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How Long To Cook Ribs On Charcoal Grill

One of the most popular meat options for barbecue recipes is ribs, but they’re also the choice with which most cooks face the most challenges. You should have no problems if you’re using a smoker, but if you’re using a charcoal grill during the cooking process, you’ll need to learn the best way to cook your ribs to produce tender, ideal results.

If, like many others, you’re interested in cooking the most delicious ribs you’ve ever had using a charcoal grill, follow all the instructions we’ve outlined in this article. Also, take note of timing guidelines for satisfactory results.

Ribs Nutrition Facts

How Long To Cook Ribs On Charcoal Grill

Tips for Cooking Ribs on Charcoal Grill

Below are some really helpful tips and suggestions to keep in mind when cooking ribs on a charcoal grill:

Low and slow is the way to go – Low and slow cooking is the key to delicious barbecue ribs on the charcoal grill. During the long cooking process, low cooking temperatures give rise to the collagen contained in the tough meat to gently break down and melt. If your ribs remain difficult to chew after cooking, it means you still need to cook them for a little longer, as long as you keep cooking them at the appropriate temperature.

Ideal timing – For ribs cooked on a smoker or on the grill, we recommend the 3-2-1 ribs method. This method relates to the amount of time spent cooking spare ribs and is specifically tailored for them. It entails  3 hours of smoking, 2 hours of cooking while wrapped in foil, and 1 hour of cooking while unwrapped. Every time you use this procedure, you’ll get deliciously soft ribs.

If Baby Back Ribs are your choice of ribs, you can also follow the same steps but remember to modify the ratio to 2-2-1. Because baby back ribs aren’t as fatty as spare ribs, they need less time for the tenderizing procedure.

If you’re having trouble keeping the temperature low, cut the initial cooking time in half and cover them in foil more easily. Otherwise, the increased temperature for a long duration may cause the meat to dry out.

How to maintain the cooking temperature – One good way to maintain the temperature you’re cooking at is by making sure the air vents stay mostly closed and monitoring the heat using a temperature probe dangled over the cooking surface. To prevent the cooking temperature from decreasing halfway through the process, you should throw another half of a chimney of briquettes into the grill.

Ribs should not fall off the bone – The rib flesh should ideally not come loose from the bone when it’s done. Ribs that fall off the bone in this manner are essentially ribs that have been overcooked. Any great cook that is actually good at grilling strives for rib meat that is as soft as a rare steak.

When pulled gently, the meat should come free from the bones, but it should never fall off the bone by itself. Rib meat that has fallen off the bone will typically be soggy and lacking in texture.

Cooking Time for Ribs on Charcoal Grill

We recommend the following timing guidelines in this table below to ensure the best results with your ribs when cooking them on a charcoal grill:

Cooking procedure Cooking time
Cooking spare ribs on the charcoal grill 3 hours of smoking at 225 – 250 degrees; 2 hours of cooking while wrapped in foil; 1 hour of cooking uncovered
Cooking baby back ribs on the charcoal grill 2 hours of smoking at 225 – 250 degrees; 2 hours of cooking while wrapped in foil; 1 hour of cooking uncovered


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Ribs on a Charcoal Grill (4 Servings)

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  • 1 rack of pork ribs
  • 1 tablespoon of yellow mustard (or as needed)
  • ¼ cup of dry rub for ribs (or as needed)
  • ¼ cup of BBQ Sauce (or as needed)
  • 2 tablespoons of apple juice (water or coffee can also be substituted)

For the Charcoal Grill

  • 1 chimney of charcoal briquettes (divided)
  • 1 foil pan
  • 3 chunks of smoking wood (optional)


  1. To ensure a slow burn, fill your charcoal chimney halfway with briquettes and light only a bunch of them. Arrange the briquettes on one portion of the grill in a pile. If desired, add 3 bits of smoking wood, cherry is a good option.
  2. Place a foil pan on the grill grate over charcoal and place the cooking grate on top of it. Half-fill the pan with water.
  3. By inserting a butter knife between the membrane and the bone, you can extract the membrane from beneath the ribs. Move the knife gently around the membrane to loosen it and pull it off completely. For increased grip, a paper towel works great.
  4. Distribute the rib rub generously to both surfaces of the ribs, also spread some mustard around both of their surfaces. Season the ribs with salt if you opt against using a rib rub.
  5. Ideally, you should cook ribs on the furthest side of the grill, away from the fire, at 225-250 degrees. If you’re working with spareribs, cover and cook them for 3 hours; if cooking Baby Back Ribs, then ensure to simmer them for 2 hours.
  6. Wrap the ribs in foil and close the wrapping firmly after 3 hours, applying 2 tablespoons of a liquid, a good choice is apple juice. If necessary, add an additional half a chimney-sized stack of charcoal, then cook your ribs for another 2 hours with the grill covered.
  7. Remove the foil from the ribs and discard it. Turn the ribs over and brush their bottoms using barbecue sauce. Cook them further for 15 minutes on a covered grill.
  8. Return the ribs to their upright position and brush the tops with BBQ sauce. Cover and cook for another 45 minutes.
  9. Take the ribs off the grill and set them aside to cool slightly before serving.

This recipe yields well-cooked and flavorful pork ribs, and it’s one you should definitely try out next time you’re in the mood to play with your charcoal grill. The entire cooking duration for the recipe is 6 hours and 15 minutes, with a prep time of 15 minutes and a cook time of 6 hours.

If you’d like to see more ideas for grilling ribs on a charcoal grill, we recommend this video recipe for you to watch for some cooking inspiration.

  • Author: Bobby