Memphis-Style Ribs – Grillsanity

Only two rounds in, and this tournament has been insane with upsets, buzzer-beaters, and great grilling! Our second installment of our Grillsanity series, designed to get you ready for the next round, is Memphis-Style Ribs. Memphis ribs feature dry rubs applied before and after cooking to create a great depth of flavor without losing the character of the pork.

For this recipe, you can use pork baby back or spareribs, whatever your preference. The spicy rub is a combination of paprika, black pepper, brown sugar, salt, celery salt, cayenne, garlic powder, dry mustard, and cumin. This rub is aptly applied to the raw ribs and allowed to cure the meat for four to eight hours, while reserving 1/3 of the rub to be applied after cooking. To further infuse the ribs with smoke and mesquite, wood chips or chunks are employed while cooking. A vinegar and mustard based sauce, called mop sauce, can also be applied during cooking to add a sharp and tangy flavor. Cooking times are approximate depending on style of ribs and size, but look for when the ends of the bones protrude and the meat is tender enough to pull apart with your fingers. So fire up the grill, invite family and friends, and with rib in hand get ready for Grillsanity!

Serves 6

Memphis-Style Ribs Ingredients

Special Equipment

  • 1 1/2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory), soaked for 1 hour in cold water to cover and drained


  • 3 racks baby back pork ribs (about 7 pounds), or 2 racks pork spareribs (6 to 8 pounds total)
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 1/2 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

Mop Sauce

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

Memphis-Style Ribs Directions

  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.
  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 thirds 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.
  3. Prepare the mop sauce (if using): Mix together the cider vinegar, mustard, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
  4. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and place a large drip pan in the center. If using a gas grill, place all of 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.
  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.
  6. When the ribs have cooked for an hour, uncover the grill and brush the ribs with the mop sauce (if using). Re-cover the grill and continue cooking the ribs until tender and almost done, 1/4 to 1/2 hour longer for 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.
  7. To serve, cut the racks in half or, for a plate-burying effect, just leave them whole.

Taken from


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