Baby Back Ribs

4.91 from 21 votes

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BBQ baby back ribs are loved all year long! This your go-to guide for cooking baby back ribs on grill, in an oven, or in an Instant Pot!

pork ribs on grill with sauce


Whether cooked tender and juicy, with the meat falling off the bone or slathered with sticky sauce, Americans are in love with ribs!

BBQ baby back ribs

The two most commonly sold types of ribs in the United States are both pork; baby back ribs and St. Louis style spare ribs (also known as country ribs).

Why do they call them baby back ribs?


The upper ribs of a hog are called baby back ribs, not because they come from a baby pig, but because they are shorter in relation to the larger spareribs.

St. Louis style spareribs are meaty and cut from the belly of the hog They are usually trimmed down by cutting away the breastbone so the slab is more rectangular in shape.

How long does it take to grill bbq baby back ribs?


On a gas grill preheated to 225°F., it takes approximately 4 1/2 to 5 hours to cook six pounds (2 full racks) of pork ribs

baby back ribs on cutting board

Video: How to cook baby back ribs on grill

To see the entire process of grilling ribs from start to finish, be sure to watch the video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post!

While I have several rib recipes already here on the site, I figured it best to start at the beginning. Whether you plan to cook baby back ribs on grill, in an oven, smoker, slow cooker, or Instant Pot, it’s important to prepare the meat.

Instructions

I always start by marinating the pork with a dry rub marinade. Dry rubs are a blend of spices that are rubbed into the meat to help tenderize it. I recommend using my pork rib rub for your dry marinade.

During cooking, I baste with a mopping sauce, and end the cooking process by brushing on barbecue sauce until the ribs are sticky and tender.

  1. Remove the membrane.

How to remove the membrane from baby back ribs:

To remove the thin, papery membrane (called silverskin) from the back of each rack, insert the tip of a knife under the membrane. The best place to start is on one of the middle bones.

Use a paper towel or pliers to secure a grip, then peel off the membrane. Many times, a butcher has already done, this , but not always, so be sure to look.

  1. Apply dry rub and marinate overnight.

Time to rub the baby back ribs! I like to wear kitchen gloves to keep my hands clean. Really get in there with the dry rub and don’t be shy; apply it liberally with spices on BOTH sides of the rack.

Transfer the ribs onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but overnight is even better.

  1. Bring meat to room temp, then bbq baby back ribs on the grill.

As they cook on the grill, occasionally brush the meat with mopping sauce. Brush again with bbq sauce after they’re tender and cooked through if you’d like. Then, continue grilling the ribs until the BBQ sauce is browned and bubbling; it takes a couple minutes per side.

  1. Rest the meat, then slice and serve!

Remove the pork ribs from the grill and let the meat rest for a few minutes, then cut and serve. It’s that easy.

process photo collage shows how to remove membrane from baby back ribs

Cooking ribs in oven

When the weather isn’t cooperating, oven baked ribs are the perfect solution!

  1. Set the oven to 325°F, and place the meat bone side down on top of a wire rack set in an aluminum foil lined baking tray.
  1. Use the same cooking instructions as shown above. Cooking time varies depending on the thickness of the baby back ribs. You want the pork to cook to an internal temperature of 195°F.

Cooking them to 195° F will still give you a little chew and resistance. 200° F and above will give you fall off the bone goodness.

Smoked bbq baby back ribs

If grilling ribs isn’t an option, you can use a smoker.

  1. Set up and light the smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat it to low (225°F). Place the ribs in the smoker bone side down and smoke until cooked through, 4 to 5 hours.
  2. Brush the ribs with the mop sauce after an hour, then mop the ribs again once every hour until cooked tender. Cooking time varies depending on thickness of ribs. (See cooking times in the notes, below)
  3. Brush with your favorite BBQ sauce if you’d like, then continue smoking baby back ribs until the BBQ sauce is browned and bubbling, a couple minutes per side.
  4. Remove bbq baby back ribs from the smoker and let the meat rest for a few minutes, then slice and serve.
step by step process photos show how to cook baby back ribs

If you don’t have a smoker you can improvise using your grill and using or improvising a smoker box. You can read about Smoker Boxes and Wood Chips for Smoking in a post I wrote to make your own!

My favorite woods for smoking are Alder, Cherry, Walnut and Hickory. The container that holds the soaked wood chips or pellets needs to restrict the airflow. This ensures that the chips don’t catch fire and burn up.

