Memphis-Style Dry Ribs Recipe

Tender and tangy charcoal grilled ribs are given a coating of an earthy and herbal rub after they're done cooking to make traditional Memphis dry ribs. Joshua Bousel

Traditional Memphis dry ribs are cooked over charcoal over medium heat, brushed with a vinegar mop every 15-20 minutes, and then finished with a dry rub. The result? Tender bones of tangy meat that showcase the hot-and-sweet herbal, earthy rub.

Why this recipe works:

  • A vinegar mop mixed with dry rub applied every 15-20 minutes during cooking gives these ribs a tangy flavor and beautiful mahogany color.
  • Rendering fat dripping from the ribs and hitting the charcoal creates smoke that imparts a delicate flavor to the meat.
  • A final brushing of the mop allows the subsequent application of the seasoning to adhere to the ribs.

Note: These ribs are best cooked a few feet directly over charcoal. If that's not possible in your grill or smoker, then they can be cooked over indirect heat to keep the bottom of the ribs from burning.

Recipe Facts

Active: 90 mins to 2 hrs
Total: 90 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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  • For the Dry Rub:
  • 1/2 cup paprika
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • For the Mop:
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup dry rub
  • 2 racks baby back ribs or St. Louis-cut spare ribs
  • Type of fire: Direct or Indirect depending on type of grill or smoker (see note)
  • Grill heat: Medium


  1. For the dry rub: Mix together paprika, dark brown sugar, kosher salt, granulated garlic, celery salt, chili powder, black pepper, onion powder, dried thyme, dried oregano, mustard powder, and celery seed in a small bowl.

  2. To make the mop: Whisk together vinegar, water, and dry rub in a small bowl. Set aside.

  3. Fire up smoker or grill to 325°F. If using a vertical water smoker, such as the Weber Smokey Mountain, place ribs on top rack with water pan removed. If using a grill or offset smoker, place ribs over indirect heat. Cook until ribs have a slight bend when lifted from one end, about 1 1/2 hours for baby backs and 2 hours for St. Louis-cut ribs, brushing liberally with mop every 15-20 minutes.

  4. Transfer ribs to cutting board and brush with mop. Liberally coat ribs with rub and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice ribs and serve immediately.

Special equipment

Grill or Smoker

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