How Long to Smoke Ribs on a Charcoal Grill

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Smoke Ribs on a Charcoal Grill

If you’re going to cook ribs, the first step is to decide how long to smoke ribs on a charcoal grill. This article will outline how long it takes for ribs to cook on a charcoal grill, along with some tips and techniques for roasting meats of your own. Read on so you can get started cooking the perfect meal!

Charcoal Grill-Smoked Spare Ribs


  • 1 rack spare ribs, trimmed. If a rack has already been trimmed from the butcher’s slab, you will need to cut them down to two racks.
  • 1 bottle barbecue sauce, (Memphis Lightnin’ Sauce or your favorite store brand) 
  • 1 cup hickory wood chips


  1. Take your ribs out of the refrigerator and prepare a medium-low fire for indirect heat in your charcoal grill. 
  2. Your charcoal should be arranged in a large “U” shape at the base of the grill, with no coals directly under the cooking rack. If you’re using a gas grill, preheat on low until you see the first wisps of smoke appear.
  3. Insert the hickory wood chips and let them burn for 30 minutes.
  4. Place the ribs directly over the hottest part of your grill, about 3 to 4 inches from the heat source. 
  5. Close the lid until you see smoke coming from your grill. 
  6. Leave your charcoal fire burning until you see a full burnout on your initial pile of coals; this will take up to an hour, depending on how much coal there is in front of you.
  7. Now you can move your ribs over to the indirect cooking area. 
  8. Brush the barbecue sauce over both sides of the ribs, and then return them to your grill. 
  9. Continue cooking until the meat is tender and pulls away from the bone with little effort, about 1 ½ hour.
  10. The ribs are done when they are tender, but not falling off the bone. And the bones should be easy to remove from the meat (with a hint of stickiness on them) when you go to pick up a rib from your rack of ribs. 
  11. If the bones are tender and easy to pull out of the meat, you know your ribs are ready.
  12. Remove from the grill and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

How long to smoke ribs on a charcoal grill? 

Depending on the type of rib, the answer may be either longer or shorter than you think. That’s because ribs aren’t always cooked the same way and sometimes involve different cooking temperatures.

Even so, there are some general rules that you can use to determine how long to smoke ribs on a charcoal grill.

Rule #1

The first thing to remember is that ribs take longer to cook than steaks and chops. So if you’re cooking them on a charcoal grill, plan to spend at least an hour tending the fire and standing around watching them. There’s nothing like the smell of smoking meat to put you in a good mood.

Rule #2

The next thing to remember is that the longer it takes for ribs to cook, the less work they require. That’s because some parts of ribs can be removed so that you can cook them separately. For example, spare ribs are a cut of meat that includes the rib cage itself. So you can remove the backbone and the top end of the ribs, which will cook faster. (And, yeah, you can remove bones from steaks and chops, but you won’t get much in return. However, ribs are a good place for building up your barbecue skills.)

Rule #3

The third thing to keep in mind is that the less tender the meat is when cut from the rib cage, the longer it takes to cook them. This means that a spare rib will cook more slowly than a baby’s back rib, which cooks faster than pork loin ribs. It also means that the younger the meat is, the longer to cook. Baby back ribs are cut from the hip area of a baby pig and are very lean. Steak, on the other hand, is cut from the loin area of a cow and is full of marbling, which is what makes it tender.

Rule #4

Remember that you can use an indirect heat method or an open flame method for grilling ribs. With an indirect heat method, you’ll cook the ribs on the part of the grill that’s away from direct heat. That means your fire should be built on a raised shelf, with charcoal in it and wood on top of it (at least from one side to another). You can also use grated wood for fuel, but this is less efficient than using charcoal.

Rule #5

The fifth thing to consider is that you can use a smoker box or smoker box cover for your ribs. These are flat lids that fit onto a regular charcoal grill. With this method, you’ll cover your ribs with both the air intake. The smoke vent holes so that they won’t dry out or burn. And if you use a smoker box or smoker box lid, you don’t have to worry about building a fire in the middle of your cooking. All you need to do is add wood chunks to the charcoal on one side of your grill and wait until things start smoking.

Rule #6

The last thing to remember is the bigger the charcoal fire, the slower it’ll take to cook. So if you’re not planning to serve ribs immediately, you can use smaller pieces. But if you do plan to serve them right away, use as big a fire as possible.

Summing Up 

That’s all about how long to smoke ribs on a charcoal grill. Hope you will enjoy it a lot while smoking your ribs with this recipe and rules. Happy Grilling!