Memphis-Style Pork Ribs

Try to get St. Louis-cut ribs for this recipe, not baby back ribs. Regular spare ribs are fine, too.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 hours
  • Yield: Serves 4


  • 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


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

2 Grill over low, indirect heat initially for one hour: 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.

3 Every hour or so after that, turn and rotate the ribs 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.

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  • Ed Matthews

    Does the dry mustard replace rubbing a thin layer of regular mustard all over the ribs and then apply the rub? During the cook when rotating the ribs, I spray it with apple juice. I smoke my meat/s with Pellets. I use PitBoss’s Competition Blend Pellets. Which is made of Hickory,Maple,and Cherry. My cooking process is different but my Rub is nearly the same. Oh. I said Nearly didn’t I. The last 30 minutes of the cook I put my favorite BBQ sauce on the racks. Thanx Hank and I will try your way of cooking next trip. Ed out Galveston way.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Ed, I talked to Hank and this is what he said: “You can do either prepared mustard or dry. Doesn’t matter. Traditional Memphis is all dry ingredients in the rub.”

  • Pat Ruff

    Do you use hickory wood chips?

  • irene

    You have made my love for pork to grow, this looks yummy and delicious, thank you for this recipe.

  • Chris

    i’m from chicago, but my folks are from outside of memphis (in mississippi), and this is how i’ve always done my ribs, to the tee. i will say that living “up north” it’s not always fun or feasible to pull my weber out, so i have done ribs in the oven. you miss the smoke and the bark, but what you do get is a nice collection of very flavorful pork fat that you can use.

    also, i actually prefer spare ribs to baby backs, because of the extra fat, although i do trim any excess fat when i’m taking off the tip and silverskin (st louis ribs are merely spare ribs with the “tip” portion removed).

    finally, and this isn’t me being a “bbq snob”, never EVER boil ribs. if you want to take a shortcut, grill the ribs first to infuse with smoke, then wrap in foil and finish in the oven at 250-275.

  • Amanda

    Hank, is it possible to make them ahead in the morning and put in the fridge than reheat at dinner? If so how do you go about timing it? Thanks

    • Hank Shaw

      Absolutely. Once the ribs are done, you can just reheat them in a low oven, say, 275 degrees for about 30 minutes or so.

  • liz

    Hi, here in Australia ribs aren’t common-place on our menues, but these look (and sound) fabulous – I’ll make them when summer returns. Do I use pork ribs or beef?

    Pork ribs. ~Hank

  • Kevin J Olivieri Sr

    Thank you Hank, I tried your Memphis pork Rub, when I knew my grandson Jayden was coming to visit on 11/05/2011, Ribs are a Favorite treat for him usually when we go out to dinner, But I saw your recipe and gave it a try, I used the slow low heat baking method in the oven, And cooked for about 5 hours, Let me tell you all, You do not need to make a gravy for those potatoes, Say good bye to (Outback) they were the best we all have ever ate, And the total cost was under $12.00 dollors to feed 3 people, Thank You so much again, Kevin and Family. :)

  • Mary Brockmeyer

    Okay – I passed this recipe on to my dad, who loves ribs and to cook on his smoker. We had them last night for a special birthday dinner. I couldn’t eat them (another story) but my brother said quietly to me that he thought they were underdone. Today, my mother handed me two huge baggies of the left over ribs. Do you see any reason why I couldn’t bundle them up in foil and cook them in a low/slow oven to get that meat to fall off the bone?

    Nope. That will certainly finish them off, and they should already have some smoke on them from the barbecue, too, so I think you’ll be fine. ~Hank

  • Mary

    These look wonderful. Living in Texas, I love dry rubs on ribs! I use a similar rub but I add in chipotle also. Oh my! It’s so good. I love chipotle.

    Also, I make these in the oven! I put them on a baking sheet and and then cover them tightly with aluminum foil. I set the temp at 250 and let them bake most of the day. For the last 1/2 hour I remove the foil. They are literally falling of the bone.

    All the best,


    • onoki

      For OVEN: As Mary suggested, wrap in foil and bake in 250 F (or 125 C). I baked them for 6 hours and the ribs literally falled of the bone.

      I do not know if its because of the oven, but I feel like the recipe has too much sugar and paprika. I will definately try this again with less of both. But in any case, all the ingredients in this recipe are a really nice.

  • Kristy

    As a lifelong Memphian, I can also tell you that it’s not uncommon to cheat time on wet ribs by parboiling them in a mixture of vinegar and water for a short time. the vinegar is tenderizing, and they won’t need to smoke as long. Most people use actual smokers rather than a conventional grill.

  • Michelle

    Hank, you say “Try to get St. Louis-cut ribs for this recipe, not baby back ribs. Regular spare ribs are fine, too.” Can you tell a newbie to rib cooking what the difference is so when I go to the butcher to ask, I’ll know what I’m asking for?

    I have wanted to try grilling ribs for some time and appreciate this recipe.


