September 08, 2020

Everyone loves good grilled ribs, but BBQing ribs in the grill the wrong way can lead to embarrassingly burnt ribs at a family barbecue. Here’s what you need to know about cooking ribs on a gas grill for the tender, juicy ribs you know and love.

How to Cook Ribs on a Gas Grill 

It can be challenging to get an authentic BBQ flavor when you cook ribs on a gas grill. The reason is that gas grills are perfect for fast and hot cooking, but getting delicious and tender ribs requires slow grilling at a low temperature.

However, you can still use a gas grill for ribs provided you take specific steps to grill it low and slow. You should indirectly cook your ribs, so the grill’s heat is not directly under the baby back ribs but instead on the grill’s other side. Otherwise, the ribs may burn with high temperatures.

Ensure that the gas grill you would be using contains at least two burners and is spacious enough to hold the rack of ribs on one side with sufficient space on the other. 

beef ribs with fire on background

A full rack of trimmed spareribs is used in this guide. However, you can still apply the same method to a baby back rib or other types of ribs you like. 

While the trimmed spareribs take between an hour and a half to two hours to cook, you would need to reduce the cooking time for baby back ribs by about 5 minutes per step.

What You Need 

To grill ribs, you’ll need these items and ingredients:

  • Gas for your grill
  • One rack of pork ribs
  • A sharp knife
  • Meat thermometer
  • Chili powder (1 tablespoon, optional)
  • Tongs (to maneuver the ribs while in place)
  • Rib rub (there are several recipes to choose from)
  • Salt (1 tsp, or to taste)
  • Brown sugar (1 cup, optional)
  • Black pepper (1 tsp, optional)
  • Smoked paprika (1 tsp, optional)
  • Garlic powder (optional)
  • Wood chips or chunks for a smoky flavor
  • Aluminum foil
  • Half a cup (120ml) apple juice
  • Barbecue sauce for ribs (1 cup)

Rib Rack Preparation

Once you've gotten your racks of baby back ribs from the store, start to open it up and use a paper towel to pat them dry. The entire prep time takes only a few minutes.

Pork ribs with a uniform thickness all over and square shape are needed for a perfect BBQ grill. Take the ribs and inspect it for any loose pieces of meat, scraps, bone, or excess fat and cut them off the rack.

Don’t cut off all the fats. The objective here is to reduce the thicker parts and make the meat even. The fats help keep it moist so don't remove it all. But too much fat is also not ideal for the flavor.

Remove the membrane that covers the bones of the rib so that the rub can penetrate the meat thoroughly. You can insert the end of a knife on top of a rib bone and push the blade in an upwards direction so that you can grab hold of it and pull it off. 

Whether you're cooking 2 racks of ribs or more, the cut, preparation, and instructions are the same. If you like, you can also search for video guides.

Rib Rub 

Once you remove the extra parts and you're done with the rib rack preparation, rinse it with cold water, and use paper towels to let it dry.  

You can choose from different ingredients and recipes you like. This will add lots of flavor to your ribs without adding too much extra fat. If you haven't already, it's easy and only takes a few minutes to make a powder rub. There are several DIY rib dry rub recipes you can choose from, like:
  • All-purpose roasting rub recipe
  • Sweet Carolina BBQ rub recipe
  • Herb lemon-pepper rub recipe
  • Blackening spice rub recipe
  • Smoky Texas recipe
  • Fairy dust recipe
  • Santa Fe seasoning recipe
  • Montreal seasoning recipe
  • Savory rub recipe
  • Ancho spice rub recipe
  • Garlic powder rub recipe

Give the meat a delicious rub with any of the recipes listed above to add more flavor but be careful not to overpower it with ingredients. If you're want to get 2 racks grilled for your BBQ party, make sure you have more rubs. Garlic powder, kosher salt, paprika, pepper, and apple cider are some of the best ingredients for BBQ recipes. We find that paprika and cayenne pepper give a good kick to grilled BBQ if you like a spicy flavor.

Rub the pork ribs evenly and make sure you cover the front, back and every side. The moisture should hold all the needed rub and allow any excess rub to fall away every time.

After applying rub on the pork ribs, add the cup of brown sugar on top. The brown sugar would draw the excess moisture and penetrate the ribs. If you like, you can also add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt.

It’s better to rub the rib at least one hour before placing it in a BBQ grill. Grilling the ribs less than 1 hour after rubbing it will give it a ham-like texture. If you want to keep the pork ribs in the refrigerator after applying the rub, make sure you handle it gently and keep it wrapped with plastic wrap.

