American Kitchen Classic Smoker BBQ on a Charcoal Grill

“Low and slow, that's the recipe for delicious BBQ made using a charcoal grill.”
5hrs 10mins
2 racks

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 2 racks ribs, prepared your way
  • 1 charcoal, grill
  • 5 cups large wood chips, soaked in water (hard wood from trees that lose leaves in winter)
  • 1 meat, thermometer
  • 1 charcoal, chimney
  • 1 (20 lb) bag charcoal
  • 2 aluminum foil, pans (half the size of your grill)


  1. Prepare your ribs as you wish. There are lots of recipes out on the net.
  2. Start with a clean grill. Remove the cooking grate and start the charcoal using a full charcoal chimney, which will light the perfect amount of charcoal. You will need enough charcoal to cover half the coal grate, about three layers thick (that's three layers of charcoal).
  3. Once the charcoal is lit, place one of the aluminum pans on the coal grate and pour the charcoal on the other side. Bend the aluminum pan to fit the grill shape to make it easier to work with.
  4. Add the wood to the charcoal. I suggest large wood chunks since it will take longer to burn and provides smoke as you need it.
  5. Return the cooking grate and place the second aluminum pan on it, directly over the charcoal. Fill with as much water as it can hold. The goal is to keep the grill at a temperature just above the boiling point of water (around 225 degrees F.) The water will steam away slowly and you shouldn't need to add more water, but keep an eye on it.
  6. With the grill set up, we can add the ribs. Space the ribs as well as you can. One tip to remember is to push the ends of the ribs together once on the grill.
  7. For baby back ribs, use a 3-1-1 method. This means three hours smoking, one hour cooking wrapped in foil, and then another hour unwrapped to finish off. For spare ribs, use a 3-2-1 method. You do not have to use this method and can simply grill the ribs unwrapped through the whole process. However, wrapping will steam the ribs and make them more tender.
  8. Because the heat is to one side of our cooking area, it will be important to rotate the ribs as they cook to keep the heat even. You should flip and switch the two racks cooking after 1 1/2 hours. If you do not wrap the ribs, continue flipping and switching them every 1 1/2 hours.
  9. Add more wood every hour - first hour and second hour and at the beginning of the last hour. If you do not wrap, add more every hour.
  10. After three hours on the grill, wrap the ribs lightly in aluminum foil. Keep the temperature steady during this cooking time. After the steaming phase, return unwrapped meat to grill.
  11. Now we get to the final phase of our barbecue ribs. 30 minutes into the final hour, it's time to slather on the barbecue sauce (if you intend to sauce your ribs). This should be done in thin layers.
  12. By layering on the sauce, you get a sticky surface to the ribs and not a thick wet coating. Start by putting a layer on the ribs, turn them over and coat the other side. Close the lid on your grill for about five minutes and repeat. I generally do this about 5 times.
  13. This final hour on the grill is going to give the ribs a drier surface so that you get some texture out of the bite. What you want to look for is how well cooked the ribs are. For this, use a meat thermometer (look for a temperature around 180 to 190 degrees F). Unfortunately, with ribs this can be a challenge.
  14. The bone will be a different temperature from the meat and to get an accurate read, you will need to check the meat without getting the thermometer too close to the bone.
  15. Another way to check for doneness is to lift the ribs in the middle. If the ends droop loosely down from the middle the ribs are done. This is an old pitmaster trick and if you keep it in mind when cooking ribs, you will get the hang of it and be able to tell when ribs are done by using this technique. Take the ribs off the grill, cover and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Then carve and serve.

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