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Grilled Baby Back Ribs

grilled baby back ribs

Are you one of those people that tremble at the thought of cooking ribs?  Maybe you haven’t tried it yet because you think you need a BBQ pit mounted on a trailer?  Or maybe you’ve been told you need an entire afternoon to cook your ribs.  Well, fear not young griller, if you have a grill and an hour and a half to kill on a nice afternoon, that’s all you need to grill up some delicious baby back ribs!

There are basically two types of bbq ribs, spare ribs and baby back ribs.  St. Louis style ribs are just spares with the tips cut off, so we’re still talking about two main parts of the pig.  Spare ribs are much larger and have more meat, so they take around 4 hours to grill properly “slow and low”.  Baby back ribs, on the other hand, are much smaller racks with nice marbling of fat, so it only takes around an hour and a half to grill them on the typical gas or charcoal grill.  This makes baby back ribs the perfect confidence-building barbeque meat to start your path to the competition circuit (or just bragging rights in the neighborhood).  So from now on, we’re going to talk about a quick technique to grilling ribs.  We’ll cover spare ribs in another article, but they aren’t that hard either on a typical grill.  For now, let’s talk about the quickest path to some delicious, shirt stainin’ ribs!

Simple and QUICK Grilled Baby Back Ribs…
Let’s look at this technique step by step…

Step 1, Remove the skin.  Ok, I promise, this is THE hardest part of the job.  There is this really thin skin on the back of the ribs that doesn’t look like much, but after it cooks it’s as tough as leather.  Using your finger nail on the edge of one side and get under the skin.  Use a paper towel to grip it and tear it off the back of the baby back ribs.

remove the skin from ribs

Step 2, Rub ‘em down.  One of the keys to a good rib is the rub.  What’s the key to a good rub?  That depends on who you ask.  Want to know a secret?  A lot of the top BBQ guys out there competing use store-bought rubs.  The fun to a good rub though it experimenting and coming up with your own.  Here’s a starter rub, use it as a launching point to your own BBQ deliciousness!  Use your rub to generously cut the ribs, front and back and then cover them with plastic wrap and let them cure a bit in the refrigerator.  This step allows the rub to sort of “dry marinade” the meat.

rub for baby back ribs

Step 3, Soak some wood chips. We want to add some smoke flavor to these ribs.  Fruit woods like apple and peach provide a nice subtle smoke, while hickory and mesquite are very strong.  I prefer fruit, but it’s up to you.  Soak your chips or chunks of wood for at least 30 minutes prior to grilling.

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Step 4, Light the grill. While the ribs are sitting in their new rub, let’s set up the grill.  The gas grill is easy.  Make yourself a smoke pouch with the soaked wood chips, light half of the burners to high and leave the other half unlit.  The charcoal grill isn’t that much harder though.  Simply light a chimney full of coals and wait until there is ash forming on the top coals.  Pile all of the coals to one side of the grill and put a drip pan with about 1 inch of water on the cool side.  Check out this article on how to light a charcoal grill for more details.

Step 5,  Start grilling.  Place the ribs over the cool side of the grill, toss the wood chips onto the coals (if using a charcoal grill) and close the lid.  Seriously, I told you this was easy!

Step 6, The Sauce! After about an hour of grilling, it’s time to hit them with a little sauce.  We do this towards the end for two reasons.  One, we don’t want the sugar in the sauce to burn.  The other reason is that we want that rub to create a nice bark or crust on the ribs.  What sauce should you use?  Again, this ranges from your Grandpa’s uber-secret sauce to a nice store-bought sauce.  Whatever you’ve got, slather it on those ribs and close the lid again.  If using charcoal, go ahead and throw about 10 more coals on the pile, preferably already lit from the chimney.

Grilling ribs can be intimidating, but as you can see from this recipe, it doesn’t have to be.  Grilled baby back ribs make a great addition to your backyard BBQ.  Add a few new york strips and some grilled vegetables and you have an impressive feast for your next party!  We will cover some other grilled ribs recipes in the future that use more of the “slow and low” technique for those delicious spare ribs.  But until then, enjoy these deilcious grilled baby back ribs!

25 Responses

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Carl

06-14-2010

Just wondering… on a gas grill, you say make a smoke pouch with the wood chips… how?

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Steve

06-14-2010

Here’s the link Carl. I also updated the ribs recipe with the link:
http://www.grillingcompanion.com/smoking-on-a-gas-grill/

Sorry about that…

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Walker

06-21-2010

What temperature setting is ideal as my gas grill can get pretty hot?

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jim binnebose

10-18-2010

you cant be in a hurrey to cook rib rite. it does take time, low and slow.

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patio daddy-o

04-03-2011

the skin on the ribs is called the “fell.” no idea why, but it’s called that on lamb racks too (and that fell is a whole lot worse to remove and tastes like sh!t if you forget and leave it on). that said, thanks for this. awesome instrux and, y’know, if you hadn’t told us to remove *this* fell, i would have blown it off. these came out great even on my little weber smokey. rock.

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Steve

04-03-2011

225 is ideal

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ricky a chin

06-21-2011

I think the name fell comes from the dutch language. the spelling is different. In dutch we call skin ” vel” . It’s the same as “fell”. maybe that is it’s origin.
anyway. thanks for the info

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Dave

07-09-2011

You can leet the rub soak in for hours before the cooking process begins.

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Saul jacquez

07-12-2011

When do u flip ribs and what side is first

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Steve

07-12-2011

I don’t flip them, meat side up.

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Eric

08-06-2011

You say to add sauce and close the lid but you don’t say to take them off… How long with the sauce on?

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Steve

08-06-2011

I put the sauce on about 45 minutes before I take them off.

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Drew

09-05-2011

What if I have an open grill pit with no cover? How do I “close the grill?”

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frank

09-14-2011

any suggestions or tips about the meat

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Steve

09-15-2011

Hi Frank. I look through the slabs at the store and try to choose a rack with the least amount of fat. You want to also look for racks that haven’t been cut too close to the bone. Push on the top of each rib in the package and you can feel how much meat is covering the ribs.
Hope this helps.
Steve

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Steve

09-15-2011

Hi Drew. Hmm, to be honest, I have never tried to cook ribs or any other meat that requires “slow and low” without a lid. In general, you’ll want to find a way to position the meat around the heat source to hit as close to 250 degrees as possible. Sorry, can’t help much beyond that.
Steve

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sean

09-28-2011

Drew i too have an open pit. I use disposable aluminum baking pans from the 99 cent store as lids. the 12″ x 16″ x 4″ deep pans fit best on my grill. works perfectly for ribs!

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Brisco

10-23-2011

Thank God I ht this website. I never BBQ’d ribs before and they turned out absolutely PERFECT. Thanks for the tips.

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kurt sellers

12-04-2011

my wife called me the pit master..bragged allday at work. and plan on cooking again for christmas.

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Steve

12-04-2011

Glad to hear it Kurt! Just cooked some ribs this evening, delicious.

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ed

01-15-2012

I heard that 275 for 4 hours was the best, do you think 225 for 4 hours will be better.

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Steve

01-15-2012

Hi Ed. Every slab of ribs is different, so hard to say an exact time. As for temperature, you’ll see people recommend from 225 to 300 degrees and everything in between. I prefer to keep the smoker or grill between 225 and 250.

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