This step by step guide shows you how to smoke amazing ribs on a gas smoker grill. You just need:
- A Propane Grill
- Wood Chips
- Foil Pans
- Thermometer (Optional)
Good ribs can’t be rushed, though, so set aside some time! The whole smoke takes about 4 – 5 hours.
14 easy steps to smoke these delicious ribs on your gas grill smoker:
- Setup your grill
- Soak those chips!
- Prep the ribs
- Rub the ribs
- Assemble the smoker box and grill
- Position your thermometer
- Start the grill
- Add the ribs as soon as you see smoke
- Replenish the wood chips every 45 minutes
- Turn the ribs after 3 hours of smoking
- Test the ribs for tenderness
- Sauce the ribs
- Eat the ribs!
This recipe calls for a few special supplies. You may already have them in your kitchen, but double-check before you get started.
For the grill setup: apple and cherry chips wood chips (fruit wood like apple and cherry works best. oak chips work great, too!)
- 2 Aluminum Lasagna Dishes (or other aluminum pans that fit your grill – measure first)
- 1 long, skinny aluminum cake pan
Here’s what I used:
Select 3 slabs of baby back ribs (also called pork loin back ribs) from your butcher or supermarket. For savings, check your local warehouse store for a package of 3 slabs.
Generally, you are looking for ribs that are:
- Even Thickness
- No Exposed Bone on the Front (“Shiners”)
- Fresh (Not Previously Frozen)
For the rub – makes plenty for 6 racks:
- 1/4 cup salt (non-iodized)
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/8 cup brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
The general idea:
- Prep The Ribs – Right before You’re Ready to Cook
- Smoke the Ribs on the Grill at 225°F For 3 Hours
- Using Apple / Cherry Wood Chips
- Changing the Chips Every 45 Minutes
- Turn Ribs after 3 Hours and Smoke at 250°F Until Done
For more info and tips about smoking on gas grills, check out the gas grill smoker page.
2. Setup your grill
Before you get started, set up your grill to make sure you have all the right pieces.
Tip: Keep a full extra propane tank handy throughout the cook – just in case!
Here’s the grill I used:
First, remove the grates and warming rack. Then, position the cake pan on top of the flavorizing bars over the leftmost burner. Then, place the lasagna pans covering as much remaining surface area as possible. Place one of the BBQ grates back on top of the lasagna pans – longways. Make sure you can easily remove the small cake pan for replenishing wood chips.
3. Soak those chips!
Before you start preparing the ribs, soak those chips! They’ll last longer and provide a more even smoke.
For best results, soak those chips in water, beer, whisky, wine, or other flavoring liquid. Keep in mind, the stronger the flavoring liquid, the less soaking time is needed. For this recipe, I used half cherry wood, half apple wood – soaked in hot water for 30 minutes. For more tips and info on smoke woods, check out the smoke wood section. (Coming soon!)
4. Prep the ribs
First, trim off any fat that you don’t want. Some people trim more, I usually trim less. These ribs, for example, I thought needed no trimming at all. Remove the membrane! This is the step that will truly make or break your ribs.
On the rack-side of the ribs, you’ll see a dull, whitish film. This film is the membrane – a waterproof, smoke-proof, flavor-proof tough casing that you simply must get rid of when you’re smoking.
Getting rid of the membrane allows the smoke to penetrate through both sides of the rack – giving you that much more flavor.
The membrane can be a little tricky to remove. Use a butter knife to pry up the edge at the small end of the rack. Then, grab on to the membrane with a paper towel and slowly peel it back, using the knife to saw through stubborn spots and keep the membrane from shredding.
In the picture below, you can compare the rack without the membrane (bottom) to the racks with the membrane (top and middle). You can see the exposed fat in the bottom rack, just waiting to absorb that smoky flavor.
5. Rub the ribs
Combine all of the ingredients from step 1 into a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. If you’ve got an old empty spice container or shaker, clean it out and dry it. Then, fill it with your rub and use it to dust your ribs. Otherwise, just use a large spoon.
Cover both sides of the ribs with rub. But be careful – don’t over-season! There’s a lot of salt in this rub (which is why I’ll later suggest sweet honey BBQ sauce). So depending on your taste for salty food, don’t use too much rub here.
6. Assemble the smoker box and grill
First, line the bottom of your small aluminum cake pan with a handful of soaked chips. Make sure to leave a little space in the bottom of the pan. This leaves air between the chips, letting them breathe. Too many chips will smother the wood and it won’t smoke.
Then, cover the pan with foil and poke holes in the top. Make sure you can get the foil off of the top easily, as you will need to do this several times during the cook to add more wood.
Why cover the smoker box? It prevents fires inside of your grill, and the chips burn slower. Now, place the loaded smoker box on the glamorizer bar over the left burner. Add water or flavoring liquid
Fill up the lasagna pans almost to the top with hot water, beer, apple juice, orange juice, or any other flavoring liquid you can think of.
It keeps the ribs moist and acts as a heat shield from the burners below. Don’t worry, you won’t blow up your grill! What’s a smoke bomb? Just another way to make a smoker box.
Take some soaked chips, wrap them in aluminum foil, and then poke some holes in the foil. I had extra room on my grill and I wanted to give the ribs more smoke at the start. This is because smoke most penetrates food at the start of the cook – forming the smoke ring.
