How to Slow-Cook Spareribs on the Grill

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Season the ribs and refrigerate overnight for a more potent flavor.
Season the ribs and refrigerate overnight for a more potent flavor. (Image: Spareribs-BBQ Ribs with POtatoes image by Svenja98 from Fotolia.com)

Spareribs are cut from pork belly. A rack usually contains about 11 to 14 ribs. You may see them marketed as "side ribs" or "south side ribs." Once stores remove the skirt, breast bone and cartilage from the side of a whole slab, they can then be labeled "St. Louis Style ribs." While spareribs are both fatty and meaty, they require indirect heat and low-heat, slow cooking for maximum flavor and texture. Plan to cook the ribs for 3 to 6 hours, depending on weight and the number of ribs on the grill.

Things You'll Need

  • Butter knife
  • Paper towel
  • Dry rub seasoning
  • Aluminum pan filled with water
  • Grill thermometer
  • Grilling fork
  • Spray bottle containing apple juice
  • Toothpick
  • Aluminum foil
  • Brown paper bag

Remove the skin-like membrane from the ribs with a butter knife. Turn the ribs bone-side up. On a short rib, pry up the edge of the membrane. Grasp the edge of the membrane using a paper towel and pull it off the ribs. You will see another layer of what appears to be a membrane under the one you just removed. Don't remove it; it holds the meat and bones together.

Dust the ribs with approximately 1 tsp. of dry rub seasoning on each side, place the ribs in a container and store in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes.

Remove the ribs from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking to allow them to come to room temperature.

Preheat a gas grill for 15 to 20 minutes on high. Clean off the grill surface with a wire brush. Turn off all burners on one side of the grill and turn down the burners on the other side to medium. For a charcoal grill, fill it three-quarters full with charcoal briquettes, light and allow to burn until they are covered with a thin layer of ash. Push the briquettes to one side of the grill and pile them about two to three briquettes high. Clean the grill surface with a wire brush.

Place the ribs on the unheated side of the grill. Place the roasting pan of water on the heated side of the grill and check the water level every hour. Add more water as needed. The roasting pan of water will add moisture and help regulate temperature.

Place the grill thermometer at grate level and cook the ribs at 225 to 235 degrees. Adjust the operating burners as needed on a gas grill to regulate temperature. Open and close the lid vent in a charcoal grill to regulate temperature.

Turn the ribs using a grill fork every 30 minutes. Baste the ribs by spraying with apple juice every hour. Work quickly when the lid of the grill is up so as not to let too much heat escape.

Check for doneness by sliding a toothpick between the ribs beginning at about the third or fourth hour. The ribs are done when the toothpick slides between the ribs with no resistance, or when you notice the meat is beginning to fall off the bone.

Remove the ribs from the grill and wrap them in aluminum foil. Place the ribs in a brown paper bag and seal the bag tightly. Leave the ribs in the bag for at least 10 minutes, or up to one hour. Unwrap the ribs and serve.

Tips & Warnings

  • Note that some butchers remove the membrane before packaging.
  • For a smoky flavor, add wood chips or chunks on the heated side of the grill.
  • Barbecue sauce may be added during the last 10 to 20 minutes of grilling.
  • Adding barbecue sauce too soon will cause the sauce to burn and turn black due to the sugar content.

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