Slow Grilled Baby Back Ribs

By Ann Fulton

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The cooking time for these crowd-pleasing ribs is long but the effort is minimal – and the results are nothing short of finger-licking good!


Though my husband doesn’t do a lot of cooking, his talents shine bright when it comes to the grill. He has the Midas touch when it comes to tender, juicy chicken and gets the sear on a steak just right.

His willingness to tend to the grill while I prepare the rest of the meal inside is always appreciated. Perhaps because these juicy ribs are completely foolproof, I always end up with the grilling duty for this recipe.

The key to success lies in the simple spice rub and the slow and low cooking method. Because these ribs require an extended stay on the grill, I plan to make them when I know I can be home most of the afternoon.

That said, the time at home may be spent doing other things. Though these ribs can’t be rushed, they require only an occasional check-in and the effort is surprisingly low.

No grill or would rather use the oven? This recipe for Oven Baked BBQ Ribs, pictured below, delivers meat that is equally melt-in-your-mouth with those much-loved crispy edges. With this method, the ribs can be baked completely in the oven–or cooked until tender in the oven and then finished on the grill.

Sometimes, it’s nice to have options! 

Oven Baked BBQ Ribs-Melt-in-your mouth ribs with crispy edges are a breeze to prepare  with this easy recipe!

Slow Grilled Baby Back Ribs
In the beginning of the summer, I often quadruple the rub recipe so that I have it on hand whenever the mood strikes. Though the cooking time for these crowd-pleasing ribs is long, the effort is minimal and the results are nothing short of finger-licking good.

Yields 8 servings.
For the ribs
  • 3 racks baby back ribs (about 3 pounds per rack; see notes)
  • Spice rub (recipe follows)
  • 3/4 – 1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
For the spice rub
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  1. Mix the spice rub ingredients and store in a jar or other airtight container. Stored in a cool, dry place, the rub will keep for several months.
  2. For optimal flavor, prep the ribs the day before grilling. If this is not possible, it is ok to do this step the same day: If there is still a membrane along the bone side of the ribs, peel it off. (Removing this is easy if you make a small slit with a knife and then work your fingers beneath the membrane and pull. Removing the membrane will result in more tender ribs.) Then cut each rack into three sections. Sprinkle both sides of the ribs with the spice rub. Depending on exact size of the racks, I sometimes have a little leftover and sometimes use it all. Place the ribs in an extra-large zipper-top bag or other clean bag (with no holes…double bag if you’re not sure) and seal. Store in the refrigerator until ready to grill.
  3. Remove the ribs from the fridge a half hour before grilling. Prepare the grill for indirect cooking; preheat to approximately 220 degrees F or the lowest heat you can achieve. (My last grill would never go below about 250 degrees and this was fine.) Grill the ribs over indirect heat with the lid on for 5 hours total, rotating the racks once every hour or hour and 15 minutes. For example, with a gas grill, turn one side of the grill off and set the other side to the lowest heat possible. If you have three zones, turn two off and set the remaining zone to low, positioning the ribs off the direct heat. The same concept applies for a charcoal grill.
  4. After 5 hours, baste the ribs with the barbecue sauce. At this point, I like to turn up the heat and brush the ribs liberally with the sauce, flipping them occasionally until the sauce caramelizes.
  5. Remove the ribs to a platter, and allow them to rest for 5-10 minutes. Cut into sections of 2-3 ribs or serve as larger racks, as desired. Wet wipes optional!
  • Look for pork baby back ribs, not country style ribs. Also, this amount of ribs will require a fairly large grill. For a small grill or fewer people, the amount of ribs may easily be reduced. (Leftovers, however, are delicious!)
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The Fountain Avenue Kitchen
The cooking time for these crowd-pleasing ribs is long but the effort is minimal – and the results are nothing short of finger-licking good!

For a quick and delicious homemade barbecue sauce that relies on basic pantry ingredients, click here.  Your favorite store-bought sauce will work beautifully, too.

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  1. Robert

    I must be doing something wrong. After I cook the ribs for 5 hours and take them out of the foil to put the bbq sauce on them the meat just falls off the bone and I can not flip the ribs to cook the sauce onto each side…. I keep trying this but I always get the same result… oh well, guess I will keep on trying.

    Good rub though…

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Robert, If the meat is falling off the bone, it just means that the ribs have been cooked a little longer than they needed to be. Precise heat of grill and size of ribs can alter the total necessary cooking time, so you may find you simply need to cut back a bit. When you do end up with meat that falls off the bone, however, it’s very tender and still always tastes great!

      1. Robert

        Actually a kind of sarcastic reply… the ribs (even with falling off the bone) are really great… wife really likes the rub,

        They are great… thanks.

  2. Tim Post author

    Just delicious. The simple rub and long, slow cook yielded restaurant quality ribs. The grilling process was hands-off except for rotating on the hour. Will make again for sure.

    1. Ann Post author

      I love the hands-off nature of these ribs too, Tim. Truly perfect summertime weekend fare! Thanks for the glowing review.

  3. Ron

    I have tried every way u tube shows on smoking ribs and I have thrown out every one of them because they were unbeatable . I have yet to find a way to cock baby back ribs . I have a green mt. Smoker and I have no problem with cocking any other meat on it except these dam ribs. What’s the answer? Ron

      1. Peter

        Thanks. For the 5 hours of cooking you said to “reposition” them every hour. So that does not mean turn them over, correct?

        1. Ann Post author

          I grill them bone side down the whole time, and this tends to be the preferred way. Some people do flip them or cook the ribs bone side up. The theory with bone side up is that the juices pool in the concave area. That said, those juices don’t soak through the bone, and bone side down produces really tender meat for me every time. By repositioning, I mean shifting them around on the grill. That accounts for any spots that are hotter or cooler. Hope that helps!

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