This post is sponsored by The Home Depot.
All thoughts and opinions are my own
Barbecuing can be an art or or a quick meal. There are days I want to spend my entire Saturday making an absolutely, ridiculously good, smack neighbor in the face, barbecued meat, but most of the time I want to make something that’s still amazing without all the hassle.
For this rib recipe, that’s what I tried to create. I went through 14 racks of ribs in 2 weeks to see how simple I could make a rib recipe while getting really close to the perfection – without taking a whole day of preparation to do it.
You can jump around this post to different sections depending on whether you want to get right into the recipe, or if you want to learn more about what I tried and didn’t work.
- The Goods
- 3-2-1 Method or Not
- To Peel or Not to Peel
- Smoked or Not
- Are They Done – Bend Test
- Which Ribs to Buy
- Rib Rack?
- What’s Indirect Heat
- The Best, Fast Dry Rub Ribs Recipe
These are the products I used for my test (or they’re almost identical). They’re all available from the Home Depot and you can click on any picture below to check them out or buy them.
The Weber Weber Spirit II E-310 is a 3 burner propane gas grill with 424 sq. in of cooking area, 105 sq. in. of warming rack area, and puts out 30,000 BTU per hour. Plus it comes with a 10 year warranty.
I used this one for all my tests. The channels in it are a good size for the St. Louis style ribs. It can cook 3 racks of ribs with enough space between them to still get a great bark on the outside, but it can hold up to 5 racks at a time.
If you buy a grill, it makes sense to take care of it. Weber grills last forever if you make any effort to take care of them.
This one can check the temperature of the air inside the grill as well as the temperature of the meat. For this recipe, you’ll only need the ambient temperature inside the grill.
You’re going to need a set of tongs to pick up the ribs. Two make it even easier
This isn’t a necessity, but makes it a lot easier to season the ribs, carry them to the grill, and to take them off. It’s longer and wider than most pans, so it makes the ribs easier to handle.
3-2-1 Method or Not
There is a long running debate about whether ribs should cooked the entire time in open heat, or whether you should wrap them in foil for part of time to make them more tender. The 3-2-1- method, if you’re not familiar with it, refers to cooking them on the grill for 3 hours, taking them off, wrapping them in foil with some marinade, and putting them back on the grill for 2 hours, then taking them out of the foil for the last hour of cooking.
I tried this a couple of times, and it made the ribs really fall off the bone, but it also added A LOT more work, and made the ribs significantly drier.
Having to move around the meat on the grill 5 times in 5 hours is too much, plus mixing up the additional marinade and trying to maneuver steaming hot ribs in and out of foil was difficult.
There is probably a way to perfect this method, but with my goal being best ribs with the least work, this didn’t make the cut.
To Peel or Not to Peel
There is a membrane on the back side of the ribs (called the peritoneum) that doesn’t soften like the fat and cartilage will, and like most things in barbecue is a debate on whether it makes sense to remove it.
I tested different rib racks with it on and off, and found it was definitely worth the effort to remove it.
Left on it added more chewiness and an unattractive blackened membrane look.
Smoked or Not?
I tested out smoking ribs in different ways and for different amounts of time and found that it was surprisingly hard to not over smoke ribs. I’m sure there are going to be some barbecue purist who are going to crucify me for saying that, but I think unsmoked ribs are better.
It’s one more variable you can mess up, it takes more time, and if you want repeatably amazing ribs without much work, it’s not worth attempting.
I had really high hopes for the smoked ribs, but after almost 5 hours of cooking, it was really disappointing to bite into ribs that didn’t taste nearly as good as the ones that weren’t smoked.
Are They Done – Bend Test
Ribs can look done far before they are, and if you take them off too early, you’re going to have chewier ribs without a proper bark. You really have to wait for all the fat to render and the tendons and cartilage to soften. Want a pretty fool proof way to know? Use the bend test.
It’s simple, quick, doesn’t require cutting into the meat or using a meat thermometer.
Grab a pair of tongs, pick up a rack of ribs and give them a bend. The first picture below shows them not yet done at 3 hours and 50 minutes, the next shows properly cooked ribs at 4 hours and 20 minutes. Your times will vary based on your grill and the thickness of the ribs, but the bend test has never failed me.
Which Ribs to Buy
I’m a fan of the St. Louis cut ribs
They’re meatier, fattier, and flatter, which makes them easier to brown. If you’re making pork ribs, grab the St. Louis style ribs.
Aim for rib racks that are 3.8 lbs to 4.2 lbs in weight each.
I cooked some ribs with a rack and other without. Should you use one? I think so. It’s easier to make a consistently amazing bark with the ribs when they lay flat on the grill, but they take up so much space, I’d rather sacrifice the 10% better bark for the ability to cook more ribs at a time. It takes almost the exact same amount of time to cook 1 or 5 racks of ribs, so why not make more? They keep well in the fridge and make great leftovers or gifts for neighbors.
What’s Indirect Heat
It’s about what it sounds like. For ribs you’re going to want to keep the heat evenly distributed across the meat, which means you’re not going to want a flame directly beneath the ribs. Turn one of the side burners on, and move the ribs to the opposite side of the grill. It’s ok if they slightly hang over where the flame is. You’re going to rotate the ribs half way through, so they’ll cook evenly.
The Best, Fast Dry Rub Ribs Recipe
The Best, Fast Dry Rub Ribs
- ¾ cup Sugar
- 1 tsp Molasses
- 1 Tbsp Ginger Powder
- 1 Tbsp Black Pepper
- 1 Tbsp Onion Powder
- 1 tsp Rosemary Powder or just finely chop some dry rosemary
- 4 Tbsp Paprika
- 2 Tbsp Garlic Powder
- Salt to Taste
- 3 Racks St. Louis Cut Ribs Try to get around 3.8 – 4.3 lbs each
- Mix Sugar and molasses together in a mixing bowl
- Once all the molasses is mixed into the sugar add the rest of the rub ingredients and mix together.
- Rinse the ribs and pat dry
- Remove the thin membrane on the back of the ribs
- Spread some salt on both sides to taste. I'm a bit liberal with it.
- Spread rub on both sides of the ribs and pat it on to make it stick. You'll use around 1/2 to 3/4 of the dry rub you prepared.
- You're going to want to cook the ribs with indirect heat at a constant 225 degrees Fahrenheit. With my Weber Spirit II E-310, I found that I can reach that exact temperature by turning the left most burner all the way up and just leaving it there. For other grills, you'll want to use a digital thermometer and see how high you'll need to turn the grill to to reach that temperature. Once you know, you'll never have to do it again.I've linked a good digital thermometer in the equipment section above.
- Get your grill set to 225 degrees Fahrenheit and place the ribs on the rib rack with as much space between them as possible. You want dry heat to create that mouth watering bark.
- Set a timer for 2 hours. Once it goes off, rotate the rib rack 180 degrees to make sure the ends evenly cook.
- Set another 2 hour timer. Once it goes off, give the ribs the Bend Test I talked about in the "Is It Done" section above. You may need 10-40 more minutes. Trust the Bend Test
- Pull the ribs off and sprinkle some salt on them to taste.
- Slice along the bones to make individual servings, and go to town on them.