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How to grill fall-off-the-bone ribs, and what not to do

Newlywed, new mom and first-time home buyer, Sarah is currently playing out her exciting life in Phoenix, Arizona. She recently gave up her job in finance to stay at home with her baby girl, who between bath time and feeding time, keeps ...

The 4 simple steps you need to make the best ribs you've ever tasted

Learning how to make ribs that are finger-licking good is as American as apple pie. The weather is warming up, which means you can finally start prepping for the summertime barbecue season and 4th of July festivities. These unbelievably delicious (and ultra-tender) ribs will give you something to look forward to.

Unless it's your first time bellying up to the pit, you probably know by now that grilling ribs is nothing to be taken lightly. Everything — from the quality of meat you choose, to the temperature of the grill, to the flavor of the barbecue sauce — makes a difference. If you're looking to grill ribs that literally fall off the bones as you eat them, you're at the right place. We searched high and low for the best tips when it comes to grilling ribs. Give it a try — we're certain you won't be disappointed:

1. Make a rub

The first thing in preparing tender ribs is creating a rub that's sure to delight your taste buds and add to the ribs' already delicious flavor. We like to keep things simple with a rub consisting of just three ingredients — salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. After applying a generous amount of the rub to the ribs, let them sit and marinate for a good 30 minutes.

2. Precook the ribs

Most people place their ribs directly on the grill after they marinate. Though this will produce delicious ribs, we recommend precooking them in the oven first. Wrap the ribs in foil, and place them in the oven at 300 degrees F for 45 minutes. Precooking them helps intensify the flavor and naturally brings out the juices, ensuring your ribs will be anything but dry.

3. Grill the ribs

This is the easy part! Place the ribs over indirect, medium heat on your grill. The temperature should be about 325 degrees F. Cover the grill, and cook the ribs for approximately two hours. Do not check on the ribs for the first 30 minutes — this is crucial! If you open the grill too many times, you put the ribs at risk of drying out. After the two hours are up, use a fork to make sure the ribs pull off the bone easily. If so, they are done. If you're using barbecue sauce, now is the time to slather the ribs in it.

What is indirect heat? The cooking does not take place directly over the heat. If you're using a gas grill, turn on half the burners, and place the ribs on the unheated side. This allows them to cook more slowly and evenly and makes it less likely for them to burn.

4. Cool the ribs

After the ribs are fully cooked, take them off the grill, and let them rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Allowing the meat to rest lets the moisture build up again and prevents the juices from running out of the ribs as you cut them. If you cut the meat right away, you lose a ton of vital juices pertinent to the overall flavor. We know you're hungry and your mouth is watering, but it's worth waiting an extra 10 minutes.

Common grilling mistakes

The most common mistakes people tend to make when grilling ribs — or grilling meat in general — include:

  • Grilling over direct heat. Any meat that is 2 inches thick or more should be grilled indirectly.
  • Putting on the barbecue sauce too soon. Save this for the end. You don't want the sauce to burn.
  • Peeking too often. If the recipe calls for a closed grill, do your best to not peek. Once per hour is fine, but any more than that, and you run the risk of losing too much moisture.
  • Getting tipsy. We know it's more fun to grill with a drink in hand, but try to limit yourself to just one until the food is served.

More grilling tips

How to grill perfect chicken
How to make brownies on the grill
The secrets of the perfect steak

Updated by Bethany Ramos on 3/23/16

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