Do you want some smokey, sticky, tender, juicy, pork ribs at home, but you are not a pit master and the best bet you have available is a gas grill? Well let me show you something!
Over the years I have watched a ton of video's and read a pile of websites on how to accomplish this task. I believe I have distilled this information into something that is fairly easy and repeatable for even the first timer while covering a wide range of available equipment. Heck you could even use the same basic information on non gas grills as well since the basic principals are the same.
Will you win BBQ competitions, get a giant trophy and a picture of you on the front page of a magazine?
You will, however, confidently make a very tasty dinner for family and friends, that will be the talk of the weekend.
Before we get started lets get some basic "you are cooking meat" stuff out of the way.
You are cooking raw pork involving, sticky sauces, steam, pressurized gas, and fire. It is necessary to be aware of food safety, cleanliness, and personal protection of yourself and those around you.
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Step 1: Know Your Grill!
The most important thing about accomplishing this task is knowing your grill setup. We want indirect heat at all times, and how this is set up is completely dependent on your make, model, and size of grill.
We need to know this before starting because it will effect how you prepare, and cook your ribs. If you have a grill with front and back burners, you might not have to cut the ribs up. If you have a 2-3 burner grill, you might only use one but a bit higher flame to maintain temps. My grill ... and the one before it, is a fairly small affair with 2 burners BUT they are arranged in 2 U shapes, one left, one right.
This means my already small grill is now cut in half. you do not want the meat to be in direct contact with the flame as it will burn very quickly (and catch fire thanks to the fat of the ribs).
Also, over time and cooking different things on your grill, you will notice that different sides of the grill tend to lean hotter and colder. Whichever zone is the coolest while grilling burgers or whatnot is the side that you want to produce heat. We want to get and keep temperatures as low as we can, and using the side that always burns the chicken first is not the side we want to be ignited.
On my specific unit the right side is more gentle than the left, so I will light the right side up and leave the left side off during the cook.
Step 2: Supplies
Things you need!
- 4-5 hours
- Ribs (duh)
- Wood Chips
- Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
- BBQ Sauce
- Some form of liquid, I tend to use apple juice cause we always have it with a kid in house
- (optional) cold beer
- Basting Brush
- Thermometer of some kind
- oven mitts, grill mits, ove-glove's, something to keep from burning your hands
- something to lift your grill grate at least once while its hot, I have a large pair of channel-lock pliers
- Sharp knife
- Baking sheet pan
Let me go into more detail now
Ribs, whatever is affordable, you don't want big giant country style here, just a normal rack of bone in pork ribs.
Wood Chips, I prefer actual chips, you can get away with the shredded pucks or little packets, but they do not smoke nearly as long, in this cook I am using Weber brand hickory chips, any wood is good for pork, though I would avoid cherry as it imparts a noticeable cherry flavor into the meat
Seasoning, whatever you like, but avoid anything with acid in its ingredients, citric acid, lemon peel, etc will not be cooked long enough to get rid of its sour flavor, so its like ribs with atomic warhead's candy twang, look at the ingredients. When I went to Target today, the McCormick BBQ seasoning had some type of acid in it, the in store brand did not. Otherwise they are all about the same (brown sugar, garlic, onion, pepper of some type, paprika, herbs, and salt).
BBQ Sauce, its your preference I used some KC Masterpiece cause its in our fridge already.
Step 3: Kitchen Prep 1
OK, so we know our grill, we got our stuff lets get this party started.
The first hour or so is pretty hectic so be prepared. The wood chips need to soak in water for at least 30 min, or else they just burst into flames and die quick. I am going to take roughly 2 cups of wood chips and fill the container with water, then set it aside.
Next I need to remove the ribs from the packaging, rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. The main point of this is to not really remove any meat juice, but this initial rinse will wash off loose parts and bone chips. These things are processed at the speed of light though vicious machines.
Once dry I am going to take a sharp knife and remove any loose pieces, or flappy bits from the ribs, some of this is presentation, most of it is to keep thing from falling off or burning up in the grill.
