Mastering the art of making finger-licking ribs can make you the most popular guest at the party all summer long — and we promise you'll get to use your new skills in the fall and winter too. For the carnivores among us, there's something so comforting and so delicious about those ultra-tender (and expertly cooked) ribs that fall apart at the first bite.
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.
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.
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.
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. You can learn how to create an indirect heat zone on your grill, with tips from celebrity chef Michael Symon.
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.
The most common mistakes people tend to make when grilling ribs — or grilling meat in general — include:
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.
Originally published May 2013. Updated Aug. 2016.
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