How To Cook Ribs On A Charcoal Grill

Smoke the perfect BBQ ribs on your charcoal grill with our recipe and step-by-step guide. Cooked over indirect heat and applewood, these smoked Ribs will rival anything you’ve ever tasted before.

Any good barbecue chef knows a good rack of ribs, but some fall short in thinking they don’t have the right equipment. While ribs are traditionally cooked on a Kamado smoker or grill, they can actually easily be made on a charcoal grill as well.

Charcoal grills are often underestimated for their flexibility, and unlike their gas brethren, they can actually be converted into brilliant smokers without compromising the classic smoky flavor of barbecue.

Equipment and tools

  • Charcoal grill
  • Charcoal chimney
  • Newspaper
  • Charcoal briquettes
  • 3 small blocks of mesquite or hickory wood
  • Lighter
  • Disposable foil pan
  • Paper towels
  • Tongs
  • Aluminum foil
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 5 to 6 hours

Servings: 4



  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 6 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced


  • 2 racks baby-rack ribs (about 4-1/2 pounds)

Spice rub:

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dash cayenne pepper

How to choose the best ribs

Don’t just grab any package of ribs at the store and run. Different types of ribs have different flavors and textures, and therefore different cooking techniques.

These are the three most common types of ribs:

They are smaller, meatier, and slimmer than other types.

The ribs are larger with flat bones. They have more connective tissues, so after a long cooking time, they will get very tender.

They are more difficult to cook, so you may want to start experimenting with pork tenderloins or ribs first.

How to prepare the ribs

The key to any good round of ribs is proper preparation. This stage can make or break the success of your meal and neglecting good preparation will give you mushy, inferior ribs. Simply throwing them on the grill as you bought them isn’t going to cut it.

For your choice of ribs, I suggest going for pork. And then there are 2 varieties: ribs or ribs.

Personally, I prefer spare. They are cut from the belly of the ribs, so they are much meatier. The baby’s back is a bit shorter, but it’s still a great option. Cook time tends to be 4-5 hours for leftovers and 3-4 hours for baby back.

How to prepare the grill

Our main goal here is to turn our grill into a smoker. This really takes a bit of skill because we need to maintain a nice constant heat of around 250F/120C. This will not only require the use of a good meat thermometer, but also some knowledge of indirect cooking.

If you’re not familiar with indirect cooking, it’s a method that places pieces of charcoal under one half of the grill, leaving the other side clear. You then place the meat on this transparent side, allowing the heat inside the grill to cook it instead of the direct heat from the flames.

With this approach, we’re going to get a little creative and enlist the help of a disposable foil pan. We’ll fill it with water and use it to add moisture to our grill environment, which in turn will help regulate the temperature. More on that in a moment.

Make sure your barbecue grates and drum are completely clean before cooking. Having a spotless barbecue has many benefits, so if your grill is dirty, I’d spend half an hour really cleaning it.

Once clean, remove the cooking grate and light the charcoal. There are a few methods for this, so if you’re not sure how to do this, check out my guide on how to light a charcoal grill.

You will need enough charcoal to cover half of the grill area and also to create 2-3 layers of charcoal.

Once the charcoal is lit, place it on the bottom of the grill and position it so that it only covers half of the grill area. Add several large pieces of hardwood to the charcoal. This will help us generate smoke throughout the cooking process.

Put the rack back on the grill. Fill your foil pan with water and place it in the middle of the grate directly over the charcoal. The idea is that this creates a constant supply of steam, but keep an eye on it: if it starts to run low, you’ll need to refill it.

Remember that our goal is an internal temperature of 250 F/120 C. If it goes above that, open the vents in the roof of your grill to allow some heat to escape. If necessary, feel free to keep them open to allow enough ventilation to maintain a constant temperature.

How to grill ribs

Now that our grill is ready, it’s time to start cooking this rib! Place the racks on the grill grate, making sure they are positioned correctly, such as in the middle of the grill without charcoal underneath, next to the water pan. Place them rib side down on the grill.

Try to cook 3-4 hours for baby back ribs, or 4-5 hours for pork ribs.

After an hour, check the ribs, making sure the coals are burning and keeping the grill hot. Also, check that there is enough water in the pan to maintain a healthy supply of steam.

Add a few more wood chips to the coals and flip the ribs over to help you get a more even cook.

how to wrap ribs

Another hour later, check the ribs. We want them to curve slightly without breaking. If they haven’t reached this point yet, let them cook a little longer. However, if they do fold nicely, wrap the ribs in aluminum foil. We do this to help increase the internal temperature of the meat while also retaining moisture, making it juicier.

Return the wrapped ribs to the grill. Check the coals and water again. Don’t add any more wood chips this time, as the ribs will have absorbed enough smoke.

In conclusion, cooking ribs on a charcoal grill is an excellent way to enjoy the smoky flavors of barbecued meat. Follow these tips to ensure that your ribs turn out perfectly.

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