Next I will hold the knife fairly flat to the meat and trim excess fat, fat is good, fat will keep the meat from drying out over a long cook, but you do not want to bite into a 1/4 inch thick half rendered fat jello either.
Step 4: Kitchen Prep 2
Once the meat is trimmed we want to flip it over. On the back of ribs is a membrane, you do not have to remove it, it is not very good, its internal sealing skin that traps fat and will block any smoke and seasoning. For the sake of even smoke and seasoning flavor ... and not making the people eating it chew though something that is almost as tough as the plastic the ribs came in, I strongly suggest you remove it.
Besides its pretty easy. Find a "corner" of the membrane and scrape it a little with your knife. Once it starts to peel up a little, Use some paper towel for grip, and pinch the membrane and towel tween your forefinger and thumb. Go slow peel back, pro's can do it in one shot, it usually takes me two or 3 times before I get it all, but we need to get it all off.
Step 5: Kitchen Prep 3
Since my grill is not large enough to accommodate the entire rack of ribs while keeping the meat out of direct heat I will have to cut mine in half. To start seasoning the meat I will put a very thin coat of BBQ sauce all over the ribs. We need to cover, top, bottom and all sides. Once that is done put a thick coat of dry seasoning again on the top, bottom and all sides.
I am going to set these on a foil lined baking sheet until ready to cook, this will give enough time for the dry seasoning to dampen up and stick well to the meat. If you want you can add some more dry seasoning right before they go on to the fire.
Step 6: Grill Prep 1
Go ahead and start up your grill using all the burners, we want it to get good and hot in order to burn anything left on it so it is easier to clean. You don't really want your ribs getting a taste of Thursday hamburgers, so we need to burn it out and give it a good scrub with a grill brush.
Next we need to make the smoke pouches. I will take a length of aluminum foil, longer than it is wide (eyeball it, its not mission critical) take the long side and fold the foil in half so it more or less forms a square. Next fold in half again 90 degrees from the first fold. Fold and crimp the bottom and side, so we just made a 2 layer thick pouch of foil.
Drain the water from your wood chips and place roughly one cup of chips in the pouch and fold the last end shut. Using a knife cut some slits on the top of the pouch. I did 3 and opened one up wider, this is to help light the chips on fire ... which is surprisingly difficult
Lastly I am going to take some more foil and make a second pouch like the first for the remaining chips. The back of the bag says that on a gas grill 1 cup of chips should smoke up to 40 minutes.
Step 7: Grill Prep 2 and Starting to Cook!
After letting the grill burn off whatever was on there and scrubbing the grate clean with a grill brush I will turn off the burner (or burners depending on your grill) where I want the ribs to cook indirectly. I am going to leave the direct side fully on and toss one of the packets on top of the grate.
Most of the time I see someone using these packets they just say to toss it over your burner and like magic it will start smoking within a short period of time. Not with my grill, So I am going to place it on top of the grate for about 5 to 10 minutes to drive off excess moisture then give it a helping hand with a wand / grill lighter just to get it stared, in the main picture of this step you can just make out a tiny little flame in the large opening.
That tiny little flame wont last long, and that is fine you don't want a fire, you want the chips to smolder. I give it a few more minutes, then when I start to see smoke wisping out I lift up the grill grate (using large channel locks but oven mits would be fine too just be aware of fire) and throw it over the burner shield sill with full gas on the burner. After a little bit more time the first packet should be smoking pretty well, so once again I lift the grate, toss on the second packet and then finally put the meat on.
Offsetting the packets start time's like this should ensure us a full good hour of smoke.
Close the lid and set a 30 minute timer, and eyeball your temps on the indirect side. Its going to be super hot but its ok for now. after about 10-15 min the first smoke packet should be producing a lot of smoke, and the second smoke packet should be just starting to wisp smoke. Turn the burner all the way down and watch the smoke, if it gets too light turn the burner up a little bit but not too much.
