- When it's Done:Meat pulls back and exposes ¼ inch of bone.
Unlike a steak or hamburger, you can’t just throw a rack of ribs over some hot coals and grill it (unless you enjoy tough, dry ribs). Authentic BBQ ribs are slow-smoked over charcoal and wood. Once you learn this proven technique for succulent smoked ribs, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make perfect ribs, every time.
After rinsing the ribs in water and patting dry with a paper towel, remove the skin-like membrane located on the bottom or “bone side” of the ribs. Slide a dinner knife underneath the membrane between the bones at about the second or third bone from the end, then grab the membrane with a cloth and peel it off of the ribs. Using a heaping tablespoon of rub per side, sprinkle it evenly on both sides. Do not apply sugar-based sauces at this time.1
Skin and rub the ribs.
If you’re using a kettle-type grill, use an indirect technique like the snake method to set up your grill. For backyard smokers, set it up for a long smoke. With either method, soak a few handfuls of Kingsford® Wood Chips (hickory or mesquite) for about 30 minutes before placing atop the coals. Place a drip pan filled with water or apple juice directly under the meat. This water will help moderate the grill temperature and add moisture to the air when the liquid evaporates.2
Prepping your cooker for smoking
Smoke the ribs at 107°C to 121°C for four to five hours. You can baste or mop the ribs occasionally if you like, but don’t open the grill too often. Maintaining a steady temperature is the most important thing. Opening the grill causes wide temperature changes. If smoke starts to die down, add more wood chips.3
Smoking the ribs
If you want to apply a sugar/tomato-based glaze or sauce to the ribs, do it in the last 1/2 hour to prevent the sauce/glaze from burning onto the ribs.4
Glaze or sauce the ribs.
There are three standard methods of testing the ribs for doneness: 1) As the meat cooks, it shrinks and exposes the bone at the thinner end of the rib. When about 1/4-inch of bone is exposed, the ribs should be done. 2) When you pick up the middle of the slab and flex it, the meat will separate from the bone and not flex back (if it feels rubbery, it’s not done). 3) Cut one off and eat it. When you take a bite, the meat should pull off the bone with a slight tug but not fall off the bone.5
Testing for doneness
When it’s time for the ribs to come off the grill, first let them rest and cool down for about 15 minutes so that they’re easier to handle and slice. When it’s time to slice the ribs, cut between the bones using a sharp knife. Notice the telltale smoke rings around the outer edges of the ribs. BBQ newbies mistake this pink meat for being underdone; rather, this is the signature of perfectly smoked BBQ ribs.6
Rest and cut.
Some people wrap their ribs after two hours or so of smoking. The so-called “Texas Crutch” can help speed cooking and keep ribs moist. However, the ribs can overcook, so the meat falls too easily off of the bone.