Tips and Tricks for Cooking Ribs on the Grill

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A few years into our marriage, Joe and I bought a grill as an anniversary gift to ourselves. That was the beginning of one of our favorite warm weather activities. We look forward to the nights when our meal plan involves standing out on the deck making the entire neighborhood jealous with the smells coming from our yard. At first we played it safe grilling burgers, chicken and veggies but the last couple of years, we've started branching out and learning how to grill some foods that scare us. 

One of those things that we've experimented with is ribs. Growing up, my family always cooked boneless ribs in the crock-pot and they were one of my favorite things to eat, but ever since our rib grill off date night a few summers ago, we've been pretty partial to whole racks of ribs with Joe's glaze creation, and we'll never go back to anything else. We've gotten really good at grilling or smoking ribs, but during the colder months when we don't want to cook outside, we miss this recipe so I decided that this year we will make them four different ways (in the oven, crock-pot, grill and smoker) and share our technique for each of those with you!

grilled ribs

We started our rib cooking journey out on the grill but just recently perfected this recipe and learned a few new tricks within the last year. The taste of smoked ribs is great, but they take all day and lots of attention, which we don’t always have to give when we’re in the mood for ribs. I love how quickly our ribs cook on the grill and that we can enjoy them all summer long without heating up our oven or the house!

ribs on the grill

How to Grill a Rack of Ribs Perfectly

We always assumed that ribs were going to be expensive, but we can get a rack for $10-$20 everywhere we’ve looked, so ribs are almost less expensive than steak in our house. I always get pork ribs, that’s my personal preference and what I feel most comfortable cooking. You could try these tricks with beef ribs and let me know how they turn out, if that’s the type of meat that you prefer!

The first thing we do is put rib rub on the meat, at least eight hours before we plan on cooking them, but preferably overnight. We’ve used a lot of different rubs over the years, but this one will always be our very favorite . We’ll remove the membrane on the back of the rack and use rib rub on every inch of the meat. Wrap your ribs tightly in aluminum foil and put them in the fridge on an aluminum foil lined cookie sheet. About two hours before we plan to start the grill, I pull the ribs out and rub them with brown sugar, the same way that I used the rib rub, then put them back in the fridge.

cook the perfect ribs at home

When you’re ready to cook, about two to three hours before you plan on eating, pull your ribs out of the fridge and let them rest on the counter. While they’re resting, turn your grill on and heat it to about 250° or 300° F After your grill has reached your desired temperature, turn off the center burners and turn the outside ones down to low or medium-low. Unwrap your ribs and place them in the center of grill. On either side of the rack, I place a small aluminum foil bread pan, like these ones, filled about halfway with water.

Now you wait! I have to resist going to check on my ribs every half hour. The more you can keep the lid shut, the better your ribs will cook! I do go out and look at the grill temperature gauge every so often, to make sure that it’s staying consistent. I would recommend this because the other day when I was cooking ribs, I realized that my burners had turned off and the temperature had dropped to 50° F which affected the final result and did not produce the fall of the bone ribs that I was going for. The goal is to keep your temperature consist throughout the cooking process. Keeping an eye on your grill will help you catch temperature issues or your propane tank running out before it affects your ribs too much.

meat thermometer

When your ribs have an internal temperature of about 140°, mix up your glaze and put it on your ribs. This will happen anywhere from one to two hours into cooking them, so I suggest checking the temperature every half hour at that point, but again, open the lid as minimally as possible. My mom got me this awesome multi use thermometer for Christmas and it has been amazing for checking the temperature of meat when we’re cooking it. It’s quick and accurate and can be used for anything, even finding out the temperature of a space like your home or outside.

For the glaze, I use the Sweet and Sassy recipe from this post when we grilled our first rack of ribs. We love this glaze because it is so good and produces a dry rib that doesn’t need any sauce to make it tender or flavorful. I recently started using apple cider vinegar instead of just regular vinegar and I haven’t decided if I like it better or not. I think straight vinegar gives them more of a bite, so which I really like, so I’ll probably go back to that, but I thought I’d mention the apple cider vinegar in case you want to try it. I try to put the glaze on the ribs at least twice before they are done cooking. You’ll know your ribs are done when they reach an internal temperature of 165° F.

ribs on the grill

When your rack of ribs is fully cooked, transfer them from the grill to a foil lined cookie sheet. Cover the sheet tightly in foil so your ribs can rest. Let them rest for about 20 minutes before serving. When you’re ready to eat, cut between each bone and try your hardest not to eat them as you go.

We also grilled corn as a side for this dinner. I buttered each ear and sprinkled salt and pepper on them before wrapping each ear individually in foil. Lay the foil wrapped ears right on the grill and turn all burners to medium, after removing your rack of ribs. Let them cook while your ribs rest. Then remove and unwrap and enjoy!

grilled corn

If you’ve never attempted to cook ribs, I would challenge you to try grilling a rack this summer! It seems intimidating at first, but I promise it’s one of the easiest things you’ll do. I think ribs are easier than burgers or steaks and they’re one of my favorite foods so it’s never a bad thing when I made them.

Photography by Sadie Banks Photography

Tips and tricks to grilling perfect, fall off the bone ribs.
Grill the perfect rack of ribs this summer. It's easier than you think!