We ideally want about 250 degrees F in the indirect zone, with my small grill that is nearly impossible so anywhere above 250 and below 300 would work. You do not need to constantly monitor it like I am doing here, just spot check it to make sure the temp's are not getting too out of hand.
Step 8: Almost Time to Relax
We are going to let the ribs sit in the smoke for 30 minutes, after that time period we need to rotate the meat. in my case since I have 2 parts I am going to swap left for right and rotate 180 degrees. Get used to this routine as we will need to rotate the ribs every half hour or so just to be 100% sure its evenly cooked.
Once rotated let it go another 30 minutes or until the grill stops smoking. During the waiting period gather up 4 sheets of aluminum foil large enough to wrap your ribs, place some BBQ sauce in a bowl and get a little cup of juice.
Step 9: Wrap and Bake
After roughly an hour of smoke your ribs should have taken on some nice color, now we need to wrap them up and let them cook
We want to double up on the foil to keep bones from poking though, though maybe offset them a little bit to make sure its wide enough to wrap the entire ribs. On the bottom of the foil spread a thin layer of BBQ sauce with a basting brush, place the ribs on the foil and spread bbq sauce on all sides, top and bottom and start to wrap them up. Just before finally sealing the rib pouches I am going to throw just a splash of juice in the bottom of the foil, there will eventually be a lot of moisture, but this will keep things from drying out at first. When I say splash I mean just a few tablespoons, don't need it swimming.
Whatever juice is remaining is a nice treat on a hot day next to a hot grill.
Once they are wrapped up, using oven mits or whatever pick the ribs up, notice that they are pretty stiff and not super flexible. We need to slow cook them for least another one and a half to two hours, rotating roughly every half hour so they cook even. If your grill burner is not already at its lowest setting go ahead and turn it all the way down.
Step 10: Almost Done
Rotate by hand every 30 or so minute's, before opening the lid spot check the temp in the indirect area, if its getting too out of hand you can use something to crack the lid open, but generally its not been an issue for me.
Again you do not have to go full nerd like me with a thermocouple and a meter, you can use an oven thermometer or what I usually do is a "instant read" meat thermometer though one of the holes usually found on the side of the lid. as long as its generally under 300 degrees F a gas grill will settle in on a temperature. No matter how I measure the temp, my grill always swings from about 260 to 280 with one burner on its lowest setting.
After a bout an hour start checking the meat for done, the easiest way is by feel. When we put the ribs in the foil they were pretty stiff and fairly ridged. On this batch after about the 1:40 mark (after wrapping) the meat in the packet started feeling really relaxed and slumped in my hand. This is a very good indicator that they need to come off, you want them tender and easily release from the bone, but not so over cooked that you cant handle them without them falling apart.
Step 11: Finish Them!
Remove the ribs from the grill and very carefully open the foil packet, there will be a lot of steam and much more scalding hot liquid at the bottom than what you put in there. This is juices from the meat and liquids from the sauce and that little splash of juice that has been brazing the meat all this time.
We want to lift the ribs up out of the liquid and look at the bones, the meat should be pulled back from the edges. If you want you can spot check the meat with a meat thermometer to just be 100% sure its done.
Technically we could eat it as it, but its meat that has been steamed and boiled so its a little soggy, in order to fix this we need to finish the ribs. Crank your heating burner up to full blast and get the grill nice and hot.
While that's going on I am going to spoon the liquid from the bottom of the foil back on top of the meat. If you want any more sauce or seasoning on your ribs now is the time to do that as we are about to make the final glaze from whatever is on the meat.
Once the grill is good and hot place the meat back on the indirect side and close the lid, let it bake anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes until the desired color is achieved.
Step 12: Enjoy!
Brings your ribs inside and let them cool down for a few minute's when you cut into them they should stay on the bone, but with little effort come cleanly from the bone and be super juicy and flavorful.
Have a nice dinner with your family and friends, and try not to think too much about the incredible mess that's now on the grill.
Now where did I put that beer...
First Prize in the