Grilling Pork Ribs

Need some help grilling pork ribs? Whether you're barbecuing sparerib slabs or meaty country style ribs, here you'll learn how to grill pork ribs that are juicy, flavorful and tender! Every time!

There are several different pork rib cuts to choose from, and each requires different approaches when it comes to preparing and grilling pork ribs.




Whole Spare Rib Sides

Unless you have a large grill, whole spare ribs aren't your best bet for grilling because of uneven thickness and large size. The sparerib slab includes the lower portion of the rib bones (the upper section makes up the back ribs), part of the sternum, and the meat covered cartilage at the lower ends of the rib bones.

A whole sparerib side has to be trimmed before it's seasoned and grilled. Remove the flap of meat from the narrow, thin end first, along with any other loose flaps of meat you find. On the bony side you'll see a flap of membrane covered meat (part of the diaghram) that also needs to be removed.

Against the rib bones there's a whitish membrane, called the "fell". It can be tough chewing if left on the rib, and it also prevents seasonings from reaching the meat. Use a butter knife, screwdriver or the handle of a table spoon to separate part of the fell from the slab. At that point the membrane can be gripped (using a paper towel to prevent slipping) and peeled off.

Once the fell is removed, scrape off the larger deposits of fat. I've found that a tablespoon works great for this job. At this point the slab is ready for seasoning. A good dry rub is the easiest way to go, or marinated if you have a large enough container to hold the slab.

If marinating, give the slab four hours, up to overnight in the marinade. Using dry rub, the ribs can be put on the grill immediately, but if wrapped in plastic wrap and held for one- to four- hours, the rub flavor will absorb deeper into the meat.

Because of its uneven thickness, the thicker part of the sparerib slab should be positioned closer to the heat source of your grill, something you don't have to worry about with trimmed slabs. In large grills simply lay the slab meaty side down, thick part towards the fire. If you have a smaller grill you can use a rib rack, dividing the slab in half and placing the thicker section nearer the coals.




Trimmed Sparerib Slabs

Also called St. Louis style ribs, the only preparation required for these would be removing the membrane if still attached. Trimmed slabs have a nice even shape and consistent thickness, making them easier to grill than whole spareribs.

Season and grill as explained above. Because of their even size, it's easier to fit several in a grill, especially when using a rib rack. Rotate the slabs every once in a while for even cooking.




Country Style Ribs

Country style ribs aren't really ribs, but are sections of the upper part of the pork shoulder. They can be fatty or lean, boneless or bone- in, depending on which part of the shoulder they're cut from.

They usually don't require trimming before seasoning, other than removing some of the larger fat deposits. Season with dry rubs or marinate for two- to four hours before grilling.

Country style pork ribs can be cooked until the meat reaches 160 degrees, or cooked longer for more tender eating.




Grilling Pork Ribs

Use the indirect grilling method whether using charcoal or gas. With charcoal, bank the coals up against one side of the grill. Start with 30- to 40 prelit charcoal briquettes. Add about two cups of soaked, drained wood chips directly on top of the charcoal if you want smoky flavor. Add the ribs, then place the lid on the grill with the vent opened halfway, and directly over the meat.

In larger gas grills, use the two outer burners and place slab to the middle. With smaller grills, use a burner on one end, placing the slab on the opposite side. Rotate the slab occasionally for even cooking. Wrap soaked wood chips in foil and place directly on the hot burner for smoke, if desired. Place the ribs on the grate and close. Maintain a grill temperature of around 300 degrees.

It will take from two to four hours to grill the ribs, depending on their thickness and the temperature of the grill. To shorten grilling time a bit, wrap the ribs loosely in foil after the first two hours of cooking.




Grilling Pork Ribs - When Are They Done?

Whole spareribs and trimmed sparerib slabs should not be cooked until the meat reaches the falling- apart stage. They should be a little chewy, yet tender. A good way to tell if they're done is to pull a bone away from the slab. If the meat tears with just a little resistance, it's perfect.

Grilling pork ribs that are perfectly done is an achievement to be proud of. And taking a bite from a rib you just grilled, seeing that pink smoke ring you created, tasting that luscious, tender meat- well, it just doesn't get any better than that!

Return to Top: Grilling Pork Ribs