Low and Slow Ribs (No Wrap)

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These Low and Slow Ribs are always worth waiting for! So grab a drink and some friends, because cooking these low and slow ribs is almost as fun as eating them!

BBQ sauce drizzling down a stack of low and slow ribs.

Low and Slow Ribs

For this post, we’re going old school and cooking up some low and slow ribs. These are the kind of ribs you throw on the grill, hang out on the deck with friends and a drink, and eat when they are done. There’s no real specific time frame here, though you can plan on maybe 5-6 hours or so.

Honestly, low and slow is my favorite kind of cooking. This method takes a little practice to know when your ribs are done based on what you and your family like, but practice makes perfect and the payoff is juicy, smoky, rib-loving goodness.

If you hate ribs that fall off the bone, this recipe will be your best friend. These low and slow beauties create that perfectly done bite-through rib that traditionalists and competitors love to serve and eat. These ribs are also some of the juiciest of all of my rib methods. While slicing the ribs, juice covered my knife and cutting board. I had liquid rib love running down to my wrists by the time I finished cleaning the first bone.

Make sure to have some towels handy, these guys are gonna be messy and delicious!

Three racks of seasoned ribs on a wooden cutting board.

Smoked No Wrap Ribs

These ribs are cooked the entire time on the smoker unwrapped. This gives you insanely delicious and smoky ribs that simply scream BBQ. Since they’ll be in the smoke the entire time, make sure to give some thought to the wood you choose to pair with your pork.

I cooked the ribs in this post over indirect heat with apple wood pellets, but any other fruit wood or mild hardwood (hickory, oak, alder) will produce awesome results. Go for a wood smoke that will complement the pork and not overpower it.

Low and Slow BBQ Pork Ribs

Most of my rib recipes (like my popular 3-2-1 Smoked Ribs and Hot and Fast Ribs) are foiled with an apple cider and butter braising liquid to keep them moist and tender while cooking on the smoker. 

This recipe skips the braising step, so you have to keep them moist another way. Steam and basting are the magical solutions to this conundrum. Using a small saucepan heat apple cider and butter and then place it in the grill with the ribs. The steam from the liquid will keep the ribs from drying out.

Basting the ribs every 45 minutes to an hour will really help the smoke particles cling to the meat and form a beautiful red mahogany smoke ring. With these powers combined, you’ll end up with juicy, tender ribs every time.

Three racks of ribs in a pellet smoker.

How to Cook Ribs Low and Slow

Low and slow ribs are cooked exactly like the name suggests. You’re going to preheat your grill to a low temperature and cook them nice and slow until they’re done. Let’s chat about the process a little (and for a full, detailed recipe with ingredients and notes, scroll to the bottom of this post!

  1. Prep the ribs. Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel. Trim off any excess fat on the ribs and remove the membrane on the back of the ribs. Quick tip: Grab a dry paper towel and grip one side of the membrane with the paper towel. Pull to remove. 
  2. Season. Grab a bottle of my Hey Grill Hey Rib Rub (or make it yourself using my recipe for Best Rub for Ribs), and go to town seasoning the ribs. Don’t be shy. Give them a nice coating on all sides.
  3. Make the basting sauce. Melt butter and apple cider in a saucepan and place it on the smoker alongside the ribs.
  4. Smoke. Smoke the ribs for 1.5 hours without lifting the lid. After an hour and a half, brush the ribs liberally with the sauce every 45 minutes. Continue smoking for another 3.5-4.5 hours or until the ribs have reached your preferred doneness (see the paragraph below about doneness).
  5. Sauce. Sauce at the end or don’t, it’s up to you. The smoke flavor is going to shine through either way and the rub is perfectly sweet and hot enough to carry the flavors on its own. I like to use my Everything BBQ Sauce with these ribs, but just about any sauce will taste awesome (especially those with a ketchup base).
  6. Enjoy. Allow the ribs to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving. 

How Long to Cook Ribs Low and Slow

The biggest conundrum when cooking ribs using this low and slow method is wondering how long they will take to cook. The beauty of this method is that the ribs are done when they’re done. 

Each rack of ribs will cook differently, so no two racks will cook the exact same length of time. We can estimate that they’ll likely take anywhere from 5-6 hours (give or take an extra hour both ways). Before you enter into this recipe, make sure you are not under any super restrictive time limits for making these ribs. They’re done when they’re done.

One low and slow rib held above a rack of low and slow ribs.

Low and Slow Rib Doneness

But how do you know when the ribs are done? There are four different criteria to meet to determine doneness:

  1. Temperature. Ribs are done when they reach an internal temperature between 185 and 190 degrees F.
  2. Bend. Grab the slab with some tongs. If the ribs “bend” or droop a bit they’re done.
  3. Crack. When testing for the bend, if the surface of the ribs crack slightly, they’re ready for eating.
  4. Pull. These St. Louis ribs do not fall off the bone. They should, however, pull off the bone easily.

