How to Make Ribs on A Charcoal Grill [2021 Updated]

How to Make Ribs on A Charcoal Grill [2021 Updated]

When it comes to BBQ, pork ribs are a common choice for meat. Sadly, a lot of people run into trouble. While this might not be an issue for people who own a smoker and are versatile using it, a charcoal grill requires some learning curve since you have to cook low ‘n’ slow.

The difficulty associated with smoking ribs on a charcoal grill isn’t getting a sweet smoke flavor but keeping the grill’s temperature around 250 degrees F / 120 degrees for excellent results.

Without further ado, let’s check out our step-by-step guide to grilling the most sumptuous ribs you’ve ever eaten.

Related:   Top 12 Best Pellet Smokers for 2021 

Everything You Need – Tools & Accessories to Get Started

Charcoal Grill

Nothing beats a 22-inch Weber Kettle; however, any charcoal grill will work just fine. It’s important that the grill comes with a built-in lid thermometer for perfect and convenient temperature control. Also, a storage container to hold your charcoal and a table workspace to prep your food will come in handy when cooking ribs on a charcoal grill.

Charcoal Briquettes

While 100% natural lump hardwood charcoal is a perfect choice for grilling, it might not perform exceedingly great when cooking for a longer period. Therefore, it’s better to opt for briquettes as they burn longer, making them suitable for smoking. On top of that, they are reusable.

Chimney Starter

The chimney starter does not require lighter fluid to light the coal. It would be best if you considered purchasing a large chimney with enough room to hold up 7 quarts of charcoal briquette for low ‘n’ slow indirect grilling.

Flammable Materials

Flammable tiles, lighting cubes, and newspapers help lit the chimneys.


It’s better to have at least one long, heavy-duty glove for protection, especially from the red-hot coals.


Cleaning the grill surface before smoking the ribs for healthy meals. It would be best if you stayed away from wire brushes to prevent pieces of metal from ruining your food.

Wood Chips

Wood chunks or chips help make sweet smoke flavor. It’d be best to purchase a lighter wood such as pecan, cherry, peach, or apple, as too much smoke might be overpowering.

Drip Pan

If you hate to spend extra hours cleaning the charcoal grill, then you need a disposable tray to collect any excess grease. Also, you can make a drip pan using heavy-duty tin foil.

Rib Rack

Typically, rib racks should accommodate about five-rib slabs vertically for more grilling capacity and keeping the ribs away from the heat.

Sheet Pans

This accessory is great for holding the ribs while cooking to prevent washing the pan as you place and take the ribs off.


Using two long-handled pairs makes smoking a lot easier. One sturdy kitchen tong pair is used to place and get ribs off the charcoal grill, and the second pair handles other grill tasks such as moving the red-hot coals around.

Key Ingredients


The amount of slabs depends on the number of people you intend to feed or the kind of dish to be served. Both St. Louis-Style and Baby Back rib racks typically have 12 ribs per slab on average. Well, I just go for whichever pork ribs type is available and most affordable on the market.

A Baby Back Ribs slabs weigh about 2 lbs while the Spare Ribs weigh close to 3 lbs and are meatier. Even better, the latter is less expensive compared to the formal.


If you don’t want to make your own seasoning, you can easily get one from the store. If you’re interested in making your own, you will need freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder, white sugar, dark brown sugar, ground ginger, and onion powder.

Barbeque Sauce

Ribs are cooked dry, which means no need for sauce. A great BBQ requires no sauce, but if the event or quests demand a sauce, you can serve your dry rubs with an all-natural bottled sauce or a homemade BBQ sauce.

How to Cook Ribs on a Charcoal Grill

Prep the Ribs

Get rid of the ribs’ membrane using a butter knife. This procedure isn’t difficult – insert your butter knife between the membrane and the bone, and separate until you can hold the membrane and pull away from the ribs.

Now, take out either the homemade or purchased rub and season both sides of the ribs. It’s better to use plastic wrap to cover the sheet pan before refrigerating.

Prepare the Charcoal Grill

Start with getting rid of any ash from likely places such as bottom and top air vents, and place two charcoal baskets on the coal grate’s opposite side. Next, set the chimney starter filled with charcoal in the middle of the grate. Now, get your glove, drip pan, matches, and flammable material to start the smoking session. Keep in mind that the wood chip should be soaked for more than an hour for perfect results.

Light the Grill

Prepare the Chimney and light it for about 5 hours for Baby Back ribs and up to 7 hours for St. Louis-style ribs. For starters, you might have to smoke your ribs several times to have a better grasp of the required cooking times. Hence, it’s better to keep track of the time and rib style.

Now, take out the refrigerated ribs, start the fire, and allow the Chimney to burn for more than 20 minutes before dumping them into the baskets. Next, let the Chimney cool down safely somewhere and place the drip pan (half-filled with water) between the coal basket.

Place the cooking grate on the charcoal grill and allow it to heat up before cleaning off the debris using a grill scraper. Put the rib rack in between the two coal baskets and ready to start smoking.

Cook the Ribs

When closing the grill’s lid, ensure the top vent is directly above the meat, then smoker for up to 4 hours without opening the lid. Here’s the deal, you need to use the vents to control the grill’s airflow to ensure a constant temperature at 225 degrees F.

How to Determine When the Ribs Are Ready

It’s best to keep track of your cooking times. Temperature and rib style, as grill and rack, cook differently. In general, Baby Backs should be cooked for about 3 – 5 hours and up to 7 hours for St Louis-Style.

The right time to take the ribs off the grill is when a toothpick can slide through the ribs without resistance. Also, the meat will pull off the bone with the least effort; but it shouldn’t fall off the bone completely as well.

Serve the Ribs

Once you are sure you’ve achieved tender ribs, let them cold naturally for some minutes before slicing. This makes it easier to cut the ribs into even slices. You can either serve the sauce along with the rib or sauce the ribs directly.

How to Make Ribs on A Charcoal Grill With Myron Mixon, BBQ Champion


To ensure you cook your rib to tender, juicy perfection, the heat needs to be kept at a constant temperature. Also, you shouldn’t open the lid as you smoke these ribs to prevent heat loss. More importantly, if this is our first time smoking ribs, then you expect some learning curve.

About Jack BBQ

Hi! I'm Jack and I'm a self-proclaimed barbecue expert and author of this website! I'll be honest with you, I started this website because my infinite love for barbecue. Along my journey, I actually really fell in love with writing about barbecue. I hope you found value from whatever article you read. It's the work, the mission that I'm doing

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