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Cooking Pork Spare Ribs on the Grill

pork spare ribs
Tips for cooking pork spare ribs on the grill. Recipes for tasty tender bbq pork ribs, country-style ribs, and hot n spicy Chinese spare ribs of pork. Plus homemade dry rubs, marinades, and sauces.

To skip our grilling tips and go straight to our tasty recipes, click here.

How to Cook Pork Spare Ribs on the Grill

The key to grilling spare ribs of pork is to cook them at a low temperature and slowly over a long period of time. This makes them full of flavor and fall-off-the-bone tender. Barbecuing them to perfection can take up to 5 hours. We'll show you this "low and slow" method and also how to grill spare ribs of pork in just 1 hour by using a few tricks to keep 'em tender:

Basic Pork Spare Rib Recipe Ingredients

  • Spare rib rack of pork
    (plan on 1 lb per person)

  • Rib Rub (store bought, or homemade)

  • Grilling Tip:
    Preparing spare ribs ahead of time with a dry rub and refrigerating 6 - 24 hours before grilling will really help to tenderize the meat. It's like "dry-marinating" them. (Take them out of the fridge an hour before grilling to bring everything to room temperature.)

    Another option for tenderizing ribs of pork is to brine them first. This is especially important, if you are going to grill them fast rather than "low and slow". Brining can make the difference between tough and chewy or tender and succulent grilled spare ribs. It's easy to do:

    Completely submerge ribs (at least 1 hour per pound) in the following solution:
    1 gallon of water
    3/4 cup kosher salt (or 1/2 cup table salt)
    1/2 cup sugar

  • Mopping Sauce

  • The process of keeping the ribs moist over the long grilling period is called "mopping". To do this, periodically spray them with liquid (apple juice, beer, water). And/or brush on a basting sauce.

    A popular mopping technique is to place the ribs on the upper rack of your grill with a drip pan on the lower rack filled with liquid (apple juice, beer, etc.)

    If you lack an upper rack on your grill, you can place a mini-rack on top of a drip pan. Just make sure it's big enough to hold your ribs.

    This way you can use the drippings from the ribs to baste them with their own juices during the grilling process, and the steam from the liquid in the drip pan helps keep everything moist.

    Even if you don't use the drip-method for basting, a drip pan is a good idea, regardless, because it will catch the drippings and reduce flare-ups. You can also fill it with liquid (beer, apple juice, water, etc.) which is another trick to adding moisture to your spare ribs whether your grilling "low and slow" or quick and easy.

  • BBQ Sauce
    (store bought, or homemade)

    Grill Prep and Tools for
    Pork Spare Rib Recipes

  • Meat cleaver (or sharp knife)

  • Spray bottle of apple cider vinegar (if you didn't marinate)

  • Charcoal

  • Charcoal Chimney Starter
    (Skip if using quick method or gas grill)

  • Heavy-duty heat resistant gloves
    (for handling chimney starter, skip if using quick method or gas grill)

  • Wood Chips
    (optional: hickory, apple, maple, mesquite)

  • Grilling Tongs

  • Grill Thermometer

  • Basting Brush for Sauce

  • Grill-safe baster and drip-pan (optional if using drip-method for basting, see under ingredients: mopping sauce)

  • Instant-read meat thermometer
  • How to Barbecue Spare Ribs of Pork
    Low and Slow Method

    1. Every pork spare ribs recipe should begin with removing the membrane, cutting-off excess fat (reserve), and trimming the end points.

    Grilling Tip:
    You want to remove the membrane so that your barbecue rib rub and sauce are sure to seep down into the meat.

    To remove the membrane use a sharp knife at one end of the rib rack and cut away the membrane from the meat. It's slippery, so use a paper towel to get a grip on the membrane and then pull it off the rest of the way.

    Reserve the excess fat you cut-off and place it on top of the ribs during the grilling process. This will add to the overall flavor and tenderness of the spare ribs of pork.

    2. If you marinated everything ahead of time, as suggested, then use a meat cleaver or sharp knife to shorten the rack of ribs by splitting it in half.

    If you didn't marinate, lightly spray rib racks with apple cider vinegar. This will tenderize the meat and open up its pores so that your bbq spices and sauce will soak in thoroughly.

    Coat ribs generously with barbecue rub. For easier handling, use a meat cleaver or sharp knife to shorten the rack of ribs by splitting it in half.

