Preparing pork ribs on the grill with a rib rack maximizes the number of slabs you can cook at one time while keeping the meat further from the cooking source for slower, sustained cooking. Most racks hold two or three slabs of ribs in a cooking area in which only one slab would fit laying flat without a rack. Rib meat is naturally more tough than many other cuts, making low and slow cooking times -- with an infusion of smoky flavor -- important to achieving a tender, flavorful dish.
Advance Prep for Meat and Fire
Rub a thin layer of dry rub seasoning into all surfaces of the ribs, place the meat on a cooking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight, allowing the seasonings to soak into the meat, for best results.
Place two or three handfuls of hickory wood chips in a small plastic bowl. Fill the bowl with water, and let the chips soak for an hour prior to grilling time.
Open the grill, remove the cooking grate and set the grate aside. Fill the chimney starter with natural lump charcoal, wad up two sheets of newspaper and place the newspaper in the chimney starter's lower compartment. Open the grill vents wide.
Place the starter on the coal (lower) grate of the grill, and light the newspaper with a long grill lighter or stick match. Give the coals 20 minutes to fully light.
Dump the lit coals in equal piles on either side of the charcoal grate, leaving a coal-free zone in the middle. Place the foil roasting pan in the coal free zone, and pour three or four cups of water into the pan to squelch hot grease drippings during cooking. Then place the cooking grate back on the grill.
Grilling the Ribs
Place each rib slab into the angled slots on the rack with the fattiest sides of the ribs at the top. This allows the fat to baste your ribs as it renders off the bones during grilling.
Set the full rib rack in the center of the cooking grate running lengthwise directly above the foil roasting pan. The meat should not be directly above any coals.
Toss a handful of wet wood chips directly atop each pile of lit coals, then close the grill lid. Grill the ribs for about 2 1/2 hours, basting the meat with desired sauce prior to the last 30 minutes of cooking time.
- Resist the urge to constantly open the grill lid to monitor the ribs while they cook. This releases precious heat and smoke from the grilling chamber, increasing the needed cooking time. Select your dry rub based on commercially available pork seasonings available at grocery stores or consult barbecue cookbooks, such as Steven Raichlen's BBQ USA, for recommended dry rub recipes. Indirect grilling -- keeping a coal-free zone under the ribs -- keeps the meat from charring and promotes tenderness.
- Never handle hot grill lids or vents without protective grilling mitts or gloves. Use long-handled tongs or spatulas when moving or removing meat from hot grills.
Marc Chase is a veteran investigative newspaper reporter and editor of 12 years. Specializing in computer-assisted reporting, he holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Southern Illinois University and a Master of Arts in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois.
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