettes, 1 chimney’s worth (divided).
- Pan, foil, 1.
- Optional: Smoking wood, 3 chunks.
- Fill half of your chimney with briquettes and only ignite a handful of them; this will make sure the pile burns at a slow rate. Pile the briquettes up along one side of the grill, then add your smoking wood if you want.
- Set your grate on the grill and the foil pan over that grate with charcoal. Fill the pain to the halfway mark with water.
- Get rid of the ribs’ membrane by inserting a butter knife between it and the bone and use the knife to weaken the membrane’s grip to the point that it can be pulled off entirely. Free free to use a paper towel for extra grip.
- Take the mustard and rub both sides of the ribs, then apply the dry rub. If you somehow lack a rub for your ribs, apply salt instead.
- Set your rack on the grill’s far side, away from the coals and cook them at 225°F-250°F. Cover the grill and cook for either 3 hours or 2 hours, depending on whether you are using spare ribs or baby back ribs, respectively.
- After time is up, add 2 tablespoons of your chosen liquid, be it apple juice or coffee, and seal the ribs inside of foil. Add another half chimney’s worth of charcoal if it seems you will need it, then cook for an extra 2 hours with the grill remaining covered.
- Once time is up, remove the foil from your ribs, invert the ribs and paint their bottom side with your favorite BBQ sauce. Cover the grill again and let the ribs cook 15 minutes.
- Flip your ribs back upright so that you can paint them with the same BBQ sauce as the bottom side. Yet again, cover the grill and paint them with the same BBQ sauce. Continue to cook the ribs in a covered grill for 45 minutes.
Pull the ribs from the grill, allow them to cool just enough to not burn mouths, and enjoy the deliciousness.
Recipe #2: Charcoal BBQ Ribs, Take Two.
- Grill, charcoal, full-size.
- Spare ribs.
- Rib rub.
- Disposable pans, aluminum, two.
- Hardwood chunks.
- Meat thermometer.
- Foil, for wrapping.
- BBQ sauce.
- Remove the membrane from the rib rack as described in the first recipe. Check your membrane-free ribs for any loose sections of meat and trim it away; loose meat is only going to dry out on the grill.
- Massage your rub into the ribs and do so generously. Remember to cover every side, even the edges. While it’s okay to be early with your rubbing, doing it too early will result in the spices curing the surface of the meat like a ham.
- Remove the grate from your grill and start up your charcoal, just enough to cover half the coal grate three layers deep. Once the coal’s it, put one of your two pans on the coal grate and pour the charcoal on the other side; this might require bending the pan to ensure a good fit. Add the wood. Return the grate into position and put the second aluminum pan on it, right over the charcoal. Fill it with as much water as it can hold; this will ensure it keeps the grill’s temperature at a consistent 250°F.
- Place your ribs in such a way that they do not stack atop each other, you want to as much of their surface to be exposed to the heat and smoke. Spare ribs will take around 4 to 5 hours to cook to a final internal temperature anywhere between 180°F and 185°F; the point at which you can get as much tenderness in the meat before it just falls off-“fall of the bone” ribs are a concoction of restaurants that boil their ribs. Place the rib racks on the cooking grate, rib-side down and adjacent to the water pan. The ribs should never be in direct contact with the fire.
- After an hour, check on your ribs, your fuel source and the water pan’s content. Feel free to add wood to the fire and rotate the ribs, which should still be soft and browning.
- After another hour’s time, wrap the ribs in two sheets of foil to trap moisture and raise the internal temperature. Pack the ribs so they curve but not fold. Return the ribs to the grill, check the fire source and water pan, and let the ribs cook another hour.
- After an hour’s time, take the foil off and return the ribs to the grill for anywhere between half to a full hour. This last turn will dry out the ribs in a way that makes them pleasantly textured when bitten. Use a meat thermometer, ideally an infrared one for easy confirmation, to check for when the meat hits an internal temperature of 180°F-190°F; with a traditional probe-style thermometer, there is a chance that the needle will make contact with bone and throw off the results. Another approach, favored by pitmasters, is to lift the ribs along the middle; if the ends droop loosely, your ribs are done. Once the ribs are done, take them away from the heat.
- Get your favorite BBQ sauce ready and a thin coating over one face of the ribs, then turn them over and repeat. Once both sides are slicked with BBQ goodness, put the ribs into the grill with a closed lid and let them cook for 5 minutes. Repeat this step four more times.
- Serve and enjoy.
Recipe #3: Rub for BBQ Ribs.
While there are a lot of custom meat rubs on the market, they are generally overpriced for the ingredients used. This simple rub recipe can keep for up to 4 months in an airtight container and will serve you well.
- Sugar, dark brown, 1/4 cup.
- Salt, kosher, 1/4 cup.
- Paprika, sweet, 1/4 cup.
- Pepper, freshly ground, 3 tbsp.
- Powder, garlic, 1 tbsp.
- Flakes, onion, dried, 1 tbsp.
- Pepper, cayenne, 1 tsp.
Just mix everything up so that it reaches an even consistency and store in a reliable vessel.
Side Solutions & Drink Deductions.
No matter how delicious your entree may be, the dinner table can appear pretty lonely without some side dishes and filled glasses to give it company. Here are some ideal drink and dish suggestions to pair with those BBQ ribs you cooked on your charcoal grill.
- Corn on the cob. Earn some extra points with your guests by grilling it up as you grill the ribs, using an unoccupied section.
- Baked beans. When they are done right, baked beans can be just as rich in flavor and desired as a platter of properly made BBQ ribs.
- Coleslaw. Slaw is a relatively easy dish to make; so easy, in fact, that its silly to buy the stuff.
- Dark soda.
- Root beer.
BBQ ribs are a long-time staple of cookouts and barbecue joints for good reason. You take the right type of ribs, ideally St. Louis style, put them into a properly-armed grill for several hours, and finish with your favorite BBQ sauce. The end result is a dish only improved by properly accompanying it with sides and a drink.