How to Smoke Ribs in a Charcoal Grill or Oven

There is nothing quite like a rack of perfectly smoked ribs to go with a warm summer day. Many people don’t even consider cooking their own ribs, assuming that a dedicated smoker is necessary to properly prepare smoked ribs. That couldn’t be further from the truth, and this recipe will show you how to make some of the most delicious ribs you have ever had on a simple charcoal grill.

These ribs will come out perfectly tender, and with a smoky flavor that will have even the most avid meat-smoking enthusiast impressed. While this recipe will give you a list of exact ingredients and measurements to go off of, there is a lot of room for experimentation and you should add your own flair to personalize them just for you. Adding spices like ground chipotle pepper, celery seed, or even trying different types of wood chips will add a new spin on the flavor of these ribs.

Finished smoked ribs


Delicious Charcoal Grill Ribs

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 30 minutes
Servings 2


  • 1 Rack St. Louis style spareribs
  • 2 Tbsp yellow mustard

Rib rub

  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

Mop sauce

  • cup beef broth
  • cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • Your choice of smoking wood chips


  1. Fill half of your charcoal grill with hot charcoal, leaving enough space for a full water pan on the opposite side.

  2. Mix the spices and brown sugar in a small bowl, making sure to break apart any clumps with your hands.

  3. Remove the thin membrane from the bone side of the ribs. Cover the ribs with a thin layer of mustard and coat heavily with the rib rub.

  4. Place your choice of wood chips directly onto your charcoal, and place the ribs above the water pan. Smoke for three hours, keeping the temperature around 225°F-250°F.

  5. Combine the apple cider vinegar with beef broth. This mixture will keep your ribs from drying out, and should be applied every 30 minutes after the first hour of smoking.

  6. Cover a sheet of aluminum foil lightly with brown sugar, honey, and butter. Place the ribs meat side down and add more brown sugar, honey, and butter to the other side. Wrap the ribs tightly with more foil and let the ribs cook for another 90 minutes to two hours.

  7. Once your ribs have achieved the desired level of tenderness (the rack should bend but not split when picked up halfway through) remove from the foil. Apply a coating of your favorite barbecue sauce or more rib rub if you want and finish the ribs on the grill for another 30-45 minutes. 

  8. Remove the ribs from the grill. Cut, serve, and enjoy!


Step One – Prepare the Rib Rub

Rib Rub
The rib rub is one of the most important parts of making smoked ribs. There is a lot of variety that you can introduce to make your rub perfect for you personal taste, but a general rule of thumb is to include plenty of brown sugar, salt, and pepper. I like to add a good amount of paprika for color and some garlic, onion, and chili powder to enhance the flavor. Mix these spices together and use your hands to break up any clumps of brown sugar.

Step Two – Remove the Membrane and Trim Any Excess Fat


Membrane Removed

When you look at the bone side of your ribs, you should notice that there is a shiny ‘silverskin’ membrane. This should be removed by simply sliding a knife under the membrane near a bone, and pulling the skin off. It should all come off in one clean piece, but you might need to use a paper towel in order to get a good grip. If there are any excessive amounts of fat on your ribs, feel free to trim it off. Most of it should render during the cooking process, so it is not a big deal if you decide to leave it on.

Step Three – Cover the Ribs in Mustard and Apply the Rub

Rub applied to ribs
Now your ribs should be ready to go, and you simply have to cover them with the rib rub that we made earlier. In order to get the rub to stick to the ribs we will cover them with a thin layer of yellow mustard. This will act as a binding agent, and can be replaced with any type of cooking oil if desired. Heavily coat both sides of your ribs with an even layer of rib rub.

Step Four – Smoke the Ribs for Three Hours

Ribs and charcoal grill smoking setup
Many people think that you need a dedicated smoker in order to properly smoke ribs, but a standard charcoal grill works just as well. Simply fill half of the grill with hot charcoal, and place a pan full of hot water on the other side. This will create a zone of indirect heat that we will use to slowly cook our ribs. Place a handful of your favorite smoking wood chips directly on the hot charcoal, and set your ribs above the water pan. Shut the lid, and monitor the temperature with a thermometer, keeping it within the 225°F-250°F range.

Step Five – Prepare and apply the Mop Sauce

Ribs before mop sauce

Ribs after mop sauce

Another important step when smoking ribs is coating them with a simple mop sauce. Combine ⅓ cup of beef broth (any broth or even water is fine) and ⅔ cup of apple cider vinegar. This mixture should be ‘mopped’ onto the ribs every 30 minutes after the first hour of smoking in order to keep them from drying out.

Step Six – Wrap the Ribs in Foil with Brown Sugar, Honey, and Butter

Ribs before wrapping
After three hours of cooking your ribs should have a rough crispy bark. Wrapping the ribs now will help to increase their tenderness. Take a long sheet of aluminum foil and sprinkle a small amount of brown sugar over the area that the ribs will cover. Add a few slices of butter and some honey, and place the ribs meat side DOWN onto the foil. Cover the top of the ribs with more brown sugar, honey, and butter, and wrap them tightly with more foil. Place the wrapped ribs back onto the grill, making sure that the meat side is down, and let it cook for another 90 minutes to two hours.

Step Seven – Remove the Ribs from Foil and Cover with Barbecue Sauce

Wrapped baking sheet and ribs
After your ribs have reached the appropriate tenderness, remove them from the foil and slather some of your favorite barbecue sauce on all sides. I simply added some more dry rub, but even this isn’t necessary. Throw the ribs back onto the grill and raise the temperature to around 300°F and let them cook for another 30 minutes. This will give your ribs a nice glazed exterior.

Step Eight – Rest, Cut, and Serve

Ribs in baking sheet

Finished oven cooked ribs

The ribs should be perfectly cooked now, and can be removed from the grill. I would recommend letting the ribs rest for around 10-15 minutes (if you can wait that long) so that they are at a reasonable temperature to eat. Now you just need to cut your ribs, leaving a bit of meat on both sides of the bone, and enjoy your perfectly smoked ribs!

This recipe was made for anyone with a simple charcoal grill, but it will also work perfectly with any smoker.

For anyone that has no grill or smoker, there is an easy way to smoke your ribs right in your ovenSimply prepare the ribs as directed above, but fill a baking sheet with a shallow layer of wood chips and place your ribs in a separate cooking tray on top. Wrap this all together with plenty of aluminum foil, bake at 250°F and forget about it for four hours. It’s that easy! This method produces incredibly tender ribs that are juicy and fall right off of the bone.

Whether you are planning a large summer barbecue or simply have a craving for some perfectly smoked ribs, this recipe makes it possible with even the simplest cooking appliances.

About Matt Pineda
Matt resides near Grand Rapids, MI and is currently working as a freelance writer. He enjoys traveling, camping, and most of all cooking! Matt likes to experiment in the kitchen, creating surprising recipes out of any ingredients that he has lying around.