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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
Ribs are an American grilling classic and a staple at many backyard cookouts across the country. Although cooking ribs on a smoker is considered to be the optimum method for some diehard pitmasters, not everyone can justify the associated costs and time commitment of running a smoker. However, it is possible to make mouth-watering ribs with the use of a simple charcoal grill.
With that in mind, here are four essential steps to ensure you get the perfect ribs using a charcoal grill every time.
Step 1: Prepare your ribs
Before you light up, it’s essential to perform some preliminary meat preparation to ensure tender, melt-in-your-mouth ribs.
First, you need to remove the peritoneum membrane on the outside of the ribs. To do this, turn them over, so they are bone-side up. Take a dull knife, such as a butter knife, place it under the membrane, and carefully slide along the entire rack. Hold tight and continue until the whole membrane is removed. This will ensure the final product is not overly chewy.
Then add your choice of seasonings. This will vary depending on personal preference, but a smoky BBQ sauce or a dry rub both work well. For optimum flavor and the most tender meat, leave the ribs to marinate for 4-6 hours, or if you have time, overnight.
Step 2: Light up your grill
For the best results you need charcoal briquettes that burn low and slow. Add a handful of wood chips for smokiness; Cherrywood and apple wood are ideal because they impart a sweetness to the meat, but for an intense burst of smoky flavor choose hickory.
If you’re looking for a way to light up your coals quickly and effectively, utilize a charcoal chimney. With this method, you don’t have to worry about using firelighters which can contaminate the meat’s flavor or struggling to get your coals to light manually.
Simply add scrunched-up paper into the base of the chimney, followed by briquettes. Light the base of the chimney and watch as it takes in oxygen from below, and begins to heat your coals. Once you observe that the surface of the briquettes has changed to an even white ash, you are ready to place them on your grill.
One of the best tips when learning how to cook ribs using a charcoal grill is to position your coals to one side of your grill. On the other side, place a water-filled foil pan. This will ensure that the ribs stay as moist as possible throughout the cooking process.
Step 3: Cook and turn
When placing your ribs on the grill, make sure that you put them over the indirect heat. Once your grill is at an even temperature of around 275°F, put your prepared ribs directly above the water-filled foil pan you prepared earlier. This will ensure that your meat doesn’t cook too quickly or dry out over the high heat. You want this temperature to stay as consistent as possible throughout the cooking process. To achieve this, use an infrared thermometer to monitor the charcoal temp and more briquettes if needed.
When practicing how to cook ribs using a charcoal grill, you should consistently turn the ribs. For an overall cooking time of 1½ to 2 hours, rotate them at roughly half-hour intervals. This ensures that every edge gets exposed to the hot side of the fire evenly.
At this point, proceed to wrap your ribs in foil and place them back on the grill to seal in the all-important fats and juices. This moisture gets reabsorbed into the meat, making it tender. Continue cooking like this for around another half hour.
Step 4: Finish and serve
Finally, carefully remove the ribs from the foil. You can choose to serve up now, or, for a more charred meat, return them to the fire, meat side down over direct heat, for another 15 minutes or so.
Alternatively, for more saucy ribs, place them back on the grill, meat side up, and brush with BBQ sauce. You’ll want to do this several times at 5-minute intervals to build up a sticky coating. Remember, always make sure to rest your meat for 10-15 minutes and check that the internal temperature reaches a minimum of 145°F before proceeding to carve, eat, and enjoy.
Use Your Charcoal Grill to Cook Juicy, Tender Ribs
Even if you don’t have a smoker, you can still enjoy the succulent texture and flavor of slow cooked pork ribs on your charcoal grill or portable one. With a little preparation and patience, this classic BBQ dish is simple to whip up for your next outdoor gathering.