Tender Grilled Spare Ribs Recipe

This recipe for tender grilled spare ribs is, as you will soon discover, such a great meal to whip up using just four ingredients. First and foremost, it's delicious and virtually foolproof. As recipe developer Ting Dalton notes, this is "an easy ribs recipe to prepare and always a winner when we have BBQs." At the same time, this recipe serves as a low-key and incredibly simple primer as to how to make barbecued pork ribs at home.

First, there is Dalton's choice of spare ribs rather than baby backs. Spare ribs are the way to go for your most tender, full-flavored meat — especially if you don't happen to have an entire day to stand over them as they cook. Complete in just over two hours, Dalton's recipe produces "meat so tender, [it] just falls off the bone," she promises. Then there's Dalton's choice of using a dry rub to infuse the meat with deep, aromatic flavor before finishing the meat with barbecue sauce. It's a system that works so well, you might end up using it with other low-and-slow barbecued meats, if you aren't already! In addition, the rub-before-saucing method offers flexibility. "If you want to have different flavors," Dalton explains, "you can mix up the rub and sauces." 

Finally, Dalton's recipe will show how you don't even need an outdoor grill to make mouthwateringly tender grilled spare ribs. We'll explain more about that in the directions below.

Gather your ingredients to prepare these tender grilled spare ribs

To make this recipe for tender grilled spare ribs, you'll need just four ingredients, and the first one you can probably guess is none other than spare ribs — 2 pounds of pork spare ribs, to be exact. For the smoky barbecue flavor these ribs promise, you'll start with a dry rub, which you can purchase pre-prepared (like the one pictured, or you can whip up a similar one yourself by combining smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, red and black pepper, and salt).

To help the dry rub adhere to the meat, you'll need 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil. (Since you're grilling over an open flame, you'll want to select one with a high smoke point such as avocado.) For the last few moments of cooking these tender grilled spare ribs, you'll need 1 ½ cups of barbecue sauce. A great choice is the one pictured above by Bull's-Eye, but you can pick up whatever you'd like.

Prepare the dry rub, and massage it onto the spare ribs

If you are making your own dry rub, now is the time to put all the ingredients into a bowl. Add the oil, and then, using your hands, massage the dry rub and oil mixture onto the meat, coating every millimeter of the meat's surface. For the best possible flavor, Dalton recommends covering the seasoned ribs and refrigerating them overnight to allow the flavors to more deeply infuse the meat.

To cook the spare ribs, you're going to create a foil "pocket" to capture all the flavor

Whenever you're ready to cook the spare ribs, preheat your outdoor grill to 350 F. For precision, it's best to use an oven thermometer. (Alternately, if you don't have access to an outdoor grill, set your oven to 350 F.) To make your foil "pocket," grab a large ovenproof dish or sheet pan, and place a sheet of foil inside — big enough to cover the dish or pan with some excess. Place the ribs on the foil. Then, top with another piece of foil, and crimp the edges of the top and bottom sheets together. 

When your grill or oven is fully preheated, place the whole thing onto the grill or into the oven on the center rack. In either case, close the lid, and set a timer for two hours. When the timer goes off, that means your ribs should be fully cooked, but you can use an instant read thermometer to make sure. For safety purposes, pork should be cooked to at least 145 F, but if you let your ribs get as high as 200 F, they may be even more tender (via Meathead's Amazing Ribs).

Coat the ribs in barbecue sauce, then the last five minutes are key to obtaining a lovely caramelized exterior

Take the whole pan with the ribs off the grill or out of the oven. Remove the top sheet of foil, and pour the barbecue sauce over the ribs. Using a brush, make sure each rib is coated well.

If you're using a grill, place the ribs back on the grill with the lid open for five minutes, turning down the flame to the extent it starts lapping up to touch the meat. If you're cooking inside, Dalton recommends heating a sturdy griddle on the stove and then adding the ribs and letting them brown up that way, also for five minutes. Alternately, you can set the oven to broil, but leave the oven door open, and keep an eye on those ribs to make sure they don't char, again for five minutes.

Remove the ribs from the heat, and allow them to rest for five minutes before serving. Serve your ribs with barbecue sauce, and they will sure to please your crowd. Consider preparing potato salad and a green salad as sides to complete this meal, or even grilling some corn on the cob. It's certainly a recipe that you will want to make over and over again.

Tender Grilled Spare Ribs Recipe
5 from 36 ratings
This recipe for tender grilled spare ribs is, as you will soon discover, such a great meal to whip up using just four ingredients.
Prep Time
Cook Time
spare ribs on platter
Total time: 2.17 hours
  • 4 tablespoons dry rub
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds pork spare ribs
  • 1 ½ cups barbecue sauce
Optional Ingredients
  • extra barbecue sauce, for dipping
  1. Mix the dry rub and the oil in a large bowl, and, using your hands, coat the ribs completely, rubbing the flesh really well.
  2. Cover, and leave in the fridge for anywhere from a few minutes to overnight.
  3. When you're ready to cook, preheat the grill or oven to 350 F.
  4. Line a large ovenproof dish or sheet pan with a large piece of foil. Place the ribs on top. Cover with another large piece of foil, and crimp the edges of the top and bottom sheets to seal.
  5. Cook on the grill or in the oven for 2 hours, until the ribs reach an internal temperature of at least 145 F.
  6. Remove the ribs from the heat source, pour the barbecue sauce over them, and brush to coat thoroughly.
  7. Place the ribs back on the grill for 5 minutes to caramelize (or brown them on a hot griddle or under the broiler for 5 minutes).
  8. Remove the ribs from the heat, and allow them to rest for 5 minutes.
  9. Serve alongside additional barbecue sauce.
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