Also, the container box holds the burned ashes and allow you to move the chips so that they don’t burn too quickly if need be. Hopefully this will help in making some choices.

cooked pork ribs with meat falling off of the bone

Instant Pot pork ribs

  1. Place trivet in bottom of pot and add 1 cup of water (or apple/pineapple juice, optional).
  2. Set ribs upright on the trivet so they are not stacked on top of one another.
  3. Close lid and set the Instant Pot to vent. Select Manual Pressure and set timer for 24 minutes (25-28 minutes depending if they’re extra meaty).
  4. Once done, allow the Instant Pot to perform a natural release of pressure.
  5. Remove bbq baby back ribs from Instant Pot and place on wire rack set in a foil lined baking tray.
  6. Brush with barbecue sauce (or olive oil/seasoning for dry ribs) and broil in oven until slightly sticky and slightly charred.
overhead image: 2 full racks of baby back ribs with barbecue sauce

Tips and Tricks

  • skin the ribs (remove that membrane on the back)
  • put a rub on the meat
  • use a mop sauce
  • glaze with a barbecue sauce
  • cook low and slow

I prefer to let that dry rub soak in overnight, but at least let it rest for 2 hours minimum. Whether you use the grill or in a smoker, or in the oven, this is an amazing recipe I know you’ll love.

What to do with leftovers

If there are any leftover ribs, I typically make my BBQ Pork with Cheesy Grits. Leftover pork ribs get shredded and simmered in your favorite BBQ sauce and served over creamy, cheesy grits for a Southern inspired dinner that’s sure to satisfy!

For something a bit simpler, serve the meat with cornbread muffins.

Serve these bad boys alongside my Oven Fried Chicken, Classic Potato SaladBacon Mac and Cheese Casserole, or this Cold Tarragon Broccoli Salad. Enjoy!

close up image of bbq baby back ribs
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This post, first published on Kevin Is Cooking on Jan. 12, 2014, was last updated with new content on Oct. 23, 2021.

baby back ribs with bbq sauce cooking on grill

BBQ Baby Back Ribs + Video

4.91 from 21 votes
BBQ baby back ribs are loved all year long! This your go-to guide for cooking baby back ribs on grill, in an oven, or in an Instant Pot!
Servings: 6
Prep: 8 hours
Cook: 4 hours 30 minutes
Total: 12 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 6 lbs baby back pork ribs (2 racks minimum)

Mop Sauce

Dry Rub

Instructions 

  • To make the rub: mix the brown sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, onion and garlic powders, dry mustard, celery salt and red pepper flakes in a small bowl and mix with a small whisk or your gloved fingers to break up any lumps.
  • Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of each rack by inserting a knife under it. The best place to start is on one of the middle bones. Using a paper towel, or pliers to secure a grip and peel off and discard the membrane.
  • Wear latex gloves (optional) and sprinkle dry rub over both sides of the ribs, rubbing it onto the meat. Cover the ribs with plastic wrap and refrigerate them for 2 hours minimum or best overnight.
  • For the mop sauce melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cider, soy sauce and hot sauce. Keep warm until ready to use.

For the Grill:

  • For Low and Slow: Preheat gas grill or smoker to 225°F. Add smoker chips per manufacturer's instructions if using. Set up the grill for indirect grilling (See Note 1).
    Place the ribs, bone side down, in the center of the grate, cover the grill and cook the ribs for 30 minutes.
    Brush both sides with mop sauce. Re-cover the grill and continue cooking the ribs for about 4 to 4 1/2 hours brushing with mop sauce every 15 minutes. Cooking time varies depending on thickness of ribs. You want the ribs to have an internal temperature of 195°F.
    In last 30 minutes brush with your favorite BBQ sauce several times, or not, and grill the ribs until the BBQ sauce is browned and bubbling, a couple minutes per side.
    Remove from the grill and let the ribs rest for 5-10 minutes, then cut the ribs.
  • If short on time: Preheat gas grill or smoker to 325°F. Add smoker chips per manufacturer's instructions if using. 
    Place the ribs, bone side down, in the center of the grate, cover the grill and cook the ribs for 45 minutes.
    Lift from grill and place on aluminum foil (enough to wrap). Brush both sides with mop sauce and seal foil. Place back on grill, re-cover the grill and continue cooking the ribs 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours longer until tender. At this point they should be tender enough to pull apart with your fingers. Cooking time varies depending on thickness of ribs. You want the ribs to have an internal temperature of 195°F.
    In last 30 minutes, open foil and brush with your favorite BBQ sauce several times, or not, and grill the ribs until the BBQ sauce is browned and bubbling, a couple minutes per side.
    Remove from the grill and let the ribs rest for 5-10 minutes, then cut the ribs.

For the Smoker:

  • Set up and light the smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat it to low (225°F). 
    Place the ribs in the smoker bone side down and smoke until cooked through, 4 to 5 hours. Brush the ribs with the mop sauce after an hour, then mop the ribs again once every hour until cooked tender. Cooking time varies depending on thickness of ribs. You want the ribs to have an internal temperature of 195°F.
    In last 30 minutes brush with your favorite BBQ sauce several times, or not, and smoke the ribs until the BBQ sauce is browned and bubbling, a couple minutes per side.
    Remove from the smoker and let the ribs rest for 5-10 minutes, then cut the ribs.

