How to Grill Ribs on a Charcoal Grill

While every grilled food has its own individuality, the experience of grilling ribs and then devouring it with all the indulgence is difficult to match. People love to eat grilled ribs but shy away from preparing them for a simple reason i.e. they don’t know how to grill ribs to perfection.

Learn How to Grill Ribs on a Charcoal Grill

This piece is dedicated to all those people who want to make their summer afternoons more happening with a ribs cookout on a charcoal grill. We will cover all aspects of ribs grilling in different sections.

A Charcoal Grill with Bigger Grates Is Ideal for Ribs Grilling

Although there is no standard charcoal grill for ribs, the models with larger grates ensure easy cooking. Get any charcoal grill with 22” grates because they can allow you to make heat zones on the grill. If you don’t have a charcoal grill and looking to buy one, check out our review guide for some of the best charcoal grills on the block.

Ribs grilling, especially if you are preparing a feast for more than five people, can go on to be really extensive. So, we will recommend you to get any quality chimney starter as well. You can easily manage any extended grilling activity with a consistent supply of hot coals from a chimney starter.

Briquettes over Lump

Usually, we recommend hardwood lump coal over briquettes due to their pure and natural smoke flavor. Hardwood and lump coal options are good where you need high heat for a limited amount of time i.e. steak searing. However, the grilling dynamics of ribs is different. Here you need to cook low and slow and for that briquettes are proved to be better charcoal fuel. Briquettes gradually burn with slow heat emission that offers more consistent cooking.

After sorting out your grilling tools and fuel, it’s time to deal with the ribs that you are going to prepare.

Remove the Silver Skin

Silver skin is a layer of strong connective tissue usually lined the underside of ribs. It’s not like your regular fat that melts during cooking. It remains tough and chewy despite all the high-temperature treatment of ribs.

Some off-the-shelve ribs have their silver skin removed while others haven’t. If it is present on your soon-to-be grilled ribs, then we would recommend you to remove it before marinating and seasoning them. Even though you can grill the ribs with the silver skin on, but it will cause inconvenience when you will sit to eat it.

Marinate or Not to Marinate?

We all know that pork and beef have their own distinctive taste and that’s the reason why we don’t recommend different recipes when it’s about grilling their steaks. They taste better when they are just seasoned in salt and black pepper.

Ribs, on the other hand, are prepared well when they are marinated. Besides assisting in low and slow cooking, a marinade enhances the flavor and juiciness of a rib. Also, you don’t need to soak your ribs in sauces to make them scrumptious.

Having said that, it’s more about what you prefer. If you want to keep your ribs dry like a steak, then salt, pepper, and oil seasoning will be enough. Moreover, if like to have ribs with a range of different sauces, then marination is not that necessary.

If you want to marinate your ribs before grilling, then make sure to dip them in the marinade overnight. The long marination period helps the spices to set in the meat. Also, set aside some of the marinade to season the ribs right there on the grill.

Spice Rub is another option that you can use for the pre-grill seasoning of the ribs. In the end, it’s up to your liking and what your guests are expecting for you. Everyone likes marinade-soaked juicy ribs and therefore we also suggest that.

Grilling Ribs on a Charcoal Grill

When ribs are all marinated and seasoned, it’s time to take them to the grates. There are multiple things that you need to take care of during the next two hours because the success of your ribs grilling hinges on that time window.

Make the Heat Zones

For the most grilling tasks, ribs are placed on indirect heat. Therefore, a large grill is recommended where you can easily make direct and indirect heat zones. To differentiate, stack the burning briquettes on one side of the pit.

Now, the surface of the grates right above the briquettes will offer direct medium heat.  Meanwhile, the remaining part of the grates will also heat up due to conduction, but there will still exist a significant temperature gradient. This part of grates will provide you with indirect medium heat.

Place the Ribs on Indirect Heat for an Hour

After making those heat zones, place the ribs on the indirect grates. Here, you need to grill each side of ribs for 30 minutes. This slow and gradual heating will help in thoroughly cooking the ribs right to the bone.  Placing raw ribs on the direct heat can entirely spoil them. Direct heat can give you the crusting that you want, but the inside of the ribs will remain undercooked.

Grilling on Direct Heat for 20-30 Minutes More

After an hour, move the ribs to the direct heat and grill each side for 10-15 minutes. Ideally, that’s the phase where your rubs will develop a crust due to the caramelization of sugar.  This is also the time when you should season the ribs with the remaining marinade. However, make sure you do it just 2-3 minutes before taking the ribs off the grill.

With that, you are done with ribs grilling. Now, cut and serve them with sides that you have prepared.

3 Tips to Make Restaurant-Grade Grilled Ribs

While eating a trademark dish offered by any food joint, we often wonder how they do it. Your guests will also display the same sentiments for your home-grilled ribs if you take care of these things.

1. Low and Slow Cooking

We have talked about this in an earlier section and are reiterating this again; low and slow cooking is the crux of good ribs grilling. You can’t prepare tasty ribs treats if you are in a hurry and just trying to get over with grilling.

Making heat zones and then patiently grilling ribs for the next 90 minutes will pay off when you will get a restaurant-grade end product. Low and slow but steady heat breaks down every collagen within the meat to give it all the tenderness and juiciness that people love in chef-prepared grilled ribs.

2. Marinade Makes All the Difference

Every other home grilling session involves spice-rubbed ribs. If you are taking care of the grilling details that we have discussed here, you can certainly prepare them well. However, they will still lack the treat of flavors that comes with overnight marination.

A 12-15 hour soaking period gives meat the taste details that you can’t get otherwise. If you are looking to blow your guests’ mind with your ribs grilling mastery, then marination is going to come in handy.

3. Fork Tenderness Is What You Should Aim for

There is a widespread misconception that when the meat starts falling off the bone, it’s a sign that your ribs are grilled to perfection. There is no credence to this indication of the rib doneness. Grilling experts believe that ‘falling off the bone’ is just a catchphrase for ribs joints and a metaphor to describe ribs that are well done.

In reality, when the meat starts falling off the bones, it indicates that the ribs have been overcooked and now they are drying out and falling off. So, refrain from checking your ribs tenderness with this erroneous indicator.  Instead, use the fork test to see if ribs are ready and tender enough to be taken off. Insert the folk right into the rib, if it easily slithering it through, then your ribs are all ready to be devoured.

Our Final Thoughts

Before concluding the article, let’s have a look at the different type of ribs cuts available. All of them are slightly different from each other in texture, flavor, and shape.

Spareribs:  They are large ribs cuts with flat bones and more dense silver skin. They need more cooking time due to their large volume. Another variant of spareribs is St-Louis-style ribs in which the rib tips are removed. As per experts, they are the hardest to grill.

Baby Back Ribs:  They are the most common ribs cuts that you can easily find at any food store. All beginners should start from baby back ribs because they are smaller and leaner and one can easily marinate and grill them. Moreover, they have a good meat-to-bone ratio too.

From coleslaw to grilled beans and corns, there are lots of sides that you can easily prepare for the hot and juicy grilled ribs. An equally delicious side will only add up to your ribs devouring experience.

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