Top Tips for Grilling Ribs on a Charcoal Grill

December 09, 2023 4 min read

Top Tips for Grilling Ribs on a Charcoal Grill

Grilling ribs on a charcoal grill can result in mouthwatering, smoky flavors that are hard to beat. However, achieving perfectly grilled ribs requires some skill and knowledge. In this article, we will provide you with top tips and techniques to help you grill ribs like a pro. From choosing the right ribs to mastering the grilling process, we've got you covered.

Selecting the Right Ribs

Before diving into the grilling process, it's essential to choose the right ribs. Two popular types of ribs are baby back ribs and spare ribs. Baby back ribs are smaller and tend to be more tender, while spare ribs are larger with more meat. Consider your preference and the occasion to select the perfect type of ribs for grilling.

Baby Back Ribs

  • More tender and leaner than spare ribs.
  • Great for smaller gatherings or when you prefer less fatty meat.

Spare Ribs

  • Larger and meatier than baby back ribs.
  • Ideal for occasions where you want substantial portions or prefer more marbling for flavor.

Preparing the Ribs

Properly preparing the ribs is crucial to achieving the best results on the grill. Follow these steps to ensure your ribs are seasoned and ready to grill.

  1. Remove the membrane: On the bone side of the ribs, locate the thin, translucent membrane. Use a butter knife to loosen it at one end, then grip it with a paper towel and pull it off completely. Removing the membrane allows for better seasoning penetration and results in more tender ribs.
  2. Dry rub or marinade: Apply a dry rub or marinade of your choice to enhance the flavor of the ribs. If using a dry rub, combine ingredients like salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and brown sugar. Massage the rub or marinade into the ribs, ensuring even coverage.
  3. Resting period: After seasoning the ribs, allow them to rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before grilling. This resting period allows the flavors to penetrate the meat, resulting in tastier ribs.

Preparing the Charcoal Grill

To achieve that authentic smoky flavor, a charcoal grill is the way to go. Follow these steps to prepare your charcoal grill for grilling ribs.

  1. Charcoal arrangement: Create a two-zone fire by arranging the charcoal on one side of the grill. This technique allows for both direct and indirect heat. For a medium-high heat level, use approximately 30-40 charcoal briquettes.
  2. Preheating the grill: Light the charcoal using a chimney starter or electric starter. Let the charcoal burn until it's covered with a layer of gray ash. This process usually takes around 15-20 minutes. Avoid grilling over direct flames, as it can result in burnt and unevenly cooked ribs.
  3. Adding smoke flavor: For an extra smoky taste, add wood chips or chunks directly on top of the charcoal. Soak the wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling to prevent them from burning too quickly.

Grilling the Ribs

With the ribs prepared and the grill ready, it's time to get cooking. Follow these grilling techniques to achieve perfectly grilled ribs.

  1. Indirect heat cooking: Place the seasoned ribs on the grill grates opposite the charcoal. This positioning allows for indirect heat cooking, ensuring the ribs cook evenly without charring or burning.
  2. Low and slow: Grill the ribs using the low and slow method. Maintain a consistent temperature of 225-250°F (107-121°C) throughout the cooking process. This slow cooking technique allows the collagen in the ribs to break down, resulting in tender and flavorful meat.
  3. Mopping and basting: Every 30-45 minutes, mop or baste the ribs with a sauce or marinade. This helps keep the meat moist and adds an additional layer of flavor. However, wait until the last 30 minutes of cooking to apply the sauce, as excessive sugar content can lead to burning.

The Right Time to Remove the Ribs

Determining when the ribs are perfectly cooked requires a combination of visual cues and feel. Follow these indicators to know when your ribs are ready to be taken off the grill.

  1. Bend test: Pick up the ribs using tongs and gently bounce them. If the meat shows cracks on the surface and starts to tear but doesn't completely fall apart, they are ready.
  2. Bone pull: Grab a bone and twist it. If the bone starts to loosen and separate from the meat easily, the ribs are done.
  3. Meat shrinkage: As the ribs cook, you will notice the meat pulling away from the bone ends. When the meat has shrunk to expose about a half-inch of bone, it's a good indicator that the ribs are cooked to perfection.

"Grilling ribs on a charcoal grill is an art that requires time, patience, and attention to detail. The reward is tender, flavorful, and delicious ribs that will leave your guests begging for more."


Grilling ribs on a charcoal grill can be a truly rewarding experience. By selecting the right ribs, mastering the preparation process, and applying the correct grilling techniques, you can create mouthwatering ribs that will impress your friends and family. Remember to keep an eye on the temperature, use indirect heat, and know when the ribs are perfectly cooked by using the bending, bone pull, and meat shrinkage tests. Grill on and enjoy the finger-licking goodness of grilled ribs!

Also in Cooking

The Art of Perfectly Grilling a London Broil: Unlocking BBQ's Best Kept Secret
The Art of Perfectly Grilling a London Broil: Unlocking BBQ's Best Kept Secret

January 23, 2024 3 min read

Read More
Sizzling Secrets: Perfect Hot Dogs Without the Grill
Sizzling Secrets: Perfect Hot Dogs Without the Grill

January 23, 2024 2 min read

Read More
Grilling to Perfection: Master the Art of Bratwurst Preparation
Grilling to Perfection: Master the Art of Bratwurst Preparation

January 22, 2024 3 min read

Read More
RuffRuff App RuffRuff App by Tsun