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How to Prepare Ribs for Grilling

A common misconception about ribs is that the secret lies in the cooking process. Grillers assume they can whip up a batch of delicious ribs as long as they use a clean grill and their favorite store-bought BBQ sauce.

Herbs, spices, ingredients, and tools are important, but if you want great-tasting ribs with sweet, juicy pork that slides off the bones, you need to do everything right. Cooking is only one part of the process.

Keep reading to learn more about how to prepare ribs for grilling!

Complete Step-By-Step Guide for How to Prepare Ribs for Grilling

Step 1: Choose High-Quality Meat

Buying ribs based on weight, price, and brand alone is a grave mistake. There are a lot of factors that make ribs taste good such as fat distribution, bone-to-meat cut, and marbling. You have to consider them all.

  • Do not buy enhanced ribs. About 10% to 15% of their weight consists of water and pork broth, which means you get fewer ribs per pound. Two pounds of non-enhanced ribs will give you 12 to 13 ribs while enhanced meat has less than 10. Apart from having fewer ribs, the water-broth solution makes the ribs taste more like sweet, generic ham than savory, tender ribs.
  • Choose light pink-colored ribs. These types of ribs have evenly distributed fats. Nobody likes ribs with an irregular fat-to-meat ratio because they either taste too tough or greasy.
  • Avoid shiners. Pork slabs with visible, exposed ribs indicate the pork meat and bones are cut too close together. This may cause the bone to fall out while you’re cooking the ribs.

Step 2: Cut Out Unnecessary Parts

cut the membrane

More is not always better, especially when you are preparing ribs.

The first thing you need to do is cut out all the loose fat, bones, and membranes to prepare the rack for rubbing.


  1. Dry the ribs with a clean paper towel and lay them flat on the cutting board with the meat part of the ribs facing upward.
  2. Run a sharp kitchen knife through the meat to get rid of loose fat, bones, meat, and silverskin.
  3. Flip the ribs upside down so you can cut out the membranes on the rib bones. Insert a butter knife on top of a rib bone and underneath the membrane, push the knife upward and peel off with a clean paper towel. Start with the smaller end of the rib rack.
  4. If the membrane does not come off clean with one pull, repeat as many times as needed.

Step 3: Rub the Ribs

Ribs are like a blank canvas. You add color and flavor to them by rubbing the meat with various herbs, spices, and seasonings.

Place the ribs on a clean cutting board and position the meat facing down. Using your hands, massage a generous amount of the rub mixture on the entire rack.

Make sure you also cover the meat between the bones. Flip the meat over then repeat.

rib rubs

Note: Do not rub the ribs the night before cooking them, especially if your rub mixture has high salt content. Doing so will make the ribs taste sweet and ham-like.

Sample Rib Recipe

After learning how to prepare ribs for grilling, it’s time to learn how to cook them.

Here’s a simple, easy-to-follow rib recipe:

Sweet, Smoky Grilled Ribs


  • 3 slabs baby back pork ribs (prepared)
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil


  1. Mix the pepper, dry mustard, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and brown sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Drench the ribs with olive oil then coat with the rub mixture.
  3. Stack the ribs on top of each other, tightly seal in a plastic wrap, and leave in the refrigerator.
  4. Remove the ribs from plastic wrap and let the ribs rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. 
  5. Once the ribs are ready, preheat the gas grill to 350 F, but keep one side of the grill unlit.
  6. Lay the ribs on the grill with the meat facing upward. Stack them on top of each other.
  7. Cover the grill and let the ribs cook for two hours. Switch the bottom rib with the one at the top of the stack every 40 minutes.
  8. Continue grilling until the meat becomes tender and detaches from the bones.
  9. Remove the ribs from the grill once cooked to liking. Let cool for 30 minutes. Serve.


This is everything grillers need to know about how to prepare ribs for grilling. Choose high-quality meat with even meat distribution, remove loose parts, and rub the rack thoroughly. Proper preparation combined with an excellent recipe is the winning combination for great-tasting ribs.