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Memphis-Style Ribs

Memphis-Style Ribs


  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 racks pork spareribs (about 6 pounds), membrane removed
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Recipe Preparation

  • Stir peppercorns, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until toasted, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Put into a spice grinder with next 6 ingredients and pulse until finely ground. DO AHEAD Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

  • Sprinkle half the dry rub onto ribs and massage rub into the meat. Transfer ribs to a rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered for at least 6 hours or overnight. Build a medium fire in one side of a charcoal grill and arrange a drip pan opposite the coals. (Alternatively, heat a gas grill to medium.) Whisk together vinegar, mustard, and brown sugar in a small bowl; set mop sauce aside. Add wood chips to coals or smokebox and brush grill grate with oil. Put ribs on grill so they sit over the drip pan; cover and cook over indirect heat, replenishing charcoal as needed and brushing with mop sauce occasionally, until ribs are tender and pulling away from the bone, about 2 hours. Transfer ribs to a baking sheet, sprinkle with remaining dry rub, and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen,Reviews Section

Memphis Style Dry Ribs Recipe

I did these on my UDS today with The BBQ Rub I just received the other day. Wow, these were awesome! Thanks to the channel and the website, we are eating well here in NE Ohio. Keep it up!

I’m gonna try it tomorrow on my Weber Smokey Mountain. I’m a Memphis guy living in Kansas City. miss this stuff.
Great site, man. And thanks!

High Malcom, I have a question, I noticed that under your tips and tricks for cooking ribs, the first dusting of rub be a rub of low sugar content but I noticed after reading the ingredients on your rub that I purchased that the first two ingredients are sugar essentially, are you sure your killer hog recipe won’t burn my ribs when I go to use it. The main reason I brought this up is I did have my ribs burn the first time and I had my temperature set between 250 and 275 on my kamado Joe. The rub I used the first time was the recipe from that BBQ Queen Diva Q it was her rib rub recipe recipe and I think it had a lot of sugar in it, and Malcolm I just want to say thank you so much from the bottom of my heart , for teaching us backyard grillers how to do it right, watching your YouTube instructionals you definitely have a way about you keep up the good work. I don’t mean to be a pain in the butt I just want to learn how to do it right thanks so much.kevin.

there is nothing wrong with using a high sugar content – as long as you don’t let it burn. You can’t use a heavy sugar – you have to use a rub with balance.

I’ve got a lot of smoker experience but have never been happy with my ribs on a consistent basis. I tried your Memphis style dry ribs technique a couple of weeks ago and they were probably the best I’ve ever made. I did two slabs today along with some bologna and once again, the ribs were excellent. I think I’ve got a reliable technique thanks to you.

Update: Have done 3-4 smokes since then and this technique gave me excellent ribs each time. I’ve tried foiling, etc., and it was always hit or miss, but this is easier and I now know it’s reliable and I will get consistently good results. Thanks again.

Hi Malcom.
I have tried a couple of your rib recipes
Your videos are professionally done, easy to follow, and great information on the art to BBQ.
Last night I made Memphis dry rib, and they were on the Wellerkettle drum for five hours. Instead of spritizing with apple juice, I used a local dry cider to spritz the ribs. The results were also very good with hickory wood, giving me a nice vivid pinkish smoke ring, excellent bark, nice deep dark brown color. Not dry but tender with just a nice bite, no pulling or tearing to get off the bone.
I’m still having difficulty in controlling the heat. Trying to keep a 20 degree ferenheit difference.
Any info is extremely appreciated.
Thanks again and keep up the good work.
Robert Pearson

Control the pit temp all comes down to air flow – this video might give you a little insight:

Question: You said in the video to use 2 cups apple juice, but in the recipe it says 8 oz of apple juice. What is right? BTW LOVE your recipes!

Just 1 cup (8oz) of Apple Juice.

I made some Memphis ribs on my new yoder 640. The best Ribs. Thank you

Malcom, picking your brain a little for some advice. I have no issues making these Memphis style ribs, I dont wrap and they turn out great however I have a situation coming up. I have a Good One Marshall, and have had some contact with Chris Marks about this but wanted your input. With the 4 shelf configuration I can fit 5 BB and 4 STL racks per shelf. I have a retirement party to do in which I need to cook up 35 racks. I do have some issues with the cooker being uneven in the center of the racks but hotter at the back and the door side when fully loaded. There is a kit where I can add shelves to house 7 total but this might make it worse. One piece of advice I had gotten is to put a couple hours of smoke on the first batch then stack in a alum pan and cover to cook on up while cooking the next batch. Then finish when tender open on the grill. Your thoughts? Also what about holding the finished racks wrapped in butcher paper until serving? Thank you in advance.

