When most people hear the word “ribs,” they immediately visualize a rack of smoked or grilled pork ribs slathered with a glistening sauce. But sauces can overpower the natural flavor of the pork — which is why I sometimes like to make Memphis style dry ribs.
Memphis style dry ribs aren’t “dry” from being overcooked. They just don’t have a half-gallon of thick, sweet sauce on them, so they aren’t “soaking.” Instead, they’re heavily seasoned with a savory and slightly sweet rub. If you get tired of the “dripping in sauce” ribs, these are the ones for you!
You can use spare ribs, but I prefer to use baby back ribs. It used to be that “baby back ribs” were smaller — 2-1/2 pounds and down — and anything bigger was “loin back ribs.” Same cut, just a matter of size. But now, it’s hard to find baby back ribs less than 3 pounds. As a result, you may have to adjust the cooking time if you have the true small baby backs, or if you have huge ribs.
Here I use a North Carolina-inspired seasoned sop mop—enjoy!
Memphis Style ribs feature a bold BBQ rub and a vinegar mop - hold the sauce.
- 1 rack baby back ribs
- 2 cups Char-Broil Whiskey Wood Chips
- 1 1/2 cups fruit juice, such as apple or cherry
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
- 3/4 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon dry rub
- Mix the dry rub ingredients together in a medium bowl.
- Mix together the vinegar, water, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of the dry rub in a jar or bowl.
- Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. Reserve a tablespoon of the dry rub for using at the end and season the ribs with the rest of the rub, about 3 tablespoons, until the ribs are covered on all sides and edges.
- Set up the grill for indirect cooking. Make a "smoke bomb" by putting 1 cup of the wood chips in a 12-inch by 12-inch piece of foil folded to make a sealed envelop. Poke holes in the top and place the packet directly above the burner that will be lit. Place the fruit juice in a small tin pan or bowl and place on the grill grate next to the burner.
- Preheat the grill to low (300-325 °F) and wait until the smoke begins to wisp out of the packet.
- Place the ribs bone side down on the grill grate on the opposite end of the lit burner, close the lid, and cook for 90 minutes. When you see the smoke stop coming out of your grill, replenish the wood chips in the foil pack. When you replace the chips, also brush some of the sop mop onto the ribs if the surface has dried.
- Remove the ribs from the grill and place bone side up on a 18-inch by 48-inch piece of foil that has been folded in half to form an 18-inch by 24-inch rectangle. Pour 1/4 cup of the fruit juice over the ribs and tightly seal the pack. Place back on the grill for another 90 minutes.
- Carefully remove the foil pack from the grill, remove the ribs from the foil and place them directly over the lit burner. Cook about 10 minutes per side until done. Note: For extra thick ribs, this can take longer, up to 30 minutes total. The ribs are done when the meat has drawn back from the bones and a toothpick inserts easily into the meat.
- Remove ribs from the grill and cover the top and bottom with the remaining sop mop. Season with the remaining dry rub. Slice and serve.