Smoke Bombs

To give your grilled ribs a good smoky BBQ taste, you must first create proper smoke on your grill while cooking the rib [1]. However, achieving this with a gas grill at low temps can be challenging for every first-timer.

Although you may see or get a hint of smoke, this will not create that strong smoke flavor that you want. As a result, it’s advisable to throw in some smoke bombs into the grill to create smoke.

To create a smoke bomb, the instructions are easy. Roll up about a ½ cup of damp wood chips in a piece of aluminum foil. You can use cherry, pecan, mesquite, oak, apple, or your favorite wood chips for the foil wrap.

ribs on the grill

Make sure the wood chips are not wet. Wrap the damp wood chips in a way such that one side has a single layer of foil. Poke some holes through the foil to allow smoke to come out and you have a smoke bomb. 

Make several smoke bombs in foil and place them under the grate. The aluminum foil should be close to the burner you’re using for the indirect heating.

Start Grilling Ribs

First, preheat your BBQ grill to a temperature of about 200°F. After that, oil the grill.

You may need to raise the preheating temperature of the grill higher to trigger the burning of the wood and a temperature of about 375°F is suitable. Once you notice smoke coming out of the smoke bombs, you should get the heat on low to 200°F before placing the ribs on the grill.

Another essential thing to note is where to place the rack of ribs on the grill. The ribs need indirect medium heat to be grilled. Direct heat or overheating will either dry it out or overcook it before you even serve it.

If your grill has its burners running front to back, you’ll have to use one of the burners on either end. No matter which burner you choose, place your smoke bombs very close to or over this burner but under the cooking grate. Place the ribs right on the grate at the opposite side of the chosen burner.

If the rack of ribs you are cooking is short, you may place it parallel and very close to the burners. However, if the rack of ribs is longer, you would need to set it more diagonally on the grill and this will require you to rotate it to even out the cooking and get it grilled perfectly.

cooked ribs on a black surface

When placing the racks, the bone side should face down right on the grill, close the lid, and adjust the temperature to about 200°F. Let it cook for about 30 minutes on each side. Keep the lid closed as this will enable the grill to hold in as much smoke as possible.

While there would be enough smoke to get that delicious smoky taste, don't expect to see a large amount of smoke produced from your grill.

After 1 hour of cooking, check that the ribs are brown on all sides. If not browned after an hour, move the ribs to direct medium heat and cook longer for about 10 to 20 minutes.

Wrapping the Ribs in Foil

Once the ribs are browned on all each side, it’s time to steam the ribs with apple juice to make it tender. Although a half cup of apple juice is a favorite in this foil technique, you can also use other juices you want like pineapple or orange juice.

Tightly wrap the meat in foil to keep all the apple juice or your favorite juice  inside the wrap. Place the foil wrapped ribs back on the indirect heat side of the grill. Close the lid and raise the temperature to about 375°F. This temperature is appropriate to boil the apple juice, make the ribs tender, and let the ribs cook inside the foil.

Leave the wrap in the grill for about 30 minutes before you turn the heat on low. Unwrap the rack of ribs after the time is up and you can test if it's almost done by its flexibility. It should be more flexible and if you hold it at one end, it should sag down.

However, if you notice that one side is not entirely browned, wrap up the rack of ribs again and let it grill for another 10 minutes to 15 minutes over the indirect heat space but now at a temperature of about 250°F to 265°F.

Applying Barbecue Sauce 

Applying barbecue sauce to your baby back ribs is optional, but a good BBQ sauce can add the authentic BBQ flavor and improve the surface texture.

Applying multiple coats of BBQ sauce also gives you an excellent sticky rib. The best way to apply barbecue sauce to your ribs is to apply the sauce first to one side of the meat, close the lid and allow it to cook for about 5 minutes. 

After that, apply the BBQ sauce to the other side and leave it in the grill for another 5 minutes. Repeat this process for about 30 minutes and you’ll have multiple coats of BBQ sauce of at least two coats per side. 

Five minutes after applying the last coat of barbecue sauce, remove the ribs from the grill. You can also apply the chili powder and black pepper (1 teaspoon of this is sufficient).

The high temperature in the grill should have melted the collagen in the muscle fiber of your ribs so they will be very tender. Don’t forget to use a meat thermometer to measure the temperature of your ribs.  Avoid piercing through the meat or touching the bone in the process.

spare ribs with tomatoes

Then, remove the ribs from the grill and allow it to rest for about 10 to 15 minutes before you cut it into portions and serve it. With the rubs, sauce, and right techniques, every hour spent is worth it.

Important Details When Cooking Ribs on Gas Grills

Aside from the instructions, here are other essential details that you consider when cooking ribs on grills:

Gas Grill Setup

The grill setup is the most important thing to consider when cooking your spareribs. Preheat your grill to about 200°F, oil the grill to clean it, and place the ribs on the grill.

Indirect Heat

Cooking grilled ribs requires indirect heat and you don't want to place the ribs directly over the burners. Also, place a drip pan under the ribs. This pan can go under the grids but should not rest on the burners.

Smoking

Some new gas grills come with an in-built smoking box while you can build a cast-iron smoking box in your old grill. However, if you need something temporary and quick, you can use an aluminum foil pack of wood chips to smoke your meat, whether it's apple, mesquite, or any favorite wood that you like.

Meat to Use

Whether you’re cooking baby back ribs, spare ribs, T-bone steak, or any other pork ribs, see that it's defrosted first before cooking. Check the ends of the bones for loose pieces of bones or bone chips before cooking. 

Membrane Removal

All pork ribs usually have this on the back of the ribs, and you need to remove this lining in the lung cavity. When you remove it, it adds more flavor.

Though it may not be your favorite part, the process is quite easy and will only take a few minutes. Just remove it using your fingers and a butter knife. Start by gently working your way under and near the end of the rib. Once you’ve got a good hold on it, it's easy to start pulling at an angle till it comes off. 

Gas Grill Temperature

Most gas grills will cook ribs at a temperature range between 225°F to 250°F. Although setting higher grill temperatures will cook ribs faster, it may cause your ribs to dry out.

How Long to Grill the Ribs

The length of time ribs should use in a grill varies depending on the grill and type of ribs. Therefore, there is no exact time for grilling a rack of ribs.

However, if you follow the standard grill temperature range, the estimated cooking time for medium-sized meat should be about 3 hours. For smaller-sized ribs, the estimated time to get it cooked is about two hours. A thick slab of ribs requires a cooking time of about 4 hours while you would need to add about 30 minutes to an hour to the cooking time for a thick slab with a vertical rack.

Doneness 

Checking the doneness is a big issue when cooking ribs. If it stays too long in the grill, it may become overcooked and if it stays too short, it won’t be tender and may remain tough.

ribs served with the sides on a white plate

The three things you want to search for to check the doneness of your meat is an instant-read temperature of between 200°F to 205°F, seeing the ends of rib bones start to stick out, and when the tongs crack some part of the meat when you hold them up about ⅓ of the way.

Slow Cooking Pork Ribs on a Gas Grill

The benefit of low and slow cooking pork ribs on a gas grill is that a gas grill can monitor temperature for you. Low and slow works best for grilling pork ribs, and you can quickly turn up or turn down the burners to make adjustments. Using gas grills can be much easier compared to traditional charcoal grills.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to cook ribs on a gas grill?

How long it takes to cook ribs on a gas grill varies. The estimated time to cook a medium-sized rack of ribs on a gas grill should be about 3 hours, 2 hours is the cooking time for a smaller-sized rack of ribs, and a cooking time of about 4 hours for a thick slab of ribs.

What temperature should I cook ribs on a gas grill?

You should cook ribs on a gas grilll at a temperature range of about 225°F to 250°F on a gas grill.

How do you know when ribs are done on a gas grill?

You know your ribs are done on a gas grill when the internal temperature is about 200°F to 205°F, when the rib bones are sticking out of the meat, or when the tongs crack the meat when you pick it up.

Can you smoke ribs on a gas grill?

Yes, you can smoke ribs on a gas grill. While some gas grills have an in-built smoker box, you can add a cast-iron smoking box to your old grill or use smoke bombs.

Conclusion

You can still get smoky, flavorful ribs even if you are using a gas grill. Don’t forget that a gas grill cooks faster so you must adjust the temperature to cook low and slow. 

Prepare the rib rack and find recipes for the rib rub to get your desired taste. Add smoke bombs to get that smoky flavor from your meat and carefully control the temperature while grilling your ribs.It would take an easy two hours for smaller racks.

Expand your grilling knowledge! Learn how to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill, next!


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