If you have to cook that many ribs 4 at a time – I would try to find another smoker or two smokers first. But either way I would go ahead and cook all the ribs ahead of time. Wrap them in foil and place them in the fridge. When it comes time, pull the ribs out of the fridge and let them come up to room temp. Then place them on the smoker (and you can even do these in the oven too) and apply the glaze – or just more dry rub if you are serving them dry – and allow them to warm up for 30-45 minutes while the glaze or dry rub sets.

Do you put use a water pan with this recipe? I figure you don’t but wanted to clarify.

Only if I’m using a water pan cooker – one with the water pan built in like a Backwoods Smoker

How long is too long for dry rub marinating with “The BBQ Rub”?

I like to let them go for 2-3 hours.

I am in 3 hours into smoking these amazing looking ribs. After a couple of hundred racks of competition type 3-2-1 ribs these are so simple and probably my new go to recipe. Thank you for posting such a detailed and complete video, very few guys with your experience take the time to show everything from start to finish.

Greek Meets Barbecue

Trace the history of these dry ribs back to their source, and you'll land at the place synonymous with the style: Rendezvous, in Memphis. Founder Charlie Vergos first brought ribs to his restaurant in the early 1950s, in an attempt to find a use for the cheap cut&mdashgenerally considered scraps back then, and priced accordingly. He cooked the ribs in a coal shoot used to smoke hams, grilling them directly over charcoal a few feet below.

Influenced by his Greek heritage, Charlie used an acidic vinegar baste that he brushed on the ribs while cooking. Once done, they were coated with a spice mixture that brought together traditional Greek elements like oregano and garlic, with Cajun spices like paprika and chili powders. And so, dry ribs were born (although Rendezvous doesn't like to call them "dry" and you won't find that term on their menu). Regardless, that was the formula I set out to follow, in the hopes of staying at least somewhat true to the original.

How to Make Memphis Style Ribs

When making Memphis Style Ribs, it’s all about the dry rub. The spice blend rub of pepper and spices is your source of flavor since this is a rib that doesn’t rely on a BBQ sauce. A light mop sauce of vinegar is most often used during grilling or smoking, but sometimes I also like to use apple juice and another sprinkle of the dry rub on top just before slicing.

Today’s post is the second in my new Ribs Series. Did you know that the two most commonly sold types of ribs are baby back ribs and St. Louis-style spareribs?

Memphis style ribs are typically spareribs cut St. Louis style.

St. Louis style spareribs are trimmed into a more rectangular shape, compared to a long slab, by cutting away the hard breastbone and cartilage.

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

I believe the true, hardcore way to make these would be to remove the membrane on the backside and drop these on the grill. Hit them with mop sauce and just before serving sprinkle on that dry rub.

The Memphis style is a no sauce, dry rib in the fact that there is no BBQ sauce served on them. By no means does that mean these juicy ribs are dry!

For my Memphis style ribs I like to use my Basic BBQ Dry Rub, My Dry Rub for Pork Ribs, or if smoking these my Dry Rub for Smoked Pork Ribs, but feel free to use your favorite. A serious rubbing before indirect grilling is what I do. I want maximum flavor.

I also use a apple cider vinegar with a bit of the dry rub mixed in to wet the ribs as they grill or smoke. This is what’s called the mop sauce. This will deliver a wonderful tangy flavor to the finished rib, but if you like it on the sweet side, you can also use apple juice mixed with the dry rub.

Look at these nice and juicy ribs, seasoned perfectly with a slight red, smoke ring on the outside and all those spices adhered to the rendered rib meat!

No BBQ sauce necessary for these, just an appetite and maybe some of my Classic Potato Salad, Bacon Mac and Cheese Casserole, or this Cold Tarragon Broccoli Salad and a cold drink of choice!

What to do with any leftovers?

If there are any leftover ribs, I typically make my BBQ Pork with Cheesy Grits . Leftover pork ribs get shredded and simmered in your favorite BBQ sauce and top creamy, cheesy grits for a Southern inspired dinner that’s sure to satisfy.

Slow-Smoked Memphis-Style Ribs by Ray Sheehan

The secret to perfecting these Memphis-style ribs is all in the sauce. You must cook them undisturbed for the first 90 minutes to develop the crust, then you can begin adding layers of flavor by mopping them every 45 minutes or so. Memphis ribs do not get wrapped during the smoking process, so it is important to keep them moist as they cook.

