How to Cook Ribs on A Charcoal Grill?

23 minutes read

Cooking ribs on a charcoal grill is a delicious and classic way to enjoy this flavorful meat. Follow these steps to achieve tender, juicy, and smoky ribs:

  1. Preparing the ribs: Start with baby back or spare ribs, whichever you prefer. Ensure they are fresh and properly trimmed. Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs using a butter knife or your fingers. This allows for better flavor absorption. Rinse the ribs under cold water, then pat them dry with a paper towel.
  2. Seasoning the ribs: Generously apply a dry rub of your choice to both sides of the ribs. This can be a store-bought blend or a homemade mix of spices such as paprika, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Massage the rub into the meat, ensuring even coverage.
  3. Preparing the charcoal grill: Fill a chimney starter approximately three-quarters full with charcoal. Place some crumpled newspaper beneath it and light it. Let the charcoal burn until it develops a thin layer of white ash. While the charcoal heats up, fill a drip pan with water and place it in the center of the grill. Once the charcoal is ready, carefully pour it evenly over one side of the grill, leaving the other side empty. This creates a two-zone cooking setup for indirect grilling.
  4. Grilling the ribs: Place the ribs on the grill, bone-side down, over the side without charcoal. Ensure they are not directly above the drip pan. Cover the grill with the lid, with the vent slightly open to regulate airflow and maintain a cooking temperature of around 225-275°F (107-135°C). Allow the ribs to cook undisturbed for approximately 2-3 hours, depending on the thickness, until the meat becomes tender. Remember, low and slow is key for developing a smoky flavor.
  5. Optional sauce application: During the last 30 minutes of cooking, you can brush your favorite barbecue sauce onto the ribs if desired. Re-apply the sauce every 10 minutes for a sticky, caramelized finish.
  6. Resting and serving: Once the ribs are cooked to perfection, carefully remove them from the grill and place them on a cutting board. Let them rest for about 10 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute. Cut the ribs into individual portions and serve with additional barbecue sauce on the side, if desired. Enjoy!


Cooking ribs on a charcoal grill may require some practice to achieve the ideal balance of tenderness and smokiness. Don't be afraid to experiment with different rubs or sauces to suit your taste preferences.

Best Charcoal Grills of April 2024

1
Royal Gourmet CC1830SC Charcoal Grill Offset Smoker with Cover, 811 Square Inches, Black, Outdoor Camping

Rating is 5 out of 5

Royal Gourmet CC1830SC Charcoal Grill Offset Smoker with Cover, 811 Square Inches, Black, Outdoor Camping

  • 811 Square Inches: Includes 443 sq. in. porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grates, 184 sq. in. chrome-plated warming rack and 184 sq. in. offset smoker.
  • Tasty Smoke Flavors: The offset smoker is firmly attached to grill to ensure good circulation of heat and smoke. Easy to open side door to add charcoal and remove ashes; air vent stokes fire instantly.
  • Adjustable Pan: 2-level height-adjustable charcoal pan creates better heat control and holds up to 4.4 lbs. of coal.
  • Temperature Monitor: Lid-mounted thermometer gauge helps check and monitor the cooking temperature and you can cook with great confidence.
  • Grill Cover Included: Made of heavy-duty fabric, the cover protects your grill from elements and withstands the harshest weather.
  • Ample Space: Front and side tables offer workspace for seasonings and grilling tools. The bottom shelf provides extra storage space and holds up to only 20 lb. accessories when they are evenly distributed.
2
Weber Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill

