BBQ Tips

How Long to Grill Ribs | Charcoal, Gas & Fast Grilling

How Long to Grill Ribs

Photo: kingsford.com

Even though steaks, burgers and other grilled meat are very tasty, nothing beats grilled ribs. To give them that delicious taste though, you need to give ribs ample time to cook. This time usually depends on the type of ribs and the time you have to spare.  

Generally, it is recommended to give your ribs more time to cook so that the meat softens deep inside up to the bone while also perfecting its taste. That said, before going into the grilling times, let us first look at the types of ribs that you can grill.

What Kinds of Ribs Should I Get?

Baby Back Ribs

Baby back ribs are a section of pork ribs that are cut from high up the pigs back between the loin and the spare ribs. They have a slight curvature, which is similar to the one on the loin, and are characterized by being very lean, meaty and have little cartilage.

Spare Ribs

Spare ribs are located lower than baby back ribs and contain large, flat bones. Since they extend from the belly to the front of the animal, they contain more fat with less meat. Despite this, they are very popular because the fat gives them a distinct flavor.

Read More: Types of Pork Ribs

How Long to Grill Ribs

Grill Temperature

Rib Type

Grilling Time

Finished Internal Temperature

On a Charcoal Grill

225˚F​​​​

Baby Back

5.5 hrs.

205˚F

Spare

6.5 hrs.

205˚F

On a Gas Grill

225˚F

Baby Back

5.5 hrs.

205˚F

Spare

6.5 hrs.

205˚F

The Fast Method

325˚F

Baby Back

3 hrs.

305˚F

Spare

4 hrs.

305˚F

1. On a Charcoal Grill

If using a charcoal grill, it can be a bit difficult to maintain a consistent temperature level. Therefore, you need to keep tabs on the thermometer regularly and add in some charcoal if it drops below 225˚F.

That said, if you are grilling baby backs, these require up to 5-1/2 hrs. While for spare ribs, you need up to 6-1/2 hours. The reason why spare ribs require a longer grilling time is that they are fatter and contain lots of connective tissues that need to be broken down.

Note: You need to peel off the rib membrane on the inner side before grilling so that spices, seasoning, and smoke can penetrate through the meat.

The grilling process requires some few steps and these can be broken down as follows:

1. Grill the ribs bone-side down: 2-1/2 hrs. for baby backs and 3 hrs. for spare ribs.

2. Wrap them in a foil then grill them again but this time, bone-side up. You can add some flavors such as apple cider to cook inside the foil. This should take about 2 hrs. for baby backs and 2-1/2 hrs. for spare ribs.

3. Unwrap the ribs then grill them to finish for about an hour. Switch sides every 30 minutes and once done, pour in some sauce then serve when hot.

Note: Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the ribs at the deepest section. If properly cooked, it should be about 205˚F.

2. On a Gas Grill

A gas grill is easier to use because starting up the fire and maintaining the required temperature level simply requires knob turning. You can also set up heating zones if the grill has multiple burners.

That said, you need to set the temperature to 225˚F and follow similar steps to charcoal grilling as described above.

3. The Fast Method

If you don’t have much time, you can turn up the heat in your gas or charcoal grill to reach 325˚F. With such heat, grill the ribs on the top rack but if you don’t have one, grill them indirectly (not above the flame).

As for the timeline, cook baby backs for 1-1/2 hrs, unwrapped, then wrap them in foil or butcher paper to grill for another 1-1/2 hrs. If cooking spare ribs, grill for 2 hrs instead when wrapped then unwrapped.

Note: To result in soft ribs in such a short time, measure the meat’s temperature at the thickest point. When ready, this should be about 305˚F. This is sufficient to break down the connective tissues during the short cooking period.

How to Check the Readiness of the Ribs

How to Check the Readiness of the Ribs

The procedures and timelines laid out above are meant for standardization so that you can have a consistent outcome every time you grill ribs.

However, many factors may result in the meat not being ready in the given time, for instance, if it is too thick. Therefore, you need to check if it is ready using other methods. These include:

Twist Test

If the connective tissues have been broken down, the meat should not be attached tightly to the bone.

A simple twisting of the bone should, therefore, set it free from the flesh and you should actually be able to pull it out from the meat with ease. If you cannot be able to do this, give the ribs more time to cook.

Bend Test

This method also checks if the connective tissues have been broken down but in a different way. Using tongs to gently lift the ribs from the grate, the meat should begin cracking if soft and properly cooked. If it stays in one piece, let it cook for a few more minutes then check again.

Toothpick Test

Lastly, with this test, you only need to prick the meat using a toothpick. If it pushes through easily, then it is soft and ready. If you feel some resistance, let it continue cooking.

Conclusion 

All in all, it is important to remember that with ribs, the longer the cooking time, the better. You should also sauce and season them using your favorite ingredients to customize the taste to your liking. Enough reading now! Fire up your grill and get started.

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