Grilling ribs doesn’t have to be difficult! Baby back ribs cook relatively quickly and due to their marbling, they have provide great flavor all by themselves. A dry rub is often the perfect compliment without overpowering. Some people like rubbing and then finishing with a sauce, but sometimes the rub and the ribs alone should be the star of the show. When grilling BBQ ribs indirectly for longer periods of time, we like dry rubs that don’t over-power the rib’s natural flavor. So grab a 6 pack of your favorite beverage and mark off a few hours, this is going to take a while but will be worth it in the end!
The key to grilling ribs slow and low is to maintain a relatively low temperature while grilling with indirect heat. The easiest way to do this is by using a gas grill with at least 3 burners. We want to maintain about 300 – 325 degrees for a little over 2 hours for baby back ribs. If you have a gas grill with 3 burners, you can keep the outside 2 burners on medium-low, while leaving the middle burner off. An outside thermometer or an oven thermometer inside the grill will allow you to monitor the temperature.
For slow and low grilling ribs, we like to use a dry rub. A nice dry rub will create a great crust on the outside of the ribs and we rarely use any sauce, even for dipping. Dry rubs are always an experiment for us and usually involves whatever is in the pantry. Having said that, here is a recipe for a dry rub to get you started, but as we said, go crazy! The paprika and brown sugar are pretty much staples to a rub (in our opinion). Throw in a few of your favorite flavors and experiment!
1/4 cup paprika
1.5 tablespoon (packed down) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne (more if you want a kick!)
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Prepare the Ribs!
There is a membrane on the bottom of ribs. I don’t know if this is true or not (I don’t take a chance), but removing it is supposed to make for a more tender rib. Let’s just be on the safe side and say always remove the membrane. This may sound gross or intimidating, but there isn’t anything to it. Start at one corner of the back of the ribs and start rubbing your finger away from the edge. You’ll start to see the membrane we are talking about. Grab the edge and start pulling slowly, making sure you get the entire membrane. Why don’t we just show you a photo of removing the rib membrane!
See, nothing to it…
Ok, the back side of your baby back ribs are ready, now it’s time to focus on the meat side. Mix your rub ingredients well in a bowl. Now sprinkle the rub on the ribs generously and rub it into the ribs. Yes, you have to get your hands dirty, it’s worth it. Now let the ribs rest on the counter for about 30 minutes (if you can wait that long). The rub should stick to the ribs when you hold the ribs on their side. If not, keep rubbing it in and make sure you have coated all of the meat.
Light up the Grill!
Let’s get the grill ready. As we said before, we are using indirect heat. If you have a 3 burner set up, fire up the grill with the two outside burners on medium and leave the middle burner off, cover the grill. Don’t trust that thermometer on the outside of your grill, use an oven thermometer, I explained why in this article. Using your oven thermometer next to the ribs, adjust the burners until you are reading between 300 – 325 degrees. If you have some wood chips, stick a smoke pouch over the hot side of the grill and let it start smoldering.
Start Grilling Those Ribs!
Now that the ribs have been rubbed and given a little time to absorb some of that flavor, it’s time to start grilling. Place the ribs over the middle (off) burner and close the lid. It’s that easy. Maintaining the 300 – 325 temperature is now your only duty for the next 2 hours. Start a movie, watch a football game, surf the web, but keep checking and moderating those 2 outside burners to keep the temperature in the “zone”.
After about 2 hours, peak in on the ribs. You will know they are done when the meat has pulled away and you can see the bones on the outside of the ribs. You can also use the toothpick method to see if the meat is done. If you can poke a toothpick through the meat between the bones with little resistance, the meat is done.
Want a great addition to your baby back ribs dinner? Throw on some barbeque chicken for the last 30 minutes of grilling. The indirect method used for the ribs will be perfect for cooking the chicken and will give your guests another dinner choice.