Sweet Memphis Style Ribs

During the summer, Ribs and BBQ are kings of the smokers, and I wanted to share a simple method for cooking absolutely great Memphis style ribs in your backyard.   These are not competition-style ribs, but they are how I cook ribs when I am cooking at the house for myself and my family.  Make sure to make these along with my Creamy Cole Slaw and Maple Chipotle Baked Beans from scratch for a wonderful BBQ meal!

Competition vs Backyard

In a contest, I am cooking for a set of judges.  I don’t know who they are, I am just going off my best guess as to the flavors and textures they will appreciate.  Most competitive judges only take 1 or 2 bites of each sample they have to judge.  At a normal KCBS contest, for example, they may be judging 24 samples of meat amongst the different categories.  That adds up to a lot of bites!  You really have to pack in flavor and have perfect texture in every single bite in order to stand out and get great scores.

When I am cooking at home however, I want to cook with more simple methods than I do for contests.  I want to have nice, well-rounded flavors, and I want a texture that pleases me, not a judge (as I grew up in the Mississippi, I like my ribs a bit more tender than the normal KCBS-style rib.) I don’t want to worry about getting the texture exactly perfect, I want to spend time with my family and friends.  That’s what BBQ is about, right?

Enough about that, let’s cook some ribs!

Relative to the hoops I jump through for competition ribs, these are incredibly easy to cook.

You will need:

Ribs (obviously)

About 1/4 cup of my Sweet Memphis BBQ Rub or your favorite BBQ seasoning per slab of ribs

2 TBS Brown sugar per slab of ribs

2 TBS maple syrup per slab of ribs

2 TBS apple juice per slab of ribs

BBQ glaze, made with 4 parts BBQ Sauce and 1 part honey (make enough to glaze ribs and serve on the side!)

charcoal big green egg
my layout on Big Green Egg

What makes them Memphis Style Ribs?

BBQ “regions” are kind of loosely defined.  There are no hard and fast rules you’ll get traveling from one area to the next defining the absolute recipe that people use.  Memphis style, generally, speaks to cooking pork ribs, usually loin back ribs, until they are slightly more tender than most regions.  (We would say everyone else cooks them too tough!) Memphis style usually involves a sweeter dry rub and or a glaze, which is BBQ sauce with a bit of honey for sweetness and glossiness.  A “dry rib” which Memphis is known for is simply a rib that you shake extra dry rub on after cooking instead of a glaze.  “Muddy style” is where you glaze the rib and then add the extra shake of seasoning.

This method for ribs is really simple.  I start my smoker (in this case a Big Green Egg, but you can use whatever you have, including a grill set up for indirect smoking) and set it for 250 degrees.  When I’m using an egg for smoking or slower cooking, I do use the convection plate.  I used Kingsford Professional charcoal for heat and Kingsford Apple Wood chunks for my smoke flavor.  How much wood you need will really be up to the smoker you are using.  A komodo style cooker only needs a few chunks.  When I’m cooking on my Jambo I can burn almost all wood and not overpower the meat.

Cooking the Ribs

I generally prefer loin ribs (also called back or baby back ribs) as opposed to spare ribs (when trimmed called St. Louis ribs.)

As I am cooking these for the house, I’m not going to marinade, brine or trim the ribs.  I just want a good solid home-style rib for a nice dinner.  First, remove the membrane from the back of the ribs.  Then, season thoroughly both sides with Sweet Memphis BBQ Rub or your favorite seasoning.  I try to season the ribs at least 30 minutes before cooking and then let them sit out and “sweat.”

membrane removed ribs
Ribs membrane removed
ribs rubbed
Ribs rubbed

Place on the smoker and allow to cook for 2 hours.  You may need to rotate them depending on the size and the type of grill you are using.

ribs smoking
Ribs after 1 hour on smoker

After two hours, get a large piece of heavy duty foil for each slab you are cooking.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of Sweet Memphis BBQ Rub, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and drizzle about 1 TBS of maple syrup on the middle of the foil. Place the ribs meat side down on the foil.  Repeat the brown sugar/rub/maple syrup on the bone side of the ribs.  Pour in about 2 tablespoons of apple juice,  then wrap in foil and place back in smoker.

wrapping ribs in foil
wrapping ribs in foil.

Place back on the cooker (leaving meat side down) and cook for about two hours.  Check after 1 hour, then every 15-20 minutes after for proper doneness.  The meat of the ribs should be pulled back from the rib bone approximately 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch, and the rib meat should feel tender.

Carefully remove from foil and place back on the grill bone side down.  Glaze with your favorite BBQ glaze (I use 1 cup sauce and add 1/4 cup honey to make a glaze.)

glazing ribs
Glazing Ribs- Nice color!

Let sit on grill for 5-10 minutes to tighten ribs if desired.

rib close ups
close up of ribs

Serve and enjoy!

18 Responses

  1. I visited your Arkansas restaurant several years ago and bought your rub and sauce. I live in south Louisiana and yours has become my favorite rub and sauce to use on all my grilling and smoking. It has a nice balance of smoky, sweet and tang. I’ve tried several brands and even tried making my own rub.
    I can see why you’ve won so many awards! Great job!

  2. I just bought a Traeger wood pellet grill. Any do’s or dont’s that you can suggest for making great baby back ribs on this style grill.

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t use pellet grills much so I don’t have any specific tips and tricks. However, they do a good job of holding a consistent temperature, so it should make it easier to follow recipes until you get the hang of it. Enjoy!

  3. I have been to your Memphis Bar-B-Que in Southaven several times the best bar b que around…..love love love the baby back ribs!!!!!

  4. HI melissa, any adjustment you would make for using a backwoods watersmoker? Also, would you adjust the rub if you were making a memphis dry rib?

    1. just about any recipe of mine will work on a backwoods with almost no modifications. I compete on backwoods for Memphis-style contests, and have for years, so just about any recipe I write I have “muscle memory” to cooking on a backwoods…

  5. did I miss something? on a Diners driveins and dives episode I saw you put yellow mustard down before a rub on your ribs…did you change it? and why ? thx…and god bless

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