7 Secrets to Cooking the Best Ribs

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Prop Styling: MindI Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Torie Cox
It's BBQ season, so dust off the grill and cook some ribs.

During the summer months, it seems like everyone is outside grilling. The family might soon get tired of burgers and hot dogs every weekend, so switch things up and break out the ribs. Be sure you know what you're doing though. From the grill to the oven, here are some of the tips to keep in mind for cooking the best ribs.

1. Shop Wisely

Whether you're buying baby backs or beef ribs, choose pink meat with uniform size and marbling, which will help them cook more evenly. Avoid ribs that have been "enhanced" or "basted" with a liquid sodium solution—this can lead to overly salty ribs once you add a rub or sauce.

2. Clean Your Grill or Smoker

Yes, we know this is obvious, but a greasy grill or smoker grate can ruin a batch of ribs—no matter how amazing your sauce.

3. Get the Right Gear

You'll need long-handled tongs and a grill basting brush if you're adding a sauce (silicone models are easiest to clean). We also like having a cheap squirt bottle on hand to add a vinegar wash.

4. Remove Excess Moisture

Before you cook your ribs, pat them dry with paper towels to absorb surface moisture, which will keep them from browning.

5. Let the Rub Stand

If you're using a dry rub, coat ribs evenly and press the rub into the meat so it forms a crust. For the most flavor, let the rub sit on the meat for 30 minutes before cooking.

6. Don't Peek

Whether you're cooking ribs on the grill, in a smoker, or in the oven, you want to maintain a constant temperature, so keep the door or lid shut as much as possible.

7. Test for Doneness

It can be hard to tell if a rack of ribs is done just by looking at it. A good test is whether you can easily pull apart two ribs with a pair of tongs. Once the meat is cooked, let it rest at least 10 minutes before serving so the juices can redistribute.

WATCH: Cheat Ribs in the Oven

Now that we've covered that, how many ribs do you actually need to prepare? More is always better when it comes to ribs, but here are some guidelines if you're serving them with other dishes.

  • If You're Serving Baby Back Ribs — 3 or 4 ribs per person
  • If You're Serving Country-Style Pork and Beef Ribs —2 ribs per person
  • If You're Serving Spareribs — 6 ribs (or a half slab) per person
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