Rating is 4.9 out of 5

Weber Original Kettle 22-Inch Charcoal Grill

  • Stay true to the modern version of the kettle that started it all—the Original Kettle, invented by Weber’s founder, and loved around the world. Its ultra-durable, porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat, while the damperseasily adjust for precise temperature control. With a One-Touch cleaning system for easy cleanup after a long day of grilling, the Original Kettle will always be the grill built for everyone
  • Holds up to 13 burgers made with a Weber burger press
  • One-Touch cleaning system provides hassle-free ash cleanup.Removable, aluminum ash catcher
  • Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl Retain heat, and won’t rust or peel
  • Use the lid hook to avoid placing the lid on the ground while grilling
  • Dampers allow you to easily control the temperature inside your grill
  • 3D interactive assembly instructions for this product are available through the free BILT app.
3
Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill, Black

Rating is 4.8 out of 5

Char-Griller E1515 Patio Pro Charcoal Grill, Black

  • CHARCOAL GRILL - Barrel style BBQ Grill with heavy duty steel construction and powder coating finish, the perfect grilling solution for small decks, backyards, and patios
  • LARGE COOKING AREA - 250 square inch total cooking area delivers exceptional taste and charcoal flavor
  • BARBECUE GRILL FEATURES - Thick Cast Iron Cooking Grates, Bottom Storage Rack, Heavy-Duty Steel Construction, Side Air Vent, Stay Cool Wood Handle, Wheels for Easy Mobility, and Side Shelf Workstation with Barbecue Tool Storage Hooks
  • EASY TO ASSEMBLE & CLEAN - Assembles easily and quickly cleans up after use with the Easy Dump Ash Pan
4
Royal Gourmet CC1830 30 Barrel Charcoal Grill with Side Table, 627 Square Inches, Outdoor Backyard, Patio and Parties, Black

Rating is 4.7 out of 5

Royal Gourmet CC1830 30 Barrel Charcoal Grill with Side Table, 627 Square Inches, Outdoor Backyard, Patio and Parties, Black

  • 627 Smoking Space: 443 sq. in. porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grates with 184 sq. in. chrome-plated steel wire warming rack offer enough space to cook.
  • Heat Control: Close the side air vent completely that cuts off the oxygen flow to help extinguish coals and adjust the smoke stack for extra heat control.
  • Adjustable Fire Grates: 2-level height-adjustable fire pan ensures more controlled cooking and holds up to 6 lbs. of coal.
  • Temperature Monitor: Lid-mounted thermometer gauge helps check heat fluctuations for confident grilling.
5
Royal Gourmet CD1824M 24-Inch Charcoal Grill, BBQ Smoker with Handle and Folding Table, Perfect for Outdoor Patio, Garden and Backyard Grilling, Black, Medium

Rating is 4.6 out of 5

Royal Gourmet CD1824M 24-Inch Charcoal Grill, BBQ Smoker with Handle and Folding Table, Perfect for Outdoor Patio, Garden and Backyard Grilling, Black, Medium

  • Spacious Cooking Area: 384 sq. in. porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grates and 106 sq. in. stainless steel warming rack provide a total of 490 sq. in. cooking space respectively, serving up to 10 people.
  • Height-adjustable Charcoal Pan: The crank handle controls the distance between the charcoal pan and food for fine-tuning temperature and regulating heat. The charcoal pan holds charcoal up to 4.5 lb. for each use.
  • Convenient Access Door: Front charcoal access door with heat-resistant spring handle provides more convenience for adding charcoal and controls heat loss to a minimum during cooking.
  • Built-in Thermometer Gauge: The lid-mounted thermometer indicates the temperature changes precisely in real-time.
  • Air Flow: Two adjustable air vents control air circulation to enhance sufficient burning of charcoal for efficient smoking.
6
Royal Gourmet Barrel Charcoal Grill with Front Storage Basket, Backyard BBQ Party and Outdoor Cooking Grill on Clearance Prime with Wheels, Black, CC1830T

Rating is 4.5 out of 5

Royal Gourmet Barrel Charcoal Grill with Front Storage Basket, Backyard BBQ Party and Outdoor Cooking Grill on Clearance Prime with Wheels, Black, CC1830T

