- When it's Done:Meat pulls back and exposes ¼ inch of bone.
- 2 slabs of ribs (spare or baby back)
- 2 tablespoons dry rub
- Glaze or sauce (optional)
- Prep time: 30 minutes
- Cook time: 4 ½ hours
- Servings: 4–6
Unlike a steak or hamburger, you can’t just throw a rack of ribs over some hot coals and grill it (unless you enjoy tough, dry ribs). Authentic baby back & BBQ spare ribs are slow-smoked for 4½ hours over charcoal and wood. Once you learn this proven technique for seasoning and smoking succulent pork ribs, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to grill up a perfect rack, every time.
Skin, season and rub.
After rinsing the ribs in water and patting dry with a paper towel, remove the skin-like membrane located on the bottom or “bone side” of the baby back ribs. Slide a dinner knife underneath the membrane between the bones at about the second or third bone from the end, then grab the membrane with a cloth and peel it off of the ribs. Using a heaping tablespoon of rub per side, sprinkle evenly and liberally on both sides. Pat the spices onto the ribs so that they adhere to the meat. Do not apply sugar-based sauces at this time.
Prep your cooker for smoking
If you’re using a kettle-type grill, use an indirect technique like the snake method to set up your grill. For backyard smokers, set it up for a long smoke. Kingsford Long Burning, with its longer burning time and low ash formula, is an ideal fuel for either type of grill. With either method, soak a few handfuls of Kingsford® Wood Chips (hickory or mesquite) for about 30 minutes before placing atop the coals. Place a drip pan filled with water or apple juice directly under the meat. This water will help moderate the grill temperature and add moisture to the air when the liquid evaporates.
Smoke the ribs.
Smoke the ribs at 225°F to 250°F for four to five hours. You can baste or mop the baby back ribs occasionally if you like, but don’t open the grill too often. Maintaining a steady temperature is the most important thing. Opening the grill causes wide temperature changes. If smoke starts to die down, add more wood chips.
Glaze or sauce the ribs.
If you want to apply a sugar/tomato-based glaze or sauce to the pork ribs, do it in the last 1/2 hour to prevent the sauce/glaze from burning onto the ribs.
Test for doneness
There are three standard methods of testing the ribs for doneness: 1) As the meat cooks, it shrinks and exposes the bone at the thinner end of the baby back rib. When about 1/4-inch of bone is exposed, the smoked ribs should be done. 2) When you pick up the middle of the slab and flex it, the meat will separate from the bone and not flex back (if it feels rubbery, it’s not done). 3) Cut one off and eat it. When you take a bite, the meat should pull off the bone with a slight tug but not fall off the bone.
Rest and cut.
When it’s time for the ribs to come off the grill, first let them rest and cool down for about 15 minutes so that they’re easier to handle and slice. When it’s time to slice the ribs, cut between the bones using a sharp knife. Notice the telltale smoke rings around the outer edges of the ribs. BBQ newbies mistake this pink meat for being underdone; rather, this is the signature of perfectly smoked BBQ pork ribs.