Grilled Baby Back Ribs
I love Grilled Baby Back Ribs so with the three day weekend here I thought I would share with you one of my favorite recipes for the grill, dry rub and tips on how to cook ribs on the grill. I think some people have the impression that grilling ribs is extremely difficult and takes an entire day. That is not the reality at all. If you have a gas grill (or charcoal) and a few hours to kill then you can grill up a wonderful Rack of Baby Back Ribs.
There are basically 2 types of ribs, spare ribs and baby back ribs. The spare ribs are much larger and have more meat so they naturally take much longer to grill (around 4 or 5 hours when grilled “slow and low”). Baby Back ribs on the other are much smaller racks with a nice marbling of fat and cook much faster (around 2.5 to 3.5 hours when grilled “slow and low”). We are going to be using the smaller baby back ribs for this recipe.
Step 1: Prepare the Dry Rub (Measurements are listed in Recipe at the Bottom of this Post)
The secret to great Grilled Baby Back Ribs is a good rub recipe. You can search all over the internet and find 100’s of rub recipes. You can even buy prepared pork rubs in the grocery store (and there is nothing wrong with doing that) or at your butcher (which is actually what many championship BBQ competition guys actually do). However, a basic starter rub is not difficult to make and you probably already have everything you need right in your pantry. This is also a MUCH cheaper option than buying a rub!
Here is a basic rub recipe to get you started but feel free to change it up and make it your own. My favorite part of cooking is experimenting and constantly trying to improve on my recipes! Don’t be afraid! (the complete instructions for the rub and amounts are in the recipe at the bottom of the post).
Step 2: Remove the Membrane (see illustration below)
Step 3: Rub in the Rub!
Now that you have your rub prepared and the membrane removed from the back of the ribs it is time to “Rub it In”. Start sprinkling the grilled rib rub onto the ribs rubbing it into the ribs with your hands as you go (think massage). You want to completely cover the front and back of the ribs (making sure you cover every part). Once you have them completely covered and they are thoroughly relaxed from the massage you just gave them, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and let them sit on the counter while the grill preheats! You can even do this the day before and store them in the refrigerator until an hour before you are ready to start grilling.
Step 4: Fire up the Grill!
It is time to light the grill and start cooking our Grilled Baby Back Ribs “Low and Slow”. You may be thinking what does “Low and Slow” mean? It means we want to cook the ribs at a fairly low indirect heat (we don’t want the heat directly under the ribs). I prefer to use a gas grill, maybe it is because I am lazy, but you can most definitely use charcoal or even a smoker. Everyone has their own opinions (usually strong) on this subject and I am not here to debate this topic. Just feel free to use whichever cooking method you prefer, whether it be gas, charcoal or a full fledged smoker. You can get great tasting ribs with any of them. Again, it’s all about personal preference!
Since I am using a 3 burner gas grill I am only going to light 2 Burners. I will turn the far right burner on high and the middle burner on low. Then I am going to place the ribs on the far left side of the grill (where the burner is off) and shut the lid. You want to keep the lid closed as much as possible and try to maintain the temperature at around 300° to 325°. (Even better if you have a bluetooth grill thermometer!) You should not open the grill very often but you do want to check them every now and then and turn them over and re-position them. The ribs are done when the meat is tender and easily separates from the bone when touched. I told you this was going to be easy!
Step 5: To Sauce or Not to Sauce!
Some people prefer not to sauce the Grilled Baby Back Ribs while they are on the grill, while others like to baste their ribs with sauce at the END of the cooking process. Like everything else this all comes down to personal preference. But there are a couple of important points to keep in mind if you do decide to sauce your ribs while they are still on the grill. Do not sauce your Grilled Baby Back Ribs until the last 30 to 45 minutes of cooking and then keep a close eye on them. We want to make sure that the rub we took so much time and care to apply to our ribs has a chance to create a nice crust on the ribs. If we start to sauce too soon we will not get that crust. Even more important than the crust is that BBQ sauce will burn! Almost all BBQ sauces have sugar (at varying levels) in them and sugar burns very easily. If you start saucing too soon the sauce will burn and all of the time and work you put into your Grilled Baby Back Ribs will not taste very good.
Which sauce should I use?! There are thousands of BBQ Sauce recipes and a large number of quality sauces you can buy in the grocery store. It’s all personal preference. I have a favorite from a local BBQ place you can check out the (copycat) recipe here. check out more of our easy cheap recipes for more mains, sides, and desserts.
- 2 whole slabs pork baby back ribs
- ½ cup paprika
- 3 tablespoon (packed down) dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
- 2 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you want a kick!)
- 2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- 3 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoon garlic powder
- In a bowl, combine all of the dry rub ingredients and mix well. Set aside.
- Remove the the thin membrane from the bone side of each of the rib slabs.
- Sprinkle the dry rub generously on both side of the ribs, covering completely and rub the mixture into the ribs. Both sides should be completely covered with the dry rub.
- Wrap each slab tightly in plastic wrap and let them sit on the counter for 30 minutes while the grill preheats. (You can even do this the day before and store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to grill).
- Preheat ½ of the grill. If you have a 3 burner gas grill have one outside burner on med-high heat and the center burner on low heat.
- Place the ribs on the side of the grill where the burner is off .The ribs need to cook with indirect heat.
- Shut the lid of the grill and keep it closed maintaining a temperature of 300 to 325
- Open grill and check ribs every 45 minutes or so turning and re-positioning several times.
- Ribs are done when the meat easily separates from the bone when gently pushed on with a finger.
- If desired brush with sauce after ribs are completely finished cooking. Make sure and watch the ribs while appying sauce so that it does not burn.