  • Additional Cooking Options: The charcoal grill can meet your versatile cooking demands by slow smoking or grilling ribs, veggies, lobster tails, or other preferred ingredients.
  • Ample Cooking Area: To accommodate 23 hamburgers at once, there are 443 sq. in. porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grates and a 184 sq. in. chrome-plated steel wire warming rack as a secondary heating area.
  • Impressive Storage: Store seasonings in the front basket, hang some cooking utensils on the integrated hooks, place plates and other food on the side tables, and meanwhile put your charcoal on the bottom storage shelf.
  • Adjustable Charcoal Pan: Easily control the distance between food and fire with the lifting handle to regulate cooking temperature, which also saves fuel in the meantime.
  • Heat Control: Customize your desired temperature by twisting the air damper and smoke stack, thus getting the best cooking results.
7
Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch, Black

Rating is 4.4 out of 5

Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch, Black

  • Holds up to 13 burgers made with a Weber burger press; Built-in lid thermometer. Rust-resistant aluminum dampers
  • One-Touch cleaning system with high-capacity ash catcher provides hassle-free ash cleanup
  • Porcelain-enameled lid and bowl retain heat, and won’t rust or peel
  • Use the lid hook to avoid placing the lid on the ground while grilling
  • Cooking grate is hinged for easily adding charcoal while grilling
8
Royal Gourmet CC1830S 30" BBQ Charcoal Grill and Offset Smoker | 811 Square Inch cooking surface, Outdoor for Camping | Black

Rating is 4.3 out of 5

Royal Gourmet CC1830S 30" BBQ Charcoal Grill and Offset Smoker | 811 Square Inch cooking surface, Outdoor for Camping | Black

  • 811 Square Inches: Includes 443 sq. in. porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grates, 184 sq. in. chrome-plated warming rack and 184 sq. in. offset smoker.
  • Tasty Smoke Flavors: The offset smoker is firmly attached to grill to ensure good circulation of heat and smoke. Easy to open side door to add charcoal and remove ashes; air vent stokes fire instantly.
  • Adjustable Pan: 2-level height-adjustable charcoal pan creates better heat control and holds up to 4.4 lbs. of coal.
  • Temperature Monitor: Lid-mounted thermometer gauge helps check and monitor the cooking temperature and you can cook with great confidence.
9
Dyna-Glo DGN576SNC-D X-Large Premium Dual Chamber Charcoal Grill

Rating is 4.2 out of 5

Dyna-Glo DGN576SNC-D X-Large Premium Dual Chamber Charcoal Grill

  • Removable firebox divider for single or dual cooking zone
  • Primary cooking area is 576 square inches
  • Secondary cooking area is 240 square inches
10
Royal Gourmet CC1830W 30 Barrel Charcoal Grill with Side Table, 627 Square Inches, Outdoor Backyard, Patio and Parties, Black

Rating is 4.1 out of 5

Royal Gourmet CC1830W 30 Barrel Charcoal Grill with Side Table, 627 Square Inches, Outdoor Backyard, Patio and Parties, Black

  • Spacious Cooking Area: Includes 443 sq. in. porcelain-enameled steel wire cooking grates, 184 sq. in. chrome-plated steel wire warming rack, and 184 sq. in. offset smoker.
  • Offset Smoker: Use the side fire box to get tasty and authentic smoky flavors in the main chamber. Smoking, grilling, or searing all will be your choices.
  • Adjustable Charcoal Pan: 2-level height-adjustable charcoal pan ensures better heat control and holds up to 4.4 lb. of coal.


How can I achieve a smoky flavor when grilling ribs on charcoal?

