Barbecued Ribs

From Cook's Country | June/July 2011
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Why this recipe works:

We found that St. Louis spareribs were the easiest variety to work with for this Barbecued Ribs recipe. The secret to achieving the best flavor is in the spice rub. We found the longer we left it on the ribs, the better they tasted. The effect was best over the course of several days. Starting… read more

We found that St. Louis spareribs were the easiest variety to work with for this Barbecued Ribs recipe. The secret to achieving the best flavor is in the spice rub. We found the longer we left it on the ribs, the better they tasted. The effect was best over the course of several days. Starting the barbecued ribs on the grill and finishing them in the oven prevented them from drying out in the intense heat of the grill.


Serves 4 to 6

The longer you leave the ribs with the spice rub the better (we recommend up to 2 days) their flavor, so try to plan ahead. We suggest homemade barbecue sauce, but if you're short on time, Bull's-Eye is the test kitchen favorite among supermarket brands. This recipe uses the oven, as well as a charcoal grill.


  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) racks pork spareribs, preferably St. Louis cut, trimmed and membrane removed
  • 2 cups wood chips, soaked in water for 15 minutes and drained
  • 3 cups barbecue sauce (see related recipe)


  1. 1. Combine paprika, sugar, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in bowl. Pat ribs dry with paper towels and rub with spice mixture. Wrap meat tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 48 hours. Using large sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap soaked chips in foil, crimp to make packet, and cut several vent holes in top.

    2. Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter three-quarters full with charcoal briquettes (4 1/2 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour into steeply banked pile against one side of grill. Place wood chip packet on coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 5 minutes.

    3. Clean and oil cooking grate. Unwrap ribs and place, meat side down, on cool part of grill (ribs may overlap slightly). Place sheet of aluminum foil on top of ribs. Cover, positioning lid vent over meat, and cook until ribs are deep red and smoky, about 2 hours, flipping and rotating racks halfway through grilling. During last 20 minutes of grilling, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees.

    4. Remove ribs from grill, brush with 1 cup barbecue sauce, and wrap tightly with foil. Place foil-wrapped ribs on rimmed baking sheet and bake until tender and fork inserted into meat meets no resistance, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Rest ribs, still wrapped, for 30 minutes. Unwrap and brush with 1 cup sauce. Slice meat between bones and serve with remaining 1 cup sauce.

Perfect Ribs in 12 Easy Steps

Use the tip of a paring knife to loosen the edge of the membrane on each rack.
WHY? The papery membrane on the underside is chewy and unpleasant to eat.

Pull the membrane off slowly, using a paper towel. It should come off in a single piece.
WHY? The paper towel will give you a good grip.

Rub the ribs with a spice mixture, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 to 24 hours.
WHY? To give the rub plenty of time to season the ribs.

Pour the hot coals into a steeply banked pile on one side of the grill.
WHY? By banking the coals, you’re transforming your grill into a slow, low oven, perfect for cooking ribs.

Place a foil packet of soaked wood chips over the coals, cover the grill, and let them smoke for 5 minutes.
WHY? If you start the meat immediately, it will taste acrid from too much harsh smoke.

Clean and oil the cooking grate, unwrap the ribs, and set them on the cool side of the grill.
WHY? So the ribs can cook low and slow without the exterior burning before the interior is tender.

Cover the ribs loosely with aluminum foil, close the grill, and cook until the ribs are deep red, about 2 hours.
WHY? The foil will trap steam to aid in tenderizing the ribs.

Remove the ribs from the grill, brush with 1 cup of barbecue sauce, and wrap tightly in foil.
WHY? The ribs will cook for several more hours in the oven, drinking up the smoky, sweet flavor.

Lay the foil-wrapped ribs on a rimmed baking sheet and move them to a preheated oven.
WHY? So the ribs can fully tenderize without your having to rebuild the charcoal fire.

Insert a fork into the ribs and lift. If the fork pulls right out, the ribs are done. If not, the meat needs to cook longer.
WHY? To check if the ribs are truly fork-tender.

Remove the ribs from the oven and let them rest, wrapped in foil, for 30 minutes.
WHY? The juice will redistribute. What does that mean? Moist ribs.

Unwrap the ribs, brush with more barbecue sauce, slice between the bones, and eat.
WHY? We sauce the ribs twice, but not on the grill, where the sauce would burn.

Gas Grill Method

We prefer charcoal for barbecuing: Wood chips smoke better on charcoal. Still, you can make respectable ribs on a gas grill. First, a vocabulary lesson: the burner that will stay on during grilling is called the primary burner. Substitute these steps for steps 4 to 6 in the "Perfect Ribs in 12 Easy Steps" step-by-step above.

While the grill is off, remove the grill grate. Now place the packet of wood chips on the primary burner.
Next, replace the grate and turn both of the burners to high.
After the chips have been smoking for 5 minutes, turn the primary burner to medium-high. Turn the other burner off and place the ribs over it. Adjust as needed to keep the heat at 300 degrees.
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