the secret to perfect bbq back ribs

There’s a secret to perfect BBQ back ribs. One that will get you awesome ribs every time. Every time. It’s not hard. Internal temperature. That’s it.

Cook your ribs until an instant read thermometer inserted between the ribs (never touching the bon though) reads 195F.

Perfect internal temperature for perfect ribs – every time

A good dry rub and a BBQ made from scratch help too, of course. Every little bit helps. But internal temperature is the big one.

Miss that and no sauce will save your ribs. Not even the bourbon BBQ sauce below. It’s good. But nothing is that good…

A smoker makes this pretty easy but it takes forever. Somewhere around 5 hours for baby back  pork ribs. This recipe gives you perfect BBQ back ribs in about 2 hours. Still slow but not crazy slow.

Anywhere between 190F and 200F is in the zone but 195F is the magic number. Below 190F and  they will be tough and chewy.

Much above 200F and they will start to dry out. 195F gets you perfect BBQ back ribs. Tender but firm with that little bit of pull when they come off the bone. Championship ribs.

There’s art to BBQ. But there’s science too. Tending your fire. Timing. Just the right amount of smoke. That’s art.

Cooking to a specific internal temperature. That’s science. BBQ takes meat way past the normally recommended internal temps and yet it can be moist and tender. That’s magic.


Perfect bbq back ribs glazed with a bourbon BBQ sauce.

Why it works

Pork guidelines are around 140F these days. Take it up to 175F and your pork turns to dust. Take it up to 195F though, and something wonderful happens.

The tough connective tissue and collagen melts and suddenly the meat turns moist and tender. Works with most tough cuts.

This is how all low and slow BBQ works. Why a brisket cooked past shoe leather temperatures is moist and delicious. And why your ribs are perfect sometimes and not so good other times.

It’s the same phenomenon you see when you make stew. Melting that stuff is what makes perfect BBQ back ribs work.

Grilling tips for perfect BBQ back ribs

Perfect bbq back ribs glazed with a bourbon BBQ sauce.

These ribs are done on the classic Weber kettle at around 325F. You need to use lump charcoal or pure charcoal briquettes.

Regular briquettes won’t work here. You will be lighting some briquettes about half way through the cooking process. Fast start briquettes are treated with chemicals that you have to burn off before you use them.

A gas grill could work here as well. You will need to burn wood chips though, or you might as well use the oven. Real BBQ is all about the smoke. Not too much smoke mind you. That part is still art.

The concept is simple. Mound your charcoal on both sides (I have the Weber charcoal baskets – they work well). Put a tinfoil drip pan down the middle.

Light one side adjust your airflow so your grill comes up to 325F. Put them above the drip pan, rib side down. Cook your ribs, turning them 180 degrees every 15 to 20 minutes.

When your fire starts to get low, light the other side. Keep cooking, turning every 15 to 20 minutes. Start checking internal temp after about an hour.

Big meaty back ribs will take about 2 hours. Leaner ribs could be done in as little as an hour – you should start checking internal temp after about 40 minutes.

When they hit about 190F you can sauce them. Or you can serve them dry – try that some time. It’s delicious.

Either way, perfect BBQ back ribs are better than most any restaurant is serving. Outside the US BBQ belt anyway. Once you get this down your friends with crown you the BBQ champion.

Perfect bbq back ribs glazed with a bourbon BBQ sauce.
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5 from 6 votes

perfect bbq back ribs

Cook the back ribs to an internal temp of 195F and sauce them with a simple bourbon BBQ sauce for award winning ribs every time.
Course Main
Cuisine American
Keyword bbq back ribs, perfect ribs
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 673kcal


  • 1-3 racks meaty back ribs around 3 lbs each

Rib Rub

  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder - pure. Like New Mexican or ancho
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp coarse black pepper - butcher's grind is perfect
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder

Simple Bourbon BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or water
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp pure chili powder
  • 2 tsp bourbon
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Franks red hot sauce (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp granulated onion or onion powder
  • 2 dashes liquid smoke (optional)


Prepare your grill

  • Bank lump charcoal or pure charcoal briquettes along opposing sides of a Weber kettle. Place a drip pan between the banks of charcoal. Light one bank of coals. Control your airflow so the kettle settles at around 325F.
  • If you are using a gas grill light one burner and prepare your wood chips. Place your drip pan along side the lit burner.

Prep the ribs

  • Remove the skin from the rib side of the rack. Use a paring knife to separate a bit of the skin from a bone, then slide a finger between the rib and the skin and start to pull up. Get a grip on the skin and pull carefully from the rack. This can be easy or a real hassle - just seems to vary rack to rack. I have no clue why...
  • Rub the ribs all over with the dry rub.

Cook the ribs

  • Place the ribs on the preheated grill above the drip pan. Keep the ribs away from direct heat. Cook, rib side down. Rotate the ribs 180 degrees end-to-end every 15 to 20 minutes. When the fire starts to burn out, light the lump charcoal on the opposite side. Continue to cook, turning the ribs every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • After about 1 hour start checking internal temperature using an instant read thermometer. Measure in a few places between the ribs. Make sure the probe doesn't touch the bone. If it does, it will read wrong.
  • Cooking time can be as little as one hour if it's a lean rack. A meaty rack can take up to 2 hours.
  • When the ribs reach an internal temperature of 190-195F sauce and cook another few minutes.


You can cook two racks using this technique. You don't ever want the ribs over direct heat. If you want to cook more ribs, use a rib rack. It's a bit trickier to rotate the ribs but it is doable if you are diligent.
Rib rub makes enough for one rack
Use pure chili powder in the rub and sauce if you can find it. New Mexican red or Ancho are ideal.
BBQ sauce makes enough for 3-4 racks.


Serving: 6people | Calories: 673kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 50g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 169mg | Sodium: 1104mg | Potassium: 714mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 995IU | Vitamin C: 1.7mg | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 2.6mg


2 thoughts on “the secret to perfect bbq back ribs”

  1. kinda worked. Got a rack of spare ribs, managed to get the membrane off, most of it anyway, applied rub and and away we go!!! To be honest ,I suck at using a Weber charcoal grill, can never get the hang of using the vents. Did manage eventually to hit the mark and put the poor thing out of its misery. Tasted pretty good in the end, just wish I had known that you need to trim the rack , as in take the skirt off and rib tips , way too much fat to chew through. Youtube to the rescue, another shot at it coming soon. Thanks .

    • Sorry to hear that. FWIW I don’t ever do spares this way – only do them low and slow (225-275F). This recipe is for baby backs. They are a lot more forgiving.

      It’s really tough to get a kettle to run at 225F without some extra gear though. It’s doable with the snake method I hear but for spares I just use a smoker.

      Don’t know if you already know this one but there’s a nice trick to help you dial in your kettle. Grab a sharpie. Take the lid off so you can see the lower vents. Watch your vents and mark the metal where the vent controller handle comes out at 1/4 open, 1/2 open and 3/4 open. You don’t need to mark fully open – just push it to the right.

      For lower temps try at 1/4 and fine tune your temp with the upper vent. Makes things a lot easier when you know for sure where your vents are. Once you get the hang of your kettle it is an amazing grill. If I could only have one BBQ it would be a weber kettle with the baskets and rotisserie ring – no contest.

5 from 6 votes (6 ratings without comment)

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