To achieve a smoky flavor when grilling ribs on charcoal, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the right charcoal: Use natural lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes for superior smoky flavor compared to instant-light varieties.
  2. Prep the charcoal: Pile the coals in a pyramid shape and leave enough space in the center for airflow.
  3. Use hardwood chunks or chips: Soak wood chunks or chips (such as hickory, mesquite, apple, or cherry wood) in water for about 30 minutes before grilling. This helps the wood produce smoke instead of burning quickly.
  4. Arrange the charcoal: Once the coals are ready (covered in gray ash), spread them out in an even layer on one side of the grill.
  5. Add soaked wood chips: If you're using wood chips, spread them over the lit charcoal. If you're using wood chunks, place them directly on the charcoal.
  6. Preheat the grill: Allow the grill to preheat for at least 10-15 minutes with the lid closed while the wood chips or chunks start producing smoke.
  7. Prepare the ribs: Season the ribs with your preferred dry rub or marinade.
  8. Indirect grilling: Place the ribs on the grill grates, on the side opposite to the charcoal. This ensures indirect heat, preventing them from burning too quickly.
  9. Maintain the temperature: Close the lid and adjust the air vents to control the airflow and regulate the temperature. Aim for a consistent temperature range of around 225-250°F (107-121°C).
  10. Monitor the smoke: Keep an eye on the smoke production from the wood chips or chunks. If the smoke starts to dissipate, you can add more soaked wood chips or chunks to continue producing smoke.
  11. Low and slow cooking: Cook the ribs slowly over indirect heat for several hours until they reach your desired tenderness. Baste or mop them with sauce during the last 30 minutes of cooking if desired.


Remember, achieving a smoky flavor takes time and patience. The key is to maintain a consistent temperature and keep the ribs cooking slowly while being exposed to the smoky wood.


How can I enhance the appearance of the ribs for presentation?

There are several techniques you can use to enhance the appearance of ribs for presentation. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Properly trim and shape the ribs: Before cooking, trim any excess fat and membrane from the ribs. Additionally, try to shape the racks so they are uniform in size and appearance.
  2. Apply a dry rub or marinade: Use a flavorful dry rub or marinade to season the ribs before cooking. This will not only enhance the taste but also add an appealing color to the meat.
  3. Smoke or grill the ribs: Cooking ribs on a smoker or grill can impart a beautiful smoky flavor and create visually appealing grill marks. Ensure the meat is cooked to the perfect tenderness and falls off the bone.
  4. Glaze with a sauce: Once the ribs are cooked, baste them with a glossy sauce or glaze. This will add shine and create an appetizing, caramelized crust.
  5. Garnish with fresh herbs: Before serving, sprinkle some fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro over the ribs. This adds a pop of color and freshness to the plate.
  6. Serve on a clean, attractive platter: Presentation isn't just about the ribs themselves. Choose a platter or serving dish that complements the appearance of the ribs. Make sure it is clean and presentable.
  7. Arrange the ribs neatly: When arranging the ribs on the serving platter, aim for an appealing layout. Consider stacking them up, interweaving the racks, or arranging them in a visually pleasing pattern.
  8. Slice the ribs properly: If you're serving individual ribs, consider slicing them evenly to create clean, uniform pieces. This will make them more visually attractive and easier to eat.


Remember, the appearance of food is subjective, so feel free to get creative and experiment with different techniques to find the presentation that suits your taste and style.


Is it necessary to use a rib rack for grilling ribs on a charcoal grill?

No, it is not necessary to use a rib rack for grilling ribs on a charcoal grill. While a rib rack can be helpful in keeping the ribs elevated and evenly cooked, you can still grill ribs directly on the grates of the grill. Just make sure to monitor and adjust the heat accordingly to avoid burning the ribs.


Can I cook ribs directly over the charcoal instead of using indirect heat?

