Get the Real Thing!
How to make great BBQ ribs. Easy tips and tricks for great ribs
I love BBQ. I'm talking about real BBQ, which is different from what you do when you grill a steak or throw some burgers on your barbecue.
BBQ, as it means in most of southern and mid western America, means cooking tough pieces of meat over a low smoky heat, for a long time.
It's not hard to make great BBQ, and I hope to help you understand the how's and why's of BBQ, so your next batch of BBQ ribs will be unbeatable.
6 Tips for great BBQ ribs
1 Don't ever boil your ribs! This is a BBQ abomination. The problem with ribs is that they can be a bit tough and ornery. They are full of collagen, and if not cooked properly, they will be incredibly tough and chewy. You want fall off the bone BBQ ribs, and you can achieve this by boiling them, but it's a bad idea. When you boil ribs, what you are effectively doing is making a pork broth. You are stealing a lot of the delicious potential flavors from the ribs, and they will be much blander and more one dimensional when cooked this way.
What you really want to do is sort of roast the meat. BBQ is a low heat method of roasting, and by dry roasting will concentrate the great flavors of the meat.
2 low and slow! The secret to tender BBQ ribs is a long cooking time over a low temperature. If you roast these slowly, the collagen in the meat will transform into luscious gelatin, and the meat will be tender and flavorful. You want to keep the heat between 250 and 300. Lower than 250 and you risk drying the meat, and higher than 300 is getting too hot for tenderizing cooking.
3 Take off the silver skin. The silver skin is a membrane that is attached to the underside of the bones. You can't chew it and marinades, rubs and sauces can't penetrate it. It's got to go. Take a knife and pry a little bit off, then grab it with your fingers and peel the while thing off.
4 Season the ribs the night before you plan on cooking them. Rub whatever spice rub you're using on the meat the night before, to give it enough time to penetrate and flavor the meat.
5 Cook them over indirect smoky heat. You can use any receptacle that will provide heat, and hold smoke. I've built an offset firebox smoker, smoked in my brick oven, and found best results from an old gas fired pizza oven. The heat in the pizza oven is nice and steady, and I just whack a big cast iron fry pan full of fruit tree wood with some charcoal mixed in to provide lots of smoke.
The lesson is that it doesn't really matter what is providing the heat, as long as there is a lot of smoke, the heat is good and even and low; and the meat is not too close to the heat source. You can use a backyard gas BBQ with wood chips to good effect, but it is hard to keep the ribs away from the direct heat of the flames (unless you've got a really BIG BBQ!).
You can get a little bullet smoker at most hardware stores for about 50$, and they will work reasonably well, or use your imagination, and design your own cue pit!
6 Don't sauce until the ribs are done (they're done when you lift up the rack in the middle a bit, and it threatens to split in two). When they are done, heat the grill up to medium and grill the sauced ribs for a few minutes.
Follow these 6 steps and you are well on your way to an outstanding BBQ meal. People can debate for hours between the different merits of rubs, mops, different woods and sauces; so you will have to make your own mind up about all that. Just remember the principles of low and slow and steady indirect smoky heat, and you will be just fine!
Nothing beats the backyard aromas of an afternoon's labor tending BBQ ribs, so get out there and enjoy a great weekend afternoon at the cue!
Build Your Own BBQ!
- How to Build a Brick BBQ Smoker
How to build a large brick BBQ smoker for about $200. An explanation, with photos and diagrams.
Removing the silverskin
Ribs with BARK!
It's BBQ season
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John D Lee (author) on August 17, 2011:
Given that you have described, what i would recommend would be cooking them in the oven like you did last time at home. Cooling them and then packing them at home and then transporting them chilled in a cooler to the campsite the next day.
The next day, put the ribs and some sauce in a a big casserole dish or whatever you've got that can go on a grill and is large enough to hold your ribs (you can separate them into batches if necessary) and then bring this all to temperature over low heat. Take your time here (275 - 300 ish) so you don't boil the ribs and ruin all your low and slow hard work of the day before.
Oh yeah, cover the casserole dishes with well fitted lids or aluminum foil.
Once the ribs are back at serving temperature (hot) then take them out of the casserole dishes and finish them quickly on the grill over direct medium heat - like you did last time.
this should work great.