For the Oven:

  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
    Place the ribs, bone side down, on top of a wire rack set in an aluminum foil lined baking tray. Cook the ribs for 45 minutes.
    Lift from tray and place on aluminum foil (enough to wrap). Brush both sides with mop sauce and seal foil. Place back in oven and continue cooking the ribs 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours until well browned and tender (feel free to mop every 15 minutes).
    Turn and mop again. Continue cooking, bone side down, another 30 minutes. 2 1/2 to 3 hours total cook time. Cooking time varies depending on thickness of ribs. You want the ribs to have an internal temperature of 195°F.
    In last 30 minutes, open foil and brush with your favorite BBQ sauce several times, or not, and cook the ribs until the BBQ sauce is browned and bubbling, a couple minutes per side.
    Remove from the oven and let the ribs rest for a 5-10 minutes, then cut the ribs.

For the Instant Pot:

  • Place trivet in bottom of pot and add 1 cup of water (or apple/pineapple juice, optional).
    Set ribs upright on the trivet so they are not stacked on top of one another.
    Close lid and vent. Select Manual Pressure and set timer for 24 minutes (25-28 minutes depending if they’re extra meaty). 
    Once done, allow the Instant Pot to go through natural release.
    Remove from Instant Pot and place on wire rack in lined baking tray.
    Brush with marinade or barbecue sauce (or olive oil/seasoning for dry ribs) and broil or grill until slightly sticky and slightly charred.

Video

Notes

  1. Grilling with indirect heat: For gas grill do the 2 Zone set up which is either half the grill is lit to achieve desired temperature and the meat is placed on opposite side, or have sides lit leaving the center NOT on or lowest temperature. To grill using indirect heat on a charcoal BBQ or smoker, ignite charcoal and place it to one side of the grill, creating a space for the food or the center with meat you’re cooking not directly over those lit coals. Typically use a drip pan under the meat to avoid any flareups.
  2. For pork, the accepted finished temperature is 145°F. However, the collagen inside your ribs hasn’t had time to become gelatin for that perfect bite, which happens when the internal temperatures reach 165°F. It’s recommended to continue cooking ribs until they reach an internal temperature of 195°F to 200°F for that fall off the bone goodness.

Nutrition

Calories: 820kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 74g | Fat: 51g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 294mg | Sodium: 1292mg | Potassium: 1354mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1465IU | Vitamin C: 0.3mg | Calcium: 111mg | Iron: 4.4mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Dinners
Cuisine: American
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!

Kevin

Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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92 Comments

  1. Hi Kevin
    thanks for sharing the recipe, made these a couple of weeks ago in the oven but cooked at 325 they still turned out great. Cooking them again today for a big family’s BBQ but will cook at 225 in the oven.

    1. Why are you changing the oven temperature, Allan, if the chef says 325? Are you also a chef…?

  2. Hey, we are doing this today. However we use an electric grill since we can’t have flame at apartments. Any advice on cooking using electric grill?

  3. Hi Kevin. I made these once before. Awesome!! I have a Kamado type cooker with a ceramic plate being used as a deflector. Would you recommend I use the instructions for cooking on a smoker? There is such a difference in mop times between that and the grill instructions. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Dale. I would go the Smoker route instructions then. It’s basically up to you, but I find a grill heats up quicker than a smoker when opening to mop and close again. Be quick and experiment. Let me know!

  4. Hey Kevin, Making your ribs for the first time in Alaska. Quick (maybe stupid) question… When you mop every 15 minutes, do you flip and mop both sides?… or just the meat side that is up?

    Thanks,
    Tony

    1. Jodie, that would be 4-5 hours at 225°F. On the recipe card I detail cooking instructions for grilling, smoking, oven and Instant Pot.

  5. Kevin ribs are my weakness! We usually do a combo method of grilling then slow cooker but I’m definitely going to try your low and slow on the grill method!

  6. Hi, I’m getting ready to try this recipe out but as I’m in Australia and we have about a million varieties of Apple cider I’m wondering if I should use a sweet, dry or bitter cider in the mop sauce?

  7. 5 stars
    Hello, Kevin,

    I am a new owner of a Weber Smokey Mountain and, to this point, have made pulled pork BBQ and chicken breasts. I’m learning and improving along the way. (Most importantly, don’t skimp on the amount of charcoal!) I came across your web site and am going to use your method for my first endeavor with baby back ribs. I bought three good looking racks at Sam’s Club. May the force be with me…update will follow.

    1. 5 stars
      A “home run” on these ribs! While I used a different dry rub that I had previously prepared, I used your mop sauce and method. After reading so many processes that involved foil wrapping, these came out perfect without the wrap. I cooked them to 204 degrees internal and they were just as I would like them.

      I am amazed the ribs came out so perfect (not too soft and not too chewy). I slow cooked these on a Weber Smokey Mountain smoker at 250 degrees for about 6 hours until the internal temperature of the ribs got up to about 204 degrees. These were my first baby back ribs on the Weber and I’d put these up against any I have had in BBQ restaurants.

      I’m following your recipes now and hope to find some other great things to try.