Yes, you can cook ribs directly over charcoal instead of using indirect heat. This method is often called "grilling" or "direct grilling." When cooking ribs directly over the charcoal, it is important to manage the heat and prevent flare-ups. Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Build a two-zone fire: Arrange the charcoal in two distinct areas of the grill, creating a hot zone and a cooler zone. This way, you can sear the ribs over the hot coals and then move them to the cooler side to continue cooking.
  2. Preheat the grill: Allow the charcoal to burn until it forms a light layer of white ash, indicating that it is ready for cooking.
  3. Control flare-ups: Ribs tend to have fat that can cause flare-ups when drippings hit the hot coals. Position the ribs over a spot with less intense heat and frequently monitor for flare-ups. You may need to adjust the distance between the ribs and the charcoal or move them to a cooler area temporarily to avoid excessive flare-ups.
  4. Rotate and flip: Regularly turn and flip the ribs to ensure even cooking and prevent over-charring or burning.
  5. Use a meat thermometer: To determine doneness, consider using a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the ribs. Pork ribs are generally considered safe to eat when they reach an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) for medium-rare or 160°F (71°C) for medium.


Remember that cooking ribs directly over charcoal may result in a slightly different flavor and texture compared to using indirect heat, but it can be a delicious and enjoyable alternative if done correctly.


What are some alternative cooking methods for ribs besides grilling?

There are several alternative cooking methods for ribs besides grilling. Here are a few:

  1. Slow cooking: Ribs can be cooked in a slow cooker or crockpot. Simply season the ribs and place them in the slow cooker with your choice of spices, sauces, or marinades. Cook on low for 6-8 hours until the ribs are tender and fall-off-the-bone.
  2. Oven baking: Preheat your oven to around 300°F (150°C). Season the ribs with a dry rub or marinade, then wrap them tightly in foil and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for 2-3 hours until tender. To achieve a crispy exterior, you can remove the foil and broil the ribs for a few minutes at the end.
  3. Braising: Braising involves slow-cooking the ribs in a liquid, such as broth, beer, or wine. In a large pot or Dutch oven, sear the seasoned ribs on all sides until browned. Then, add your choice of liquid, cover, and simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours until the meat is tender.
  4. Smoking: If you don't have access to a grill, you can use a smoker to cook your ribs. This method imparts a distinct smoky flavor. Follow the specific instructions for your smoker, typically maintaining a low, steady temperature and smoking the ribs for several hours until done.
  5. Pressure cooking: Using a pressure cooker is a quick and convenient method for cooking ribs. Season the ribs, place them in the pressure cooker, and add some liquid like broth or water. Cook on high pressure for about 25-30 minutes, then release the pressure and finish them on a grill or under a broiler to develop a flavorful crust.
  6. Sous vide: Sous vide cooking involves vacuum-sealing the ribs and cooking them in a water bath at a precise temperature. This method ensures even cooking and tenderness. Season the ribs, seal them in a vacuum bag, and cook them in a sous vide bath at around 155°F (68°C) for 24-48 hours. Finish on a grill or broiler for a charred texture.


Each method produces different flavors and textures, so feel free to experiment and find your preferred cooking style for ribs.


Can I cook ribs on a gas grill if I don't have a charcoal grill?

Yes, you can absolutely cook ribs on a gas grill if you don't have a charcoal grill. Here's a simple method to cook ribs on a gas grill:

  1. Preheat the gas grill to medium-low heat. Aim for a temperature of around 250-275°F (121-135°C).
  2. Prepare the ribs by removing the membrane from the bone side (optional). Season the ribs with your desired dry rub or marinade. Allow them to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking.
  3. Oil the grill grates to prevent sticking. Place the ribs, bone-side down, on the grill grates.
  4. Close the lid and let the ribs cook for 2-3 hours, depending on the thickness of the ribs. Maintain a consistent temperature by adjusting the heat as needed.
  5. About 30 minutes before the ribs are ready, you can brush them with barbecue sauce if desired. Baste the ribs with sauce every 10 minutes during the last half-hour of cooking.
  6. Check for doneness by lifting the ribs with tongs. They should have a slight bend and the meat should be tender.
  7. Once the ribs are cooked to your liking, remove them from the grill and let them rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.


Remember to monitor the grill temperature and adjust as needed to maintain a consistent heat level throughout the cooking process. Enjoy your delicious gas-grilled ribs!

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