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…
Grilled Baby Back Ribs
- 1 rack baby back ribs
- 1/2 cup rub or your choice
- 1/2 cup barbecue sauce of your choice
- Remove the membraneOk, I promise, this is THE hardest part of the job. There is this really thin skin, or membrane, 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.
- Rub 'em downOne 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Start grillingPlace 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!
- 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.
- Done?Let them cook about another 30 minutes or so. But because grills and meat vary, they may already be near done, or may have a ways more to go. Thermometers are hard to use on ribs since the meat is so thin and the bones run through the meat which can fool your thermometer. So instead we try to determine how tender the meat is. Grab it by one end and lift it off the grill. If the crusty bark on the ribs doesn't crack between any of the ribs, you know you have a ways more to go before the meat is tender. If you get a good sized fissure running along between one or two ribs, and you are thinking they might break in half if you jiggle it a little, then it is time to tie on the bib and get down to business.
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!