Grilling ribs on charcoal is a favorite summertime treat. To get tender, juicy, "fall-off-the-bone" BBQ ribs, the barbecue needs to get kept "low and slow". And if you like a smoke flavour, add BBQ wood chips or chunks. It's mostly preparation work to get those perfect ribs.
First, if you're going to use wood chips, soak them in cold water for at least an hour before you're ready to grill. This will make them give off lots of smoke and impart great flavour to the ribs. Because the ribs will be grilled "low and slow", it's more convenient to use wood chunks (rather than chips) if you can - that way you won't have to replenish them as often.
We use back ribs because they're meatier and they cook faster (we're
an impatient bunch!) but you can use side ribs too if you prefer. Set
aside about 5-6 hours for back ribs, or 6-7 hours for side ribs. Prepare
the ribs by taking off the membrane on the bone side of the ribs - just
slip a knife under one end and jiggle it around a bit to loosen it up.
Then take a paper towel, grab the membrane and steadily pull it off.
Once that's done, you'll want to trim the ribs. Remove any loose or hanging bits, which will only burn if left on. Generously sprinkle the ribs, front and back, with your favourite dry rub (buy one, or check out our recipes for BBQ rubs). There's no need to put the rub on in advance - it's not a marinade - doing it just before you throw the ribs on the grill is good enough.
Now set up your barbecue for indirect heat. That is, you want to make sure that the ribs don't sit right on top of the charcoal. Indirect heat will allow the ribs to cook for a long period with a lesser chance of burning before they're done. Crank up the heat at first, so that you can easily scrub the cooking grate clean. Then lightly oil the grate with a paper towel, holding the paper towel with tongs. Finally, lower the heat to about 215 to 225 degrees F. Remember, this low heat is important for grilling tender, BBQ ribs, so be patient.
If you're using wood chunks or chips, now's the time to throw them on top of the charcoal (or use whatever method recommended by your BBQ manufacturer).
These instructions are for back ribs. If you're using side ribs, add another 1/2 hour or so of cooking time to each step. Cooking time will vary depending on how thick the ribs are. You'll know when they're done because they'll start falling apart!
Even though these instructions might seem a little long, grilling ribs on charcoal gets easier and easier the more you do it. It's actually pretty straight-forward and the results are delicious! For people who prefer to baste their meat with BBQ sauce throughout the cooking period, we do have another method of making grilled BBQ ribs. You can also check out more BBQ pork recipes as well as some great side dishes for the BBQ.