Memphis Rib Rub

1⁄2 cup (144 g) sea salt
1⁄4 cup (60 g) turbinado sugar
1⁄4 cup (60 g) light brown sugar
1 tbsp (7 g) paprika
1 tbsp (8 g) chili powder
1 tbsp (7 g) onion powder
1 tbsp (9 g) dry mustard
11⁄2 tsp (5 g) granulated garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp ground coriander
1⁄2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 (21⁄2-lb [1.1-kg]) slabs baby back ribs
1⁄4 cup (44 g) prepared yellow mustard
Hickory or cherry wood
11⁄4 cups (300 ml) Memphis Mop BBQ Sauce (page 17), warmed, for brushing, plus 1⁄4 cup (60 ml) reserved for final glaze
Wooden toothpick, for testing doneness

Prepare the rub: In a medium-sized bowl, stir together all the rub ingredients and set it aside. Leftover rub may be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Prepare a smoker to cook at 250°F (120°C).

Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs and trim away any excess fat. Apply a thin coat of mustard to each side. Dust with an even layer of the rib rub to both sides of the ribs. Let them sit for 30 minutes to let the rub set up. Once the cooker reaches temperature, add the wood and place the ribs in the smoker, meat side up. Cook for 11⁄2 hours, mop with the BBQ sauce and continue to mop every 45 minutes.

At around the 4-hour mark, start checking the ribs for tenderness: The ribs are done when a toothpick inserted into the meat goes in and out easily and you can see the meat shrink from the bone by about 1⁄4 inch (6 mm), about 5 hours total.

Slice the ribs individually and arrange them on a platter. Using a clean brush, give them a glaze of additional mop sauce and a light dusting of the rib rub before serving.

Reprinted with permission from Award-Winning BBQ Sauces and How to Use Them by Ray Sheehan, Page Street Publishing Co. 2020.


For the Rub

The day before cooking the ribs, mix the turbinado sugar, salt, paprika, chili powder, granulated garlic, onion powder, ground cumin, ground mustard, cayenne pepper and black pepper together.

For the Ribs

Take a slab of ribs and turn over so the curved side is up. Using your fingernail or a knife, pry under the membrane until you can put your finger under it and then pull it off.

Sprinkle this side of the ribs with about 1 tablespoon rub, and then about 1 tablespoon yellow mustard. Use the mustard to help evenly distribute the seasoning. Turn the ribs over and repeat the process. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight.

To cook, start a smoker and bring the temperature to 200 degrees F. Use apple or cherry wood chunks to provide smoke and flavor. Place the ribs in the smoker, curved side down. Smoke for 2 hours at 200 degrees F, and then raise the temperature to 250 degrees F for about 2 ½ hours. Check for tenderness by testing if the bones will pull apart with a slight bit of pressure. If they are still tough, allow to cook for another 30 minutes.

Remove the ribs from the smoker. For dry-style ribs, sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon rub. For wet-style ribs, glaze with the BBQ sauce.

What you need to make the best dry rub ribs

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You&rsquoll also need some ingredients to make these beauties, too.

  • Baby back ribs&mdashwhile I&rsquove tried pork spare ribs with this recipe, they&rsquore a fattier cut of meat. To me, this made them a lot messier (in the oven itself) and didn&rsquot result in additional flavor.
  • BBQ dry rub&mdashyou can use the store bought kind (from a Memphis restaurant, like Corky&rsquos or the Rendezvous). You can also make your own dry rub.
  • BBQ sauce&mdashagain, you can get your favorite at the store (we prefer Rendezvous and Stubb&rsquos brands in our house) or you can make your own barbecue sauce

The dry rub seasonings

A combination of paprika, brown sugar, chili powder, pepper, salt, garlic, onion, and dried thyme. Add to the meat and wait 1 hour before cooking so the spices can better stick to and season the surface.

The sugar will start to burn above 350ºF (177ºC), so make sure to keep the grill temperature regulated throughout the cooking process. Save some of the seasoning mix to serve just before eating to intensify the flavor.

Memphis-Style Pork Ribs


  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 St. Louis-cut or spare rib racks


Mix all the dry ingredients together. Rub them all over the ribs and, if you have time, set them in the fridge overnight.

Get your grill or smoker going. You want pretty low heat, about 200-220°F if you can measure it. Make sure you have a spot to put the ribs that is not directly over the heat source. Lay the ribs down. They should not sizzle. If they do, cool the grill down until the ribs no longer sizzle when placed down. Cover the grill or smoker and walk away for an hour.

so they cook evenly. You should not have to baste them if you do this: The fat in the ribs will do the basting for you. Depending on how hot your set-up is and at what stage of doneness you like your ribs, they will be done in 4-8 hours.