So, I threw a smoke bomb in there for good measure just as I was adding the ribs. You can see it in the picture above, sitting just behind my covered cake pan on the left. It was spent after 45 minutes, so I just left it in there. Worked great!
7. Position Your Thermometer
When it comes to smoking, holding a steady accurate temperature is key. Many grills come with a thermometer on the lid. However, these can often be inaccurate or just approximate (warm, BBQ, sear). Even if the thermometer is accurate, it is usually placed at the top of the grill – the hottest part.
You can use the thermometer built into your grill, but it will usually display a hotter reading than the cooking surface. A better solution is to hang or position a thermometer at the same level as the ribs.
To accomplish this, use a standard electric probe thermometer. Hang the probe in one of the vent holes on the right side of the grill. Place it at the same height as the BBQ grate. This gives a dependable, easy-to-read temperature throughout the cook. I wrapped aluminum foil around the probe by the vent hole to keep it in place.
8. Start the grill
Fire up just the left burner (the burner under the smoker box) and turn it on high. Ensure that the flame stays lit. You’re aiming for a temp of 225°F at the cooking surface.
If the temperature is too cool, no worries, turn the next burner on. Since it was a cool, windy day, I had to turn the left-middle burner on low to maintain temperature.
I also turned the grill so that the left side was up-wind, drawing air in across the smoker box and out through the meat on the right side.
9. Add the ribs as soon as you see smoke
When you first fire the grill, you will hear the sizzle of the moisture cooking out of the wood chips. Then, you’ll see it – the first few puffs of white smoke.
To fit 3 ribs comfortably, roll the racks and skewer each with a bamboo kabob skewer. I placed these delicious seasoned meat rolls as far from the heat source as possible – in this case all the way to the right side of the grill.
You don’t have to roll up the ribs. They just fit easily like this. Try using a rib rack or lay the ribs flat. Whatever you do, keep some space in between the ribs. The smoke needs room to flow through and add flavor! Close the lid, and keep it closed!
Once the ribs are in, shut the lid and let the smoke work its magic. Sit back, crack a can of your favorite beverage, and enjoy the sweet smells of smoke and pork.
But no peeking! Keep the moisture and heat in the grill by keeping the lid closed. Only lift the lid to replenish the wood chips. And even then, don’t keep it open for long. Hold the temperature at 225°F Keep in mind, the smoker grill won’t heat up right away – that’s a lot of cold meat you just put in there! The temperature should gradually rise and hold around 200-225°F after 20 minutes or so.
If the temperature’s not getting hot enough, turn on the next burner. When I smoked these ribs, the weather was cool and windy, so I needed to turn the left middle burner on medium-low to keep a good heat.
10. Replenish the wood chips every 45 minutes
Even though the chips in the Barbecue Smoker box are soaked and covered, they will be pretty much all smoked out after a while.
So, every 45 minutes, carefully:
- Remove and Safely Dispose Of Hot Spent Coals
- Replace With a Handful of Soaked Wood Chips, Loosely Covering Bottom Of Pan
- Cover Smoker Box with Foil Lid
- Place Smoker Box Back In Grill over Burner
Keep in mind – that’s a hot pan filled with hot coals. It’s hot! Use mit-style pot holders when replenishing chips. If at all possible, use heavy leather work gloves or long welder’s gloves to protect your hands and arms.
Also, keep a container of water nearby. It’s a great recepticle for burning embers as well as a nice safety feature to have closeby!
11. Turn the ribs after 3 hours of smoking
You’re almost there! After 3 hours, flip those ribs! If the water in the pans is looking low, carefully top it off with more hot water.
Here’s how mine looked at flipping time: Increase temperature to 250°F For the finishing touch, turn up the heat! Increase the temperature to 250-275°F. Make small adjustments, but keep in mind – a small temperature adjustment goes a long way, and will take a long time to register on the thermometer. So be patient!
12. Test the ribs for tenderness
So how do you know when your ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender? Why, when they fall off the bone, of course! No, really, after 1 hour at the higher temperature setting, see if the ribs fall off the bone.
Just take a couple napkins and grab 2 bones next to each other. Then, try to tear them apart like you’re tearing a piece of paper in half. If they’re done just right, the meat will give a little resistance and then tear easily and juicily. Mmmm good! If they don’t tear easily and come off the bone, they need a little more time. Close the lid and test again in 30 minutes. Here are my ribs passing the “tear test.”
13. Sauce the ribs!
Some like sauce, some like none(dry). Since I had different guests over for dinner, I made 2 with sauce and 1 dry. Guess which was most popular? The dry ribs! That natural smokey flavor is hard to beat! If you do sauce your ribs, I recommend a sweet bbq sauce to balance the salty rub.
On one rack, I used Sweet Baby Ray’s original plus honey. On the other rack, I used just Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle Sauce. In retrospect, I should have added some honey to that, too. Try your own BBQ sauce, or mix one of your favorites with honey. For a thicker, tangier sauce, baste the ribs in the final 15 minutes of cooking.
14. Eat the ribs!
The moment you’ve been waiting for! Dig in! Slice up the rack for easy serving – either in 1’s or 2’s. For a more impressive table presentation, leave the rack rolled up and slice it at the table. Also, If you cover the ribs with foil, they’ll stay warmer longer.