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Jul 2, 2007 08:00 PM

Grilling ribs - foil or no?

I've got a couple racks of baby back ribs for Wed. Normally I cook them long and low in the oven and finish on the grill....way too hot in Phoenix right now to even think about turning the oven on.

Was planning to use indirect heat on the grill instead. Have seen methods to both wrap in foil and not to wrap in foil. Any opinion on one being better than the other?

Was planning to grill tomorrow and then heat and mop on Wed just before serving if that makes a difference(taking them somewhere else so don't want to do all the cooking that day).

Also if wrapping in foil is the way to go any point in using the smoker box with wood chips or will the smoke not penetrate the foiil?


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  1. The foil will prevent the ribs for benefitting from any smoke which is why I recommend starting them w/o the foil AND with wood chips. Ater about two hours of sub 250 degree smoke infused indirect heat the ribs will be warm but not so hot that you can't wrap them in foil. SO -- get the foil out there and wrap 'em then. Works really well! The smoke flavor is a real plus and the steam trapped by the foil speeds the coking and aids in the tenderization.

    1. NO FOIL! I guess I'm just a purist, but it really depends on how you're cooking them. I'd say smoke/grill them all the way, (very light smoke, ribs can take on too much sometimes) which sounds like what you're planning. Are you using a gas grill? If you've got a charcoal grill, I'd use that... that means no briquettes, only natural charcoal. With some nice hardwood charcoal, I'd say you're probably set with the smoke flavor. Again, with ribs you can easily over-do it. The natural charcoal will give you all of the smoky flavor you want. If you're really looking for some punch, throw on a bit of hickory or oak in the beginning. Just watch 'em. The smoke will NOT penetrate the foil if you pre-wrap them. The only time I would use foil is when they are finished and I'm ready to transport. The foil will hold a slight bit of heat and all the juices.

      1. It's a gas grill...big four burner one so lots of room to effectively do indirect.

        My main confusion is the fact I'm going to grill tomorrow and then finish on Wed...Id on't want ribs that have completely dried out. BEcause of this I'm wondering if the foil is the best way to go??

        9 Replies
        1. re: ziggylu

          If you're going to use a gas grill, it doesn't matter if you foil or not.

          1. re: ricepad

            TOTAALLLLY NOT TRUE!!!!

            While I prefer to use my Weber Smoky Mt. Cooker (aka "The Bullet") for smoking when I have the time, I also use the indirect method on my Weber Kettle, but it too is somewhat time consuming AND when the weather is bad it is a lot wok.

            When I have to use my gas grill I have gotten suprisingly good results using the gas grill in an indirect manner WITH wood chips for smoke AND reserving the use of foil until AFTER two hours (or so) of smoke infused cooking. Wrapping in foil and finishing in the gas grill is a very acceptable way to finish.

            1. re: renov8r

              Very acceptable to you, maybe. Not to me. I don't use gas - I already have an oven - and I don't use foil. Low and slow with a real wood fire is the only way to go. No parcooking, no foil, and certainly no Liquid Sm*ke! If you don't have the time to do it right, don't do it at all! ;o)

              1. re: ricepad

                Gotta side with rrenov8r here - gas with wood chips added produces a nicely smoky result, and you have better control over the steady low temperature with gas than with wood. And comparing a gas grill to an oven is just being disingenuous, you can't use wood chips in your oven!

                I agree though about the no parcooking, no foil, etc.

                1. re: BobB

                  The problem with using gas is the water vapor that is a natural (and inescapable) by-product of the gas flame. You can always increase the humidity in your cooking chamber (if you have a cooking chamber) when you use real wood/lump charcoal, but you cannot dry out the air inside a gas grill.

                  1. re: ricepad

                    why would you want to dry out the air ? H20 smoker that dry air ?

                    1. re: Jimbosox04

                      Have you ever run your water smoker with a dry pan (perhaps filled with sand)? Being able to control the humidity in the cooking chamber makes it easier to control the formation of bark. If you can't control the humidity, you're at your cooker's mercy.

                      It's all about control...and yes, I'm a bit of a control freak!

                2. re: ricepad

                  I could make ribs on my gas grill, bring them to a cookout, and nobody would know the difference if they were done on Gas, Charcoal, or Wood Fire. Its all in the mind, the right techniques on the right types of equipment will yield the best result. Method doesnt matter as long as execution is flawless.

            2. re: ziggylu

              That is exactly the grill I own and this is how I do them, turn off the left two burners, above those two burners place a drip pan with water at least 1/2 inch deep of water. place racks of ribs on rack above drip pan. turn the two right burners on Med/Low about 250 degrees or so. Make sure you dry rub your ribs. If you plan to smoke do this at the beginning of cooking and not at the end because the smoke will infuse better when the rib are less cooked. Cook them to internal temp of approx 160 - 170 degrees. My suggestion would be to wrap them in foil after they reach this point to transport the next day. I would just reheat them in the foil the next day until heated, then open the foil and mop the ribs over direct heat until you form that nice BBQ crust on the outside. Serve with additional sauce and more napkins. I would also like to mention that Budweiser makes a GREAT beechwood BBQ sauce sold at Walmart, I doctor it up a little and people always ask me "WOW, what is in your BBQ sauce?" that parts remains a secret. Good Luck !!

            3. A vote for no foil here.

              I use a smoker, and for babybacks smoke for about 3-4 hours, and for spareribs smoke 5-6 hours.

              1 Reply
              1. re: swsidejim

                I agree with renov8r...get'em smoky, wrap'em in foil and cook'em through. Truly not the purist way. But will keep them moist for the next day when you finish them. Good Luck and happy 4th.

              2. I may be too late here, but my vote is for cooking as you normally would (no foil, with smoke), then foil once they're done and fridge... then heat gently in oven, in foil, the next day. The reheat in the foil will help retain moisture... the problem will be a reheat out of the foil on the grill.