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Sep 4, 2007 10:06 AM

smoking ribs in a gas grill

I put 4 slabs of side ribs in the gas grill yesterday. Made a smoke pouch of hickory chips. Turned off one side of the grill and smoked away.

After 4 to 5 hours, the ribs still don't seem to be cooked enough, so I put them in longer. The problem was when we got ready to eat them, some parts have become leathery, from the overtime in the grill.

What did I do wrong? Should I have pulled out the ribs after a couple of hours in the grill? How do you cook them thoroughly? I was afraid they weren't going to cook through so I wrapped them in foil and finished them in the oven. The result was kind of a mess.

Any tips will be much appreciated. I love the flavour of hickory-smoked ribs but I don't like the too-tough, too leathery bits. I don't mind a bit of the bark but these were too thick. What are the approximate cooking times for these ribs?

Thank you!

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  1. What makes you think they weren't cooked enough after the initial 4-5 hours? Usually I tell its done by seeing some of the bones stick out from the edges, i.e., the meat has pulled away from the edges.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ESNY

      The meat wasn't pulling away from the bones. The edges were nicely done, even burnt, but the middle parts weren't. Even sticking a knife into them they still had a bit of resistance.

    2. Many years ago I went though the same thing, I ended up buying a smoker and never went back to cooking ribs on a grill.

      Few things:
      1) Gas grills and grills in general cant hold temps steady enough to "slow cook". You need to be able to maintain a constant 225 degree cooking temp in order to properly smoke.
      2) 4-5 hours in a smoker is typically the right amount of time
      3) Gas is a dry heat, and unless you have a water pan in the grill, most meat will dry out after 1 hour, especially ribs, which are tricky because they are so thin, compared to a steak or brisket for example.
      4) since you don't seem to have a smoker, you should consider baking them slow in the oven first for 3-4 hours at 225 and then putting on your sauce and finishing on the grill for the last 30 minutes.

      Here is a great link on everything ribs:

      1. First, did you do baby backs or spares? BB cook much faster than spares. Regardless, if parts were leathery before they got finished, your grill is simply too hot.

        Here's what I'd do if I did them on my grill, rather than my smoker: After about 3 hours on the cool side of the grill, soaking in those wonderful wisps of smoke from your smoke pouch, I'd wrap them in foil, spritz with pineapple or apple juice, and cook for another 45 minutes or so. Unwrap and they should be ready to go. At this point, I put on a glaze and let them go 15 minutes uncovered.

        While you don't have to foil, it's an insurance package against odd temperature pockets in your gas grill and ensures a tender result, while not having to cheat even more by using the oven, etc. Plus, you won't end up with terribly leathery ends either.

        Good luck!

        2 Replies
        1. re: adamclyde

          the key is "rotation...rotation...rotation" every 30 mins....flip & turn.....and don't forget to let the meat rest

          1. re: mr wizard

            I see this is an old thread, but in response to the OP, I did ribs on my gas grill today. They were 3 racks of St. Louis ribs. I have a cast iron smoke box that I put directly on the gas flame for the soaked wood chips. I have a 3 burner gas grill, left to right burners. The wood chips are on the extreme left and the ribs are over the turned off burners. I smoked them for 2-1/2 hours and the temp never got above 250. I pulled them off, wrapped them in foil and put them in the refrigerator to finish in the oven or grill later in the foil to make them tender. I prefer to use my smoker at the cabin, but my townhouse association won't let me have anything other than a gas or electric grill.

        2. It's an old thread, but here goes...
          To avoid using my oven in the summer, I do everything on the grill.
          Smoking in a gas grill is difficult at best because of the restrictions on construction - big opening on the sides/back.
          That being said...
          I use spare ribs (St Louis by cutting off top bones/cartlidge) since they have more fat and flavor. I make my own rub, but you can find a good rub recipe on the web - buying rubs seems like highway robbery.
          1. Try to seel off the grill openings with aluminum foil to keep the smoke in - leave a small opening near to ribs to attract flow of smoke.
          2. I elevate the ribs on a large baking tray sitting on two fire bricks (bricks are good for making pizza ovens in your kitchen oven).
          3. I have 5 burners, so I leave the outside ones on and the inside 3 off (tray over the middle). Put a foil pan with water over the middle burners (this helps maintain grill/oven temp) and put the soaked wood chips in foil pounches over the outside burners.
          4. Set outside burners to low or med-low to maintain a temp of 250-275 F. I put an oven thermometer in grill.
          5. The original recipe called for 5-6 hours but I found that they were done after 4 hours. They were not fall-off-the-bone - I like a little texture. I took them off and sealed tray in foil and left on the counter for an hour.
          6. I avoid sauce on the grill - just too easy to burn.
          7. I heat sauce in a large braiser/pot. If you want to serve them wet, I'll cut the ribs into 1 or 2 rib pieces and let them cook for 5 minutes and serve. If you want to serve them dry, you can serve directly, or if they have sat out for a while, put them on a hot grill for 3-5 minutes a side to heat up - you'll get some nice grill marks/crust as well. Serve sauce on the side.
          People say they are the best ribs they've ever had - they are not ribs nuts, so I'm not sure of their expertise. Some people just don't know. I think it's just that the ribs are cooked decently and that they love the sauce - southern tangy and spicy. Heck, half of BBQ ribs is the sauce.
          I think that instead of killing yourself trying to BBQ the perfect ribs, find a decent recipe to cook/smoke them and go through 5-10 sauce recipes to find the best sauce. This is probably the best use of your time, practically speaking.
          FYI...I was in Chicago last week and hit Fat Willy's Rib Shack. They use baby backs. Their ribs were cooked really well, but their sauce lacked that tang/spice. I added some hot sauce to increase the heat, but it still lacked some tang. It was still a good combo. I think they cook their baby backs better than anyone else - tender yet still some structure (not fall off the bone). I'd go back. However, I prefer my combo of spare ribs (better flavor) with my sauce - just a personal choice.