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The Kitchn: How to make the best smoked ribs

By Meghan Splawn on

Sticky-sweet, smoky, salty ribs are one of summer's greatest pleasures. I've made smoked ribs an annual tradition in our house, taking advantage of long holiday weekends to slow-smoke dry-rubbed baby backs on our charcoal grill. Needless to say, this is a recipe I've spent years perfecting.

Folks, don't fear backyard grill smoking! You don't need any special equipment. With just a bag of wood chips and your grill, you can easily make the best smoked ribs you've ever eaten.

The only smoked rib recipe you need to try

Ribs are my favorite entry point for anyone looking to try smoking at home. They aren't quite as cheap as pork shoulder, but they also don't require hours of smoking to become tender.

Ribs will teach you everything you need to know about smoking in just a single afternoon. This recipe is both straightforward -- walking you through each step, from rib prep to the final round of saucing -- and easily customizable to suit your tastes. There's no belabored process here; just a handful of essential steps that will leave you with tender ribs that have that perfect sticky layer of burnished barbecue sauce and plenty of smoked flavor.


Prepping the ribs

This recipe works best with baby back ribs. You can use St. Louis-style ribs, as well, but they require a bit more prep. For baby backs, two sets of ribs (two racks) generally feed four to six people with a few accompanying side dishes. If you've got a large grill, you can double this recipe. Alternatively, you can use an inverted roasting rack as a rib holder and stand four or more racks upright on smaller grills.

You'll need to remove the rib's membrane (on the back side of the racks, closest to the bone) to ensure they are tender. A spoon works really well to pull up the membrane; just wiggle it between a bone and the membrane and pull up. Once you've got a small section of membrane, use a paper towel to grip the membrane and pull it off in one piece.

Before smoking, you'll also want to dry-rub the ribs. Spread a thin layer of mustard all over the ribs and then sprinkle with the rub. The rub in the recipe below is my personal favorite, but you can mix things up as long as you stick to the same sugar-salt ratio. If you can, rub the ribs the night before for even more flavor.


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