Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible


Memphis-Style Ribs

Recipe from Steven Raichlen's The Barbecue! Bible

  • Advance Prep: 4 to 8 hours for marinating the ribs

It never fails to amaze me how one simple idea can give birth to so many great regional variations. Consider ribs. The pork rib is one of the most perfect morsels ever to occupy a grill.


  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Method: Indirect Grilling
  • Equipment: 1 1/2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory), soaked for 1 hour in cold water to cover and drained
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For the ribs and rub

  • 3 racks baby back pork ribs (about 7 pounds), or 2 racks pork spareribs (6 to 8 pounds total)
  • 1/4 cups sweet paprika
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoons celery salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

For the mop sauce (optional)

  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cups yellow (ballpark) mustard
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Step 1: Prepare the ribs and rub: Remove the thin, papery skin from the back of each rack of ribs by pulling it off in a sheet with your fingers, using the corner of a kitchen towel to gain a secure grip, or with pliers.

Step 2: Combine the paprika, black pepper, brown sugar, salt, celery salt, cayenne, garlic powder, dry mustard, and cumin in a small bowl and whisk to mix. Rub two third of this mixture over the ribs on both sides, then transfer the ribs to a roasting pan. Cover and let cure, in the refrigerator, for 4 to 8 hours.

Step 3: Prepare the mop sauce (if using): Mix together the cider vinegar, mustard, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Step 4: Set up the grill for indirect grilling and place a large drip pan in the center.

If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips in the smoker box and preheat the grill to high; when smoke appears, reduce the heat to medium.

If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to medium.

Step 5: When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss the wood chips on the coals. Brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the ribs on the hot grate over the drip pan. Cover the grill and smoke cook the ribs for 1 hour.

Step 6: When the ribs have cooked for an hour, uncover the grill and brush the ribs with the mop sauce (if using). Recover the grill and continue cooking the ribs until tender and almost done, 1/4 to 1/2 hour longer for the baby back ribs, 1/2 to 1 hour longer for spareribs. The ribs are done when the meat is very tender and has shrunk back from the ends of the bones. If using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to add 10 to 12 fresh coals to each side after 1 hour. Fifteen minutes before the ribs are done, season them with the remaining rub, sprinkling it on.

Step 7: To serve, cut the racks in half, or, for a plate-burying effect, just leave them whole.

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