How to Cook Ribs on A Grill, Start to Finish

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Pork spare ribs are a BBQ classic. A sure way to impress your friends and family at this summer’s cookouts is to serve up a platter stacked high with racks of ribs, each packed with tender, smoky flavor.

The good news: ribs are as impressive on the serving board as they are easy to grill or BBQ. Here, World BBQ Champion Doug Scheiding of Rogue Cookers walks through how to grill and BBQ pork spare ribs from start to finish, baby step by baby step.

How to pick the best rack of ribs?

Get St. Louis-style racks weighing 3-4 pounds. Trim the ribs from there. What to look for in the meat: A nice, deep, red color. Choose a rack that doesn’t have a lot of fat; instead, opt for racks with striations between the ribs.

How do I trim ribs for grilling?

Trim each rack of ribs as close to a rectangle shape as you can get. A good goal is to trim down to 10 bones. Why? Because a normal grill is about 19 inches deep. When you trim down to 10 bones, you can load a rack of ribs onto a standard grill from front to back.

Do I have to remove the membrane on a rack of ribs before grilling?

Yes, it’s a good idea to remove the membrane on a rack of ribs before grilling. Use a knife to cut through the membrane and then, using a paper towel for grip, pull the membrane from the meat in (hopefully just) one motion.

How do I season a rack of ribs for grilling?

I add canola, grapeseed, or avocado oil all over the top and bottoms of the ribs, as an adherent. I like to put only one rub on the bottom (bone side) of the ribs. Try not to use a rub with a lot of sugar. That sugar can burn and taste bitter. I always use the Head Country Original Championship Seasoning. On the tops of the ribs, I like to layer the flavors, so I use 2-3 seasonings there. I always put the Original Championship down first, and then I put High Plains Heat on second. Then, I spritz it (I use apple juice) and let it sit for about 10 minutes.

What temperature do I grill pork ribs?

Start the ribs at 300 degrees, decreasing the temperature to 250 degrees after about 3 hours. Put the thicker side of the rack of ribs toward the back of the grill. As you’re going in and out of the grill, that’s going to maintain more of a constant temperature and cook more evenly.

How long does it take to cook ribs on a grill?

Total, 5-1/2 to 5-3/4 hours. To start, you will cook the ribs for 3 hours at 300 degrees with no foil or covering. Spritz it about every 30 minutes (I use apple juice), just to make it moist. This will keep a hard bark from developing. At 3 hours, you’re ready to wrap. You’ll put the rack from the grill onto the foil. At this point you will add a light coating of brown sugar over the top of the ribs. Then, I add 3-4 ounces of Coca Cola per rack. Fold the aluminum foil in a A-frame shape, crimping the foil at the top. Load the ribs back onto the grill and cook for 2-1/2 to 2-3/4 more hours, decreasing the temperature to 250 degrees F. Then, if desired, it’s time to glaze. Lightly use a brush, distributing the glaze—I often just use Head Country Apple Habanero—back and forth across the ribs. The ribs go back on the grill at 250 degrees for about 5 minutes, to let the glaze set. Pull the ribs off the grill and allow them to rest for 5 minutes before slicing from the top to the bone-side with an electric knife.

What should I serve with BBQ ribs?

Try Head Country Cole Slaw, our Easy Baked BBQ Beans, and this recipe for Grilled Street Corn (Elote).

Get doug’s full recipe for Fall-Off-The-Bone Pork Spare Ribs, including a handy ingredients list and play-by-play instructions.

Find more expert BBQ and Grilling videos from Doug, including more must-have BBQ tools and how to host a BBQ for 20 to 200.