Think you need a state-of-the-art smoker to create delicious ribs at home? Think again!
You can cook BBQ ribs in your own backyard just by using a gas grill and a few tips and tricks.
We put together this guide to help anyone who may not have the space or resources to dedicate to a smoker, but still wants the taste and experience of smoking their own BBQ ribs at home.
The process is fairly straightforward — you’ll just be burning wood within your grill and trapping that smoke inside with the lid to mimic the effect of a smoker. Before you know it, you’ll have tender, delicious ribs ready to eat.
In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know to transform your gas grill into a BBQ rib-cooking powerhouse, from how to create smoke to how long your rack of ribs should hang out within the grill.
We’ll also share some recipes, tips, and FAQs that will have you mastering cooking BBQ ribs on your gas grill in no time.
Table of Contents
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Making the Best Ribs on a Gas Grill
Making ribs on a gas grill isn’t just a workaround if you don’t have a smoker of your own. It’s a pretty effortless way to cook up flavorful, tender ribs that will have your family or guests thinking you put in way more work than you actually did.
The process is pretty straightforward — you just need a few basic tools and a bit of know-how (and propane, of course), and you’re ready to go!
Tools Needed to Cook BBQ Ribs on a Gas Grill
To cook ribs on a gas grill, you’ll need propane gas and ribs, of course. Aside from that, you’ll want to grab the essentials: your favorite rib rub and barbecue sauce. You’ll also need wood pellets, wood chips or chunks, heavy-duty aluminum foil, and a basting brush. Finally, you’ll also want to grab apple cider vinegar, apple juice, or another liquid and a spray bottle to add moisture and some bonus flavor to your ribs while they cook.
To prep your ribs and get them ready for smoking, you’ll also have some paper towels, a small kitchen spoon, a cutting board, and a sharp knife.
How to Set up a Gas Grill for Smoking Ribs
To prepare your gas grill for cooking, you’ll need to set up two heat zones for 2-zone cooking. This will create the indirect heat that is the key to making the perfect environment inside your grill to cook the ribs.
Of course, plenty of propane is the key to keeping a steady temperature for extended periods of time with a gas grill. Check your supply before you fire up your grill to ensure your cooking isn’t cut short.
Step-by-Step Instructions: How to Cook BBQ Ribs on a Gas Grill
Prepare the Rib Rack | Rub the Ribs | Set up the Grill for Two-Zone Cooking | Add Your Wood & Steady the Temp | Add the Ribs Over Indirect Heat | Spritz the Ribs Every 30 Minutes | Wrap the Ribs | Place the Wrapped Ribs Back on the Grill | Crank up the Heat | Add Your Favorite Sauce
With your grill heating up, it’s time to prep your ribs and the wood you’ll be using to create that flavorful smoke.
1. Prepare the Rib Rack
Most ribs will need a little bit of prep work before they’re ready to cook. First, trim away any loose piece of fat, bone, or meat so you’re left with an even thickness and a roughly rectangular shape.
You’ll want to cut away any excess fatty areas, but don’t cut all of it off. While we don’t need as much fat on these ribs as we would on a rack that’s going to cook in a smoker for longer, we still want some for the moisture and flavor it imparts.
If your ribs have the tough silver skin still attached, you can pry this off with a spoon or your hands. This will help enhance the eating experience and allow your barbecue rub to penetrate further into the meat.
Once you’re finished trimming your rack, run it under cold water (optional) and pat it dry with paper towels. Now on to the seasoning!
2. Rub the Ribs
You grabbed your favorite rib rub, right? Now’s the time to generously shake it over the ribs and rub it in. Make sure to cover the back, front, sides, and ends. Let any excess rub that doesn’t naturally stick to the ribs fall away — too much can overpower the meat.
You can take care of this step up to an hour before cooking, but avoid putting the rub on any later, as letting it sit too long can impact the flavor and texture of the ribs. If you need to pop your ribs back in the fridge, wrap them tightly with plastic wrap.
If you can, aim to start cooking your ribs within 10 to 20 minutes of adding the rub.
Set up the Grill for Two-Zone Cooking & Fire It Up
To fire up your grill for two-zone cooking, light the burners on one half (at least one burner) while leaving the other side off. By cranking up the heat on one side of the grill, you’ll create indirect heat that’s perfect for cooking your ribs low and slow on the other side.
Let your grill heat up to around 375°F — this is the perfect temperature to get your wood smoking and start your ribs cooking without drying them out.
Add Your Wood, Steady the Temp & Wait for Smoke
Next, add your wood directly over the burners that are turned on. Your grill might have come with a smoker box that you can use for this step, but if not, you’ll need to invest in a standalone box, a pellet tube, or even some heavy-duty foil you can use to create a packet for your wood pellets or chips. If you’re using hardwood chunks, you can put them right on the burner.
Here is a helpful guide I wrote on How to Smoke on a Gas Grill – Simple Setup and Technique that may help.
Keep the temperature steady here, as that high heat will help our wood start smoking. As soon as you see wisps of smoke coming from your wood or wood container, it’s showtime! Close the lid and adjust your heat to around 255°F or a bit higher, depending on the size of your rack of ribs.
Add the Ribs Over Indirect Heat & Cook for Two Hours
Place your ribs on the grilling surface on the opposite side from the lit burner, bone side down.
For this step, your ribs should be on the grill for around two hours. You’ll want to be sure you aren’t peeking or lifting the lid of the grill at all for about 45 minutes to keep the smoke and heat trapped inside.
Spritz the Ribs Every 30 Minutes
Once those initial 45 minutes are up, it’s time to start spritzing your ribs with a mixture of apple juice and apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle. Give your ribs a good misting every 30 minutes or so to help them retain moisture while cooking.
After Two Hours, Wrap the Ribs in Foil or Butcher Paper
This next step of cooking BBQ ribs on a gas grill is essential for making them nice and tender. First, check that the ribs appear cooked on all sides, then pull them off the grill and shut the lid to keep the heat trapped.
The ribs should already have a nice color and should bend slightly when held in the center with tongs.
Wrap your rack of ribs tightly in foil or butcher paper, adding a few tablespoons of apple juice to your packet before you seal it up. If you want your ribs on the sweeter side, you can add in butter, honey, or brown sugar at this step.
Hot Tip: Another big indicator of when should wrap, is when you can start to see the rib meat start to tighten up and the bones just start to be visible on the ends.
Place the Wrapped Ribs Back on the Grill for One Hour
Put your packaged ribs back on the grill in the indirect heat zone, close the lid, and let them continue to cook for one hour. This time will let the apple juice boil off creating steam that will tenderize the meat as it cooks.
Remove the Wrapped Ribs and Crank up the Heat
Once that hour has passed, take the ribs back off the grill, shut the lid, and turn the heat up to 250-285°F for the final cook.
Add Your Favorite Sauce and Cook for Another 15-20 Minutes
This step is where we blast the ribs with one last shot of flavor. Put your unwrapped ribs back on the grill and baste one side with your barbecue sauce. Close the lid and let the ribs continue to cook for five minutes before flipping them and basting the other side. Continue this process for 15 to 20 minutes to build up a delicious coating of at least two or more layers of sticky barbecue sauce on each side of the rack.
Once that time is up, pull your ribs off the grill, slice them up, and serve!
How to Cook BBQ Ribs on a Gas Grill Fast
If you’re pressed for time, there is a way to cook BBQ ribs on a gas grill even faster than the process we just shared!
Set your grill up with direct and indirect zones just like you would for the long process, and let the covered grill come up to 350°F.
Next, wrap your trimmed and seasoned ribs (this method works best with lean, meaty back ribs that will cook quickly) in aluminum foil to help them retain moisture and cook faster.
Then place them onto the indirect heat side of your grill and let them cook for 45 minutes, flipping them every 15 minutes.
After 45 minutes, begin flipping your ribs and basting them with sauce every 5 minutes until you hit the hour mark. At this point, your ribs should have an internal temperature of 165°F to 170°F — you may need a few more minutes, depending on the size of your rib rack.
Once your ribs have a delicious layer of baked-on sauce, you’re ready to slice and serve!
How to BBQ Spare Ribs on Gas Grill (It’s Basically the Same)
Spare ribs are usually a bit more cost-effective than back ribs and have more meat and a more intense pork flavor. The trade-off here is that they have much more fat on them than back ribs would.
The process for cooking spare ribs on a gas grill is essentially the same as cooking back ribs; you’ll just need to take a bit more time to trim the excess fat before cooking.
Hot Tips for Making BBQ Ribs on a Gas Grill
Have a Game Plan | Cook Using Heat Zones | How to Produce the Best Smoke | Keep It Moist | Lift the Lid as Little as Possible | Use a Remote Digital Thermometer | How to Check for Doneness | Vary Your Liquids for Different Flavors
With the basic process down, here are some helpful tips for cooking up the best BBQ ribs on your gas grill.
Have a Game Plan
Every grill is different, so it’s a good idea to test out creating the temperature zones on your grill before you add in the ribs. Use a wireless probe thermometer to know exactly what burner configuration