Best of luck!
ilovebrisket on August 12, 2011:
I have a dilemma. I've onldy made ribs once before and I loved the way they turned out, but this time i have to make 5 racks and I have to transport them five hours. the way I did it before was to put my molasses/liquid smoke based rub on the night before, then the next morning, in the oven at 200f. for 3 hours, and then I finished them off on the grill with high heat for like 10to15 minutes giving a nice carmelized outside. they tasted great, but how do I do that at a campsite 5 hours away from home? Can I take them out of the oven, bring them down to room temp and them seal 'em in bags in a cooler with ice and then a day later, once I'm down there, just finish em off on the grill. will the product hold? or is my only option to go slow and low on a grill while down there? I don't have a lot of experience with that and the problem I'm forseeing is that, cooking 5 racks of ribs, where they not supposed to be over direct heat, is going to take forever for all of them to get done, if I can only put one or two racks on at a time with only one grill. Nobody will be able to eat at the same time that way. I'd rather do it my original way, but I don't know if the meat will go bad or get tough. Any help would be great. Kind of intimidated about smoking ribs raw and tending over hours and making sure the temp is correct and all that.
Bbq Singapore on March 20, 2011:
Wow, this looks great. Bbq is so much fun with these tasty bbq ribs!
Norm Smoked Ribs on November 19, 2010:
Love this article, to the point and a great guide for making great ribs. Nice point about boiling them.
cole on November 03, 2010:
If I'm using adult pork ribs, will it take longer to cook..?
cken on October 22, 2010:
I just had pork ribs recently in a restaurant while on holiday. Its yummy. Mayby I will try to make a small portion with my iron wok since i dont have a BBQ equipment. :-)
paul on October 14, 2010:
that looks so good i almost ate my computere screen
Smoked BBQ Ribs on August 25, 2010:
This is a great guide to making some tasty bbq ribs. I especially like your comment about boiling ribs. Unfortunately so many people believe this is the only way to make good ribs. Keep the great bbq articles coming!
revolving spice rack on August 01, 2010:
Nice tips on bbqs!
jeff stalvey on July 22, 2010:
DO NOT BOIL> try a spray bottle of applecider vinegar. spray on each side while cooking.
John D Lee (author) on June 26, 2010:
Canuck Pat you are very welcome!
CanuckPat from Toronto, Ontario on June 22, 2010:
We have been arguing about this..to boil or not to boil. Thanks for clearing this up
LEE G- TOWN(MOM FRAN) on May 30, 2010:
THAT TIP WAS GOOD HELP ANY BODY GOING TO BBQ NEED TO NO THATSO GOOD LUCK TO ALL WHO WILL BE BBQING THIS MONDAY.
ThomR from Oregon on April 04, 2010:
Great looking ribs! like the way you did them...nice and slow! You take care and keep the BBQ coming! Best to you and your family!
Michael Willis from Arkansas on April 03, 2010:
What a great explanation on how to cook BBQ ribs. Thanks for this hub.
rocco071 from by the lake on February 08, 2010:
What kind of grill is a black one on that pic?
Lynn E from San Diego, California USA on July 25, 2008:
Thank you, thank you. My family never BBQed so I've been winging it. I used to cook my ribs too fast evidently and they were tough and dry. Then I learned to boil them but this hasn't been very satisfactory, flavor wise. Now that I know the secret to great ribs I'm rarin' to go. I'll think of you the while we're chowin' down.
az_rider27 on July 17, 2008:
man i followed the steps and i can't beleive how good they were thanks a lot
nothing on June 06, 2008:
u messed up in step 3 u put while its whole if im correct
quiet tracer from South-Asia on June 02, 2008:
Very Nice Hub!
useful too :)
solarshingles from london on April 18, 2008:
They smell so very very gooood! and the taste is just perfect!
Rob Jundt from Midwest USA on April 09, 2008:
John, Living here in KCMO, the options for great BBQ are many. For me, the true test of BBQ prowess is the brisket and beef rib. If you can pull those off, the rest is golden.
I don't claim to be a BBQ expert by any means but I know that what you wrote here is true. Keep up the great advice. I need it! Thanks!
John D Lee (author) on April 02, 2008:
Johnny, Thanks for the compliment, and It's great to hear that you and your Weber cranked out some great ribs! Here's to the end of winter another BBQ season!!!
Johnny Dawson on March 16, 2008:
I tried these principles today and I am really surprised at the taste and tenderness of the ribs I made. I have a weber grill and they came out great. I like the fact that you gave principles instead of a how-to advocating a certain product.
Great Job. I love the ribs.
I used pork spare ribs with a dry rub.
edifier83 from Malaysia on March 02, 2008:
ermmm..I love this part
Joanie Ruppel from Texas on February 26, 2008:
Reading this gives me spring fever. I'll have to try some of these tips, even though we use a grill instead of a smoker, I think it will work better than what I was doing last summer.
A large Cow on January 22, 2008:
HEY STOP IT U LITTLE !!!!!! I DO NOT DESERVE TO BE EATEN !!!!!!!!!!!! WAT IS UP WITH U!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I DO NOT LIKE TO BE SEASONED!!!!!!!!!!!
John D Lee (author) on September 07, 2007:
I hope it helps, and there's still lots of great BBQ weather left!
Peter on September 06, 2007: