Tips & Techniques Grilling Smoke the Perfect Baby Back Ribs

Ask a backyard grill master to name the holy grail of grilling, and the usual answer is perfect ribs. Frankly, ribs are simple to cook. First, don't ever parboil ribs that you'll be smoking. It makes them tough. Second, don't let the fire get too hot, or you'll end up with a batch of dry ribs.

Remove the Membrane

Flip the ribs over so the backside is up. Slide a sharp knife under the corner of the thin membrane that covers the backside of the rack, then grab a corner of the membrane and rip it off (you can also use a paper towel to grab the membrane). The ribs will be easier to eat, will be infused with more flavor, and will cook more evenly.

Steam-Roast the Ribs in the Oven

Loosely wrap the ribs in aluminum foil, add a little water to the package, and steam-roast the ribs in gentle heat in your oven for about an hour. This sets up an environment that guarantees moist ribs.

Mix Your Wood Chips

Don't use all hickory chips, which can give the ribs a bitter edge. Instead, use a mix of hickory and oak or a fruit wood.

Use Both Indirect and Direct Heat

Cook the ribs over low indirect heat first, then, toward the end of cooking, move them to medium direct heat, and baste with the sauce.

Don't Overcook

Some people think that once the meat has pulled back from the bones 1 inch (2.5 cm.) or so, the ribs are done. Wrong. On the competition circuit, ribs that look like that are called shiners because they are overcooked and dried out. A little bone showing is okay. The best way to tell when a rack of ribs is ready is to grab the long side with tongs, and if the ribs bend without resistance, they are done.