    3.Prepare your grill for high heat (500 degrees F) by filling a charcoal chimney starter completely full. Once pre-burned, pour coals onto one side of the grill.

    Grilling Tip:
    For this "low and slow" beef rib recipe, plan on going through about 1 1/2 chimneys of charcoal (lasts up to 5 hours).

    4. Clean grate.

    5. Barbeque ribs over direct heat, uncovered, for about 2 - 3 minutes per side. This will sear the ribs to seal in flavor and moisture. Now move the ribs to indirect heat (the other side of your grill where there are no coals) and stack them on top of each other.

    Grilling Tip:
    Stacking your pork spare ribs helps to keep them moist while grilling and naturally bastes them in their own juices.

    6. Add a handful of wood chips to the coals. Place a grill thermometer on the grate or through one of the vents in the lid. Cover the grill and adjust the vents until the internal grill temperature reaches 225 - 275 degrees F.

    Grilling Tip:
    Temperature is extremely important when it comes to grilling ribs on the barbeque. Don't guess, use a thermometer. You want to keep the temperature as constant as possible, between 225 - 275 degrees F.

    You can maintain the right temperature by checking your grill thermometer frequently, adding charcoal as necessary, and adjusting the grill vents accordingly: opening them up will increase cooking temperature while closing them decreases it.

    When adding coal, NEVER use unburned coal! Always pre-burn them first in a charcoal chimney.

    7. Continue grilling ribs, covered, for about 3 - 5 hours depending on the amount of ribs you're grilling. Every 30 minutes, apply mopping sauce (see options under ingredients) and restack ribs so the bottom ones are on the top and the top ones are on the bottom. They are done when and instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the ribs registers about 155 degrees F.

    If you're using wood chips, throw a handful of chips in as necessary (about every hour).

    Grilling Tip:
    You only want to use enough wood chips so you can see some light smoke escaping through the vents. You don't want thick smoke pouring out or you will ruin the ribs with an overly-smoked flavor.

    Wrapping the wood chips in aluminum foil with some holes poked in the bottom will prevent them from burning down too quickly but still lend your bbq ribs that great smokey flavor.

    8. The last 15 minutes of grilling, use a basting brush to apply your favorite BBQ sauce to the ribs. You don't want to do this step any sooner because the BBQ sauce will burn.

    9. Just before removing your ribs from the grill, brush on some more bbq sauce and place them over direct heat. Grill each side to caramelize the bbq sauce and add a little char to the edges.

    How to Grill Pork Spare Ribs
    Quick Method

    "Low and Slow" is not always the way to go, especially if you're pressed for time. Here is a way to speed up the cooking process but still turn out moist and tender grilled pork spare ribs.

    1. Cooking spare ribs fast can make them tough instead of tender. To compensate for this, prepare them ahead of time with a marinade or rub and refrigerate 6 - 24 hours before grilling. This will tenderize the meat and make-up for less time on the grill. Or before applying a dry rub, brine them first as discussed above.

    2. Follow steps 1 - 5 under low and slow method.

    The only exception to steps 1 - 5 is that you don't have to use a charcoal chimney because one round of coals is plenty for this quick method.

    3. Instead of a grill temperature of 225 - 275 degrees F, adjust vents to maintain a temperature of 300 - 325 degrees F.

    4. Follow steps 7 - 9 under low and slow method.

    The only difference here is that the grilling time is 2 hours instead of 5. If you want to cook beef ribs in 1 hour then maintain a grilling temperature of 350 degrees F; it also helps to wrap them in foil. They are done when and instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the ribs registers about 155 degrees F.

    Now if you use this quick grill method for cooking your beef ribs recipes, your meat won't have that same deep, rich, smokey flavor that the low and slow method provides but they will still be moist, tender, and mighty tasty!

    Video for Cooking Spare Ribs of Pork
    on the Grill

    Pork Spare Rib Recipes

    Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs

    Sweet and sour barbecue pork spare ribs grilled low and slow with beer, honey, mustard, and garlic.

    Chinese Barbecue Spare Rib Recipe

    Barbeque pork spare ribs with honey, garlic, and a homemade Chinese five-spice powder topped-off with a basting of ginger beer.

    Country Barbecue Ribs Recipe

    Quick n easy barbecue country style pork spare ribs with just a few seasonings and your favorite BBQ sauce.

    BBQ Spare Rib Rubs, Marinades, and Sauces

    Homemade BBQ rib rubs, marinades, and sauces to make your next BBQ a blow-out!

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