BBQ Ribs on the Grill – A Foolproof Method of Making Great BBQ Ribs on the Grill

making bbq ribs on the grill

The key to making bbq ribs on the grill is temperature control

If you want to make BBQ ribs on the grill you’re in luck, not only is it possible to make great, fall off the bone BBQ ribs on the grill, but it’s actually pretty easy. All it takes is some attention to detail, some additional equipment and of course a foolproof technique. Making BBQ ribs on the grill is easy to do when you actually know what you’re doing. Let’s take a look at this process in more detail. I’m not going to get into BBQ rub or sauces, there’s plenty of information on that available on the internet. I’m going to get into detail when it comes to the process itself.

Let’s look at the equipment and supplies you’ll need to make great BBQ ribs on the grill

Here’s a list of the minimum equipment and supplies you’ll need to make these fall off the bone ribs.

  • A grill (duh)
  • Charcoal chimney (if using a charcoal grill)
  • A well trimmed rack of ribs
  • Aluminum foil
  • Aluminum tray
  • Grill thermometer
  • Empty coffee cans
  • Yellow mustard
  • Apple Juice in a spray bottle
  • Wood chips or chunks
  • BBQ Rub and sauce
  • Basic kitchen utensils

That’s all you need. You can substitute any empty metal cans for the coffee cans and you should be able to pick up a spray bottle at any kitchen supply store. Please do not use empty cleaning spray bottles.

Making BBQ ribs on the grill – Selecting and preparing the rack of ribs

The key to making moist, tender fall off the bone BBQ ribs is to start off with a tender rack of ribs and trim it properly.

When selecting a rack of ribs look for a good looking rack with some, fat on it. Remember, fat breaks down during the long (6 hour) cooking process making the meat moist. Grab two good looking racks of ribs with about a weight of 3 pounds. Hold each by the end and let it droop. The one that droops more is more likely to have less connective tissue and thus be more tender. Select the one that droops the most while still having some fat coverage on the top. Although sometimes it’s impossible due to packaging make sure that none of the actual rib bones are exposed. These are called ‘shiners’ and make for bad ribs.

Once you have a good rack of ribs it’s time to trim it. Cut away all the extra fat, but not all of it. In fact make sure that there’s some fat everywhere, especially where the meat is the thinnest. I like to save the trimmed fat and once the meat is on the grill put some of it over the thinnest parts of the rack for extra moisture. We’ll need to remove the membrane so let’s do that now.

bbq ribs membrane

Remove the membrane before putting the rub on

Place the rack of ribs so the meat side is down and remove the membrane. I find that this is easiest by using a butter knife to ‘get it started’ then grabbing the membrane with w paper towel and pulling it off. With practice you should be able to to this in one piece. It is vitally important to remove this membrane as, even cooked, this is virtually inedible. If you leave it on the rub can’t get into the meat, and meat without rub isn’t very tasty. If you want tasty BBQ pork ribs you need to do this step and do it right.

Once the ribs are trimmed to your liking it’s time to get some BBQ rub into them. This is best done the night before actually making BBQ ribs on the grill but you can get away with 3 or 4 hours in a pinch. First off slather some of that yellow mustard all over the ribs. This will act as an adhesive to hold the rub onto the ribs, I guarantee you will NOT taste this in the finished product. Now, cover the ribs with the rub and really rub it into the meat (that’s why they call it rub), When done place into the fridge overnight.

The next day we’ll start by removing the ribs from the fridge about 15 minutes before they go onto the grill, you’ll also want to start soaking the wood chips or chunks in water. While the ribs are coming up to temp and the wood is smoking we’ll get the grill ready.

Let’s talk for a moment about the differences between a grill and an actual BBQ smoker, and how we’ll get around them.

  • A smoker uses indirect heat while a grill has the heating elements under the food. We’ll use an indirect heating method by only using 1/2 the gas jets or by placing the coals on one side of the grill.
  • A smoker is designed to be nearly airtight in order to maintain rock solid low temperatures for long periods with little fuel. A grill on the other hand has many air holes making it difficult to maintain steady temperature. We’re going to seal some of those holes with aluminum foil and use water filled cans to create heat sinks.
  • A smoker generally has a very small door in order to prevent heat loss when it’s opened while a grill generally opens all the way up resulting in tons of heat loss. We’re going to avoid this by NOT opening the grill more than just a few times.

Now let’s get that grill ready. Our goal for cooking is getting the grill to 225 degrees and keeping it there for just about the entire cooking process. So get some coals fired up and when they’re ready place them to one side of the grill. For a propane grill start up one side of the jets. In order to create a heat sink fill a few coffee cans with water and place them on the heating side. These are our heat sinks and they’ll prevent huge heat fluctuations since water absorbs a ridiculous amount of heat and, when opening the door, they’ll also bring the grill up to temperature much quicker.

Make sure you have a thermometer available, if it’s built in great, if not place it on the grate right by the front so you can open the grill slightly to see it. Once you’re up to temperature it’s time to get those ribs onto the grill.

Making BBQ ribs on the grill – the cooking process

indirect heat for bbq ribs on the grill
When making bbq ribs on the grill indirect heat is the way to go

Our method for making BBQ ribs on the grill uses a 3-2-1 process designed to flavorize, moisturize and tenderize the meat. Follow this process and you’ll end up with some incredible fall off the bone ribs.

First we’ll smoke for three hours. Get the ribs on the grill opposite the heating side and place the foil tray under them to catch any dripping (to prevent flareups). You’ll also want to place some of the wood chips/chunks in aluminum foil with some holes over the heating side to produce smoke. Close the grill and check the temp in about a 1/2 hour. Adjust the heat to get to 225 degrees. Once the smoke gets going you’ll clearly see where the holes are so try to seal them with foil if possible.

We’ll continue to go this way for three hours, you’ll want to check the temps and adjust every 1/2 hour or so. If using wood chips you’ll probably need to replace them in about an hour. You’ll also need to refuel with new charcoal in about 3 hours. This is our flavorize phase.

After the three hours are done we’ll move into our moisturize and tenderize phase. This is the most ‘hands on’ and critical phase since overcooking here will result in mush while under cooking will result in tough ribs. Remove the ribs and wrap them with foil meat side up, before closing add some apple juice and some BBQ sauce. While the ribs are out I suggest refilling the water cans and adding charcoal. Once done add the ribs back into the grill.

When making BBQ ribs on the grill this is the most important phase. We’ve already flavored the ribs with rub and smoke, now we’ll tenderize and moisturize them. What’s happening here is the ribs are now going to braise in their own juices and they’ll get real tender real quick. You’ll need top open the packet and test them after one hour and every 1/2 hour after that. To test if they are tender enough poke a fork in between two of the largest ribs and lift directly up, if the rack wants to come with you they’re not done. If the fork pulls right out they’re done.

Once the 2 hours or so are done we’re going to move into our final phase. Here we’re once again going to flavorize. The process is to get the grill temperature up to about 350 to 400 degrees and cook over direct heat. The goal is to slather some BBQ sauce on them and cook them directly to get the sauce good and caramelized. This usually doesn’t take more than a 1/2 hour. It’ll take longer if you decide to put many layers of sauce.

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About the Author

Hi there!, My name is Norm. I am a college grad, a veteran, a pet owner and a family man. I started writing articles both to make a little extra money, and to share my knowledge with others. I currently work in the IT department of a major NY hospital.
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