    Regular ribs have an extra “chine bone” attached to them that is sawed off in a St. Louis rib. A baby back rib is the uppermost 5-6 inches of the ribcage of the pig, sawed off neatly. Hope that helps! ~Hank

  • Julie

    In answer to Susan’s question. I cooked baby backs on my Weber Kettle about two weeks ago. I used a candy thermometer stuck through one of the top vents. I laid unlit coals on one side & lit a few coals in the underside of the chimney. I placed a foil pan of water over the coals. The bottom vent was nearly closed and the top vent closed as far as I could with the thermometer in there. If I remember right, I maintained about 275 – 300 degrees. I pulled them off after 3 hours, though I certainly could have gone longer. I still had plenty of coals left.

  • AA

    Should you start with the bone side or the meat side on the grill? When you say rotate and turn every hour, do you mean flip the ribs over or just rotate them? The recipe sounds great. Thanks.

    I tend to start bone side down, and yes, you flip them over. ~Hank

  • Reem

    Wow these look awesome, I want to eat them right now. I don’t have a smoker can I make them in very low oven? I know I won’t be getting the smoky flavor…

    You can, but it won’t be the same. Try cooking them at 225 degrees for a few hours and see. I’ve never done it, though. ~Hank

  • Terri


    I live here in memphis…have all my life..if there’s one thing we can do it’s BBQ…I am a little bias

    Wonderful Article.

    Just a small tip from my daddy:

    (if you want to do them ahead a little bit)

    Put them on the grill for a bit THEN the smoker to finish them. Just thought I’d share

    Thanks again.

  • Cecilia Gunther

    I am going to print this recipe for the Go’riller in the house. He makes his own charcoal, apple wood at the moment, though mulberry is my favorite. We shall try these this weekend. I will haul some ribs out of the freezer, make the rub and get them into the fridge today. Next summer we will be raising a couple of pigs for the freezer too so then I will have piles of ribs to cook! I LOVE long cooking. Thank you Hank. c

  • Metalchef

    Dear Elise;
    This recipe intrigued me, having invented my own ‘Kansas City style’ dry rub. So I went out, got a strip of baby backs and did it ‘Memphis’ style………….
    It was like eating an edible xylophone.
    Damn good according to this 30 year kitchen vet.

  • Kathleen

    For Susan and other weber users- My bf & I differ on this all the time. Like so many, I like to dry rub my ribs, let them set for awhile, couple hours if you have the time, then I low and slow in the oven 275 or 300 for about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours depending upon their thickness. Then I put them on the bbq. for a little smoke and a little grill mark. My bf has a Weber and he likes to slow grill them. The very best, truth betold is a combination. I put them in the oven with my dry rub pre-prep, and then he puts a huge rock covered in tin foil in the center of his weber, builds a fire around it and when the coals are hot but ashen, he ads the ribs and puts the lid on. We use wood chips, usually a fruit wood like apple or cherry soaked in water or wine. Let them smoke up in the Weber for about 45 minutes to an hour and they are falling off the bone good. They are the very best I’ve ever had. I don’t know if its the rock or not, but he likes to thinks so….. so I let him.

  • mike small

    make sure u keep top vent on far side above meat away from heat so smoke travels over meat…same for smokin butts..wood heat works

  • Mary Morris

    OK, I have a Weber, and have always cooked ribs, prefer Memphis or Kansas City style off of direct heat, with coals smoldering on 2 sides. The ribs are done in an hour, and I’ve never had any complaints, but your recipe takes ribs to a new and I’m sure most excellent level. How do I monitor ribs cooked this way? Is there a gadget that measures temps in Webers?

    Not that I know of. Just err on fewer coals, rather than more, keep one side cool and put the ribs on that side, and check them after the first hour once every 30 minutes or so. That’s what I do. ~Hank

    • Wayne Cole

      Mary, there are various pit temp sensors on the market, I haveone called “Smoke” from Thermoworks, and I have another one called “Maverick 733” both do an awesome job!

      Wayne in Canada

  • Cheryl

    Your rub sounds almost like mine. I add espresso powder in mine and the flavor is sooooo good, but no one can figure out that’s what it is!

  • Dianne

    I don’t have access to a bbq grill, so I oven roast ribs at a very low temp for a long time — 6 hrs at 200 usually works. But I find St Louis style ribs don’t work well with this method as they are fattier than baby back and the fat doesn’t melt away as well on the St Louis style as they do on the baby back ribs. Any thoughts on this?

    Sorry, I never do ribs in an oven. Maybe try upping the temperature to 225? ~Hank

  • Tim

    Hank is certainly correct about doing ribs very slowly over a wood fire. It takes a long time and you have to pay attention not to let the temperature get too high. 6 hours at least. 8 is better. 12 will give you the best ribs of your life as long as you keep your fire between 180 and 200 degrees. Sure, you can use shortcuts and wind up with something that’s okay. But once you do them this way you’ll understand everything you’ve been deprived of. So, at least once in your life, spend the better part of a day with your ribs. It’s worth it.

  • Patsy Bell Hobson

    How do you know when ribs are done? When should you start testing for doneness?

    Depends on how you like your ribs. I live them to be almost falling off the bone, but not actually falling off the bone. Test by poking with your tongs. You’ll see when the meat separates. ~Hank

  • Joan

    Nice… it catch my attention. I am pretty sure that using a hardwood fire, charcoal or even a gas grill will add the grill flavor… but Why you should never use the oven?? What is wrong with it?

    You can’t barbecue in an oven. While you could use an oven to cook these ribs, I would not. Smoke and fire is just too important to the overall flavor. ~Hank