Once the ribs meet all 4 criteria, you can feel confident they are ready to remove from the heat and get into!

Sauced and smoked ribs stacked in front of bottles of BBQ sauce.

More Pork Ribs Recipes

Here at Hey Grill Hey we know a thing or two about ribs. Whether you’re grilling or smoking them, we’ve got a recipe for you. Check out the most popular pork ribs recipes below!

Low and Slow Rib Recipe

Hey Grill Hey is here to ensure you master a BBQ recipe like a total pro. In fact, we hope each recipe and tutorial makes you feel like a backyard BBQ hero so you can feed the people you love.

If you loved this recipe, be sure to rate it 5 stars and leave us a comment below! You can also access this amazing smoked lamb shoulder recipe and over 500 other recipes on the Hey Grill Hey App.

**This post was originally published in April 2015. We recently updated it with more information and helpful tips. The recipe remains the same.

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Low and Slow Ribs

0 from 0 votes
These Low and Slow Ribs are always worth waiting for! So grab a drink and some friends, because cooking these low and slow ribs is almost as fun as eating them!
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time5 hours
Resting Time15 minutes
Total Time5 hours 30 minutes
Servings3 people

Video

Ingredients
 

  • 1 rack St. Louis pork ribs
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 Tablespoons Hey Grill Hey Rib Rub recipe link in notes
  • 2 Tablespoons salted butter melted
  • 1 cup Everything BBQ sauce or your favorite BBQ sauce

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the grill. Preheat your grill for indirect grilling. The target temperature on your grill is 225 degrees F. I recommend using fruit woods like apple, peach, cherry, or hardwoods like hickory or oak.
  • Trim the ribs. Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel. Trim down any excess fat and remove the thin membrane on the back of the ribs using a paper towel for grip.
  • Season. Season all sides of the pork ribs liberally with Hey Grill Hey Rib Rub. You can purchase this rub directly from my store or you can make your own (link in recipe notes).
  • Melt the butter and cider. In a small saucepan combine the butter and apple cider. Place on your grill alongside the ribs.
  • Smoke the ribs. Place the seasoned ribs directly on the grill grates. Close the lid, and cook for an hour and a half without opening the lid.
  • Baste and finish smoking. After the ribs have cooked for an hour and a half, baste them liberally with the apple cider mixture. Close the lid and continue to cook for 3 ½ to 4 ½ hours, basting the ribs every 45 minutes to an hour with the cider mixture.
  • Add BBQ sauce. As your ribs near their final target temperature (I usually aim for around 185-190 degrees F), coat the ribs with BBQ sauce and return to the grill for an additional 30 minutes to set your sauce (this step is optional).
  • Rest, slice, and serve. Remove the ribs from the grill. Allow them to rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Notes

Rib Rub

Nutrition

Calories: 1395kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 69g | Fat: 103g | Saturated Fat: 33g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 347mg | Sodium: 1333mg | Potassium: 1337mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 32g | Vitamin A: 473IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 195mg | Iron: 8mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this? Leave a comment below!

 

About

FOUNDER/BBQ BOSS LADY

Susie is the BBQ Brain behind the Hey Grill Hey website. Her passion for smoked meats and developing fun, new recipes have landed her on the Food Network, cooking turkeys with Shaq, and on a couple of Guinness World Records. When she’s not grilling, she is hanging out with Todd and their three kids, preferably outdoors!

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Reader Reviews

44 Reviews

  1. Jon wollmann says:

    My go too.

  2. Anthony (BoneyTee) Green says:

    Can these be done at 250?

    1. Hey Grill Hey says:

      Yes!

  3. Tyler Halford says:

    Do I need to baste with the cider/ butter sauce on both sides of the rack or just the top?

    1. Hey Grill Hey says:

      That’s totally up to you. I usually only hit the top.

  4. Keith Bosland says:

    I’ve used quite a few HGH rib recipes with varying success. I used this one yesterday with 2 racks of back ribs. Used ACV instead of apple cider since I had it on hand. Basted every 45 minutes. 6 hr cook. This is now my favorite rib recipe. I don’t think I’ll do them any other way. Thanks so much Susie and Todd!

  5. Tom says:

    Can I use apple cider vinegar instead of apple cider or apple juice?

    1. RBlair Houston, Texas says:

      Absolutely. I feel the vinegar helps breakdown the meat letting spices penetrate deeper into the meat.Leftover garlic pickle juice works very well too.I’ve been making my “sop” with vinegar and pickle juice for decades.

  6. Andrew says:

    If I was to use the WSM, would using a diluted version of the butter/cider baste in the water pan be enough to keep them moist? Or should I just use water in the pan and continue to baste?

  7. George says:

    Thank you thank you thank you Did these for Memorial Day and the ribs came out fantastic. One guest commented “Not lyin’ these ribs are bangin'” Can’t wait to try some of your other recipes. You ROCK!