Ribs on a Weber grill are a classic of summertime and luckily, making them is an easy process. One of the major benefits of a barbecue is that the best thing you can do is leave it alone. Ribs are no exception and with a little prep, you can let them slow cook their way to perfection.
Place and light charcoal briquettes on just one side of the grill. Once they have ashed over, pour some hickory chunks on them. Place the ribs on the half of the grill away from the coals and cook covered for 4-5 hours.
There are seemingly endless ways to cook ribs and barbecue in general. However, they all operate under the same principles of low heat and time. Below, we will cover some variations and offer tips for getting great ribs on a Weber kettle grill.
Table of Contents
Step 1: The Prep Process
The process of preparing ribs to be cooked is fairly simple. If possible, get your ribs from a local butcher who sources their own meat. Not only is this more ethical, but the quality of the meat is also much better than at a grocery store.
After you get your ribs home, lay them flat on a cutting board and let them rest for 15 minutes. Having them at room temperature is imperative for getting them to take the heat properly. If the butcher hasn’t done so, remove the membrane that covers the bottom of the ribs.
Step 2: Lighting The Coals
One of the more difficult things about a charcoal grill is lighting the coals. To remedy this, there are smokestack charcoal lighters that make it easier. These lighters hold newspaper at the bottom and light the coal at the top. Then, it can just be dumped into the grill.
Although it may be tempting, do not put too much lighter fluid on your coals. While it does eventually burn off, it could take a while. This could leave a lighter fluid taste on your ribs.
Step 3: Applying Barbecue Sauce or Barbecue Rub
At this point in the process, you will apply the barbecue rub of your choice. This is a blend of herbs and spices of your own devising or pulled from one of thousands of recipes. The dry rub’s flavor cooks into the meat as it grills and will blend with the natural juices.
If you are going to use a sauce, it is very important that you don’t add it until the end. Adding the sauce too early will result in burned, crispy ribs. The sugars in most barbecue sauces burn easily. To avoid this, brush any sauce onto your ribs in the last thirty minutes of cooking.
Step 4: Reaching the Perfect Temperature
For ribs, the ideal temperature for your grill (when closed) is between 225 and 250 degrees fahrenheit. It will always be better to run a little bit hotter than cooler. Slightly more heat will seal in flavor, whereas less will let it seep out of the meat.
Keeping your grill at the perfect temperature is one of the most challenging things about barbecuing. Especially when using charcoal, regulating the heat can become a guessing game. Fortunately, there are tools for that.
Getting yourself a barbecue thermometer will be a big help. These heat-proof thermometers can sit right inside the grill. By using one of these, you can be sure your ribs are cooking to the perfect temperature.
Step 5: Using the Proper Cooking Techniques
One of the most useful techniques for cooking ribs on a charcoal Weber grill is using the air vents. These are the silver switches on the top of your Weber’s lid. The switches cover holes which allow oxygen to come in or out.
Even though it might be counterintuitive, the more open the holes are, the hotter the grill will be. Oxygen fuels fire and makes more heat. If you find a good balance of open holes and closed ones, you can regulate the temperature.
One of the other important techniques with barbecuing ribs is to let them rest. After the ribs are done, lay them out on a sheet pan for 10-15 minutes. This simple step will help lock in the flavors and juices and keep them from spilling out.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Grilling Ribs
The most common mistake when barbecuing is having the heat too high. It might not seem like there is much action going on on the grill when slow cooking. This can lead some people to make the grill hotter and quickly burn their ribs. With that being said, here are some other common mistakes to avoid when making ribs on your weber grill:
- Don’t boil your ribs first. It’s not uncommon for grillers to boil their ribs before they put them on the grill. In fact, it cuts down on overall cooking time and can yield very tender ribs. However, if you’re using the stove to do the majority of the cooking, you might as well just cook the ribs in the oven. Boiling your ribs first removes a lot of flavor and is considered by most to be “cheating.”
- Only put BBQ sauce on at the end. While it may seem like a good idea in theory to put BBQ sauce on at the beginning, it is most likely going to burn and create a layer of black char on the ribs. You can avoid this by applying the BBQ sauce only at the end, and then allowing about 10 to 30 minutes of additional grilling time.
- Always remove the membrane. The membrane, or silver-skin, is a thin piece of connective tissues found on the back of most ribs. For best results, remove the membrane prior to grilling. It can become rubbery and tough during the grilling process.
- Avoid moving the meat around too much. In the case of ribs, you don’t have to move them at all. The bottom of the bone has no meat on it and can take the higher heat. This leaves the top with all the meat to slowly cook and become tender.
If you take anything away from these mistakes, remember that low and slow is the name of the game. An indirect, slow and low grilling method will yield better, more tender ribs than cooking them over direct, high heat. While it may be tempting to cook them over high heat to cut down on time, you’ll have tender meat that easily tears off the bone when you cook them slowly.
Types of Ribs
Spareribs – These are long cuts from the pork belly. They are popular for grilling and will take a shorter time to cook due to having less meat.
St. Louis-Style Ribs – These are trimmed even further than spareribs and contain almost no fat or cartilage. They are the most concentrated in flavor.
Baby Back Ribs – These are smaller than spareribs but have a huge amount of flavor due to their fat content.
Country-Style Ribs – This cut has the most amount of meat out of all of them. These will take the longest amount of time to cook.
Types of Weber Grills
While there are many choices for propane grills, we have focused solely on charcoal for cooking ribs. This is because the smoke and fire is part of the classic flavor of barbecue. Plus, with a charcoal grill, you don’t usually have to worry about running out of fuel.
Original Kettle – The Weber original kettle grill is their most iconic model and has become synonymous with American grilling. It’s large grilling area gives plenty of room for a half-charcoal/half-ribs cooking configuration.
Smokey Joe – This smaller version of the kettle is portable and only seven inches smaller. This would still be acceptable for cooking small racks of ribs.
Slow Cooking Vs. Smoking
Slow cooking is the act of using very low heat to cook something over a very long period of time. This lets the proteins break down and the meat becomes very tender. This is usually achieved with slow burning coals.
Smoking is similar to slow cooking but uses smoke from a hardwood to cook the meat all the way through. This injects the meat with flavor while still breaking down those necessary proteins. However, hardwood briquettes are hard to keep lit and must be dutifully maintained.
The cooking technique listed above is something of a hybrid between slow cooking and smoking. The hickory chips offer some of the smoky flavor while the coals maintain the steady heat. This is a good balance of flavor and reliability that gives the best of both worlds.
Our Final Thoughts
Barbecuing on a Weber grill is a classic American pastime. Paired with a cabana, a barbecue is a great addition to any backyard. Ribs are the perfect, low-maintenance dish to cook while sipping a drink.
Although they take a long time, ribs are an easy dish and all that extra time is worth it. The slow cooking method has been used for centuries and, rightly, remains popular today. By following the above directions, you can cook perfect, tender barbecue ribs every time.