How to Make BBQ Ribs on a Gas Grill

Want great BBQ Ribs but only have a Gas Grill? This is the best method for making the most of the equipment you have.

Cut BBQ Pork Ribs
Cut BBQ Pork Ribs

Barbecue is a process of cooking meats at low temperatures for long periods of time in a smoky environment. Gas grills are not known for their ability to produce much smoke flavor, but making delicious ribs that have barbecue flavor is possible. Follow these instructions for the best barbecue methods as these steps will produce tender, flavorful ribs that might not win any competitions, but will certainly satisfy your appetite.

For the purposes of this article, I am using a single rack of pork spare ribs. If you want to use baby back ribs, reduce the cooking time 5 minutes per step. For spare ribs, the total cooking time should take about one and a half to two hours. Use a grill large enough to indirectly cook the entire rack. Small, two burner gas grills typically don’t have enough space. If the heat source is on one side only, make sure to rotate the ribs every thirty minutes for even cooking.

What you need:

  • A rack of pork ribs
  • BBQ rib rub
  • 2/3BBQ sauce for ribs
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) apple juice
  • Aluminum foil
  • Fuel for your gas grill
  • Wood chips or chunks for smoke
  • A sharp knife
  • A cutting board

Step One – Preparing the Ribs

Removing Membrane from Ribs
Removing Membrane from Ribs

The ideal rack of ribs is rectangular in shape and even in width and thickness. When buying ribs, look for this shape. When preparing ribs for cooking make sure to trim away excess pockets of fat. There is already plenty of fat mixed into the meat to keep the ribs moist. Excess layers of fat will produce a greasy rib. Also, trim away any loose dangling pieces of meat.

Next, turn the ribs meat side down and remove the membrane that covers the bones. If cooked, the membrane will be tough and creates a flavor barrier. The best method for removing the membrane is to use a blunt knife. Lift away the membrane on one end of the rack and grab it with a paper towel. The membrane is slippery, but the paper towel will you get a firm grip. Now, gently pull the membrane away. It might take a few attempts to get all of it, but with a little practice, it will get easier.

Step Two – Applying the Rub

Pork Ribs with Rub
Pork Ribs with Rub

Now it is time to season the ribs. There are many great rubs out there, but I find that making my own is not only less expensive but allows me to choose the flavors I like. I currently have several great rib rub recipes you can use.

The secret to applying a rub is to start with a dry rack of ribs, meaning that any excess moisture has been mopped away with a paper towel. Sprinkle the rub over the ribs (there really isn’t any rubbing required). What sticks to the ribs is the right amount of rub. Get the seasonings evenly distributed over the entire rack focusing the majority of it on the meat side.

Step Three – Making Smoke

Making Gas Grill Smoke Bombs
Making Gas Grill Smoke Bombs

Creating smoke on a gas grill isn’t easy, particularly at low cooking temperatures like the ones used for this method. However, It is possible. Start by removing the cooking grates that won’t be holding the ribs. This will provide access to the burners. Next, take dry wood chips or chunks (chips produce smoke quickly, but doesn’t last long, while chunks are harder to get burning, but produces a longer smoke). Place the wood onto square sheets of aluminum foil and wrap them loosely into balls. About half a cup of chips per smoke bomb is ideal. Using a sharp knife, poke the wrapping on all sides. This will allow the smoke to escape.

Place the smoke bombs over the lit burners on high. Once smoke is produced, reduce the heat and place the ribs on the opposing side.

Step Four – Placing the Ribs on the Gas Grill

Placing Ribs on Gas Grill
Placing Ribs on Gas Grill

The ribs will cook indirectly throughout the whole process. No part of the rack should hang over one of the lit burners. Space the rack as evenly as possible. If your grill is large enough, have a burner going on either side of the rack. With some grills, the rack will fit over a single burner space. If you have a very large gas grill with four burners, place the rack between the two end burners.

The grill should run at an internal temperature of 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). At this point, the smoke bombs should be producing smoke. Once the ribs are in place, close the lid and let the ribs cook for 30 minutes. Do not lift the lid during this time (unless there is an obvious flare-up inside).

Step Five – Wrapping the Ribs

Apple Juice and Pork Ribs
Apple Juice and Pork Ribs

After thirty minutes of cook time, the ribs should be warmed through and have a wet appearance on the surface. They should appear browned on all sides. If they are not, continue cooking for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. If the cooking appears uneven rotate the ribs.

Once the ribs are sufficiently browned then it is time to wrap them. This step steams the ribs and keeps them tender.

To do this, place the rack of ribs on a large piece of aluminum foil, large enough to wrap the entire rack. Lift up the edges of the foil and pour one-half cup of warmed apple juice onto the ribs. Fold the foil together tightly. Create an airtight seal to hold in the moisture.

Return ribs to the grill, close the lid and turn up the heat on the indirect burners so that the temperature reaches roughly 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Keep the lid closed and continue cooking for 30 minutes.

Step Six – Unwrapping the Ribs

Unwrapped Pork Ribs
Unwrapped Pork Ribs

At this point, the ribs are almost cooked with an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (75 degrees C). While this is a safe temperature for serving, it isn’t high enough for them to be completely tender and as close to perfect as possible.

Carefully open the foil and examine the ribs. You can test the temperature, but that isn’t very conclusive with ribs since the bones will heat at a different rate than the meat. The ribs should appear cooked and the rack should be relatively loose. Bending the rack of ribs by picking up one end with a pair of tongs should show this. The ribs should bend but not come apart. If the ribs do not appear cooked, close up the foil and continue cooking for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

If the ribs do appear cooked, remove them from the foil and place back on the grill. Examine the rack to determine if they need to be rotated for even cooking. Close the lid and adjust the grill burners to hold a cooking temperature of 250 degrees F (120 degrees C).

Step Seven – Saucing the Ribs

Saucing Pork Ribs
Saucing Pork Ribs

Once the ribs have dried on the surface and are cooked through to the desired temperature of 185 to 190 degrees F) it is time to apply the sauce. If you don’t want sauce on your ribs, remove them now and move to the last step.

Apply only warmed barbecue sauce. It should be heated to at least 150 degrees F. Cold sauce will cool the ribs and stall the cooking process. Apply the barbecue sauce in three thin layers. Repeat the process every five minutes to allow the sauce to cook into the ribs and thicken. After the last application, close the grill lid and wait five more minutes before removing.

Step Eight – Cutting the BBQ Ribs

Cutting Pork Ribs
Cutting Pork Ribs

Once the ribs are finished, remove them from the grill and turn it off. Place the ribs on a large cutting board. Using a pair of tongs, hold the ribs on their edge, bone side towards you and gently slide a sharp knife between each bone. You should be able to see the bones in the rack making the carving process easier. Do not slide the knife along the edge of the bone, but aim to stay equally between the two adjacent bones. Once cut, serve immediately. I typically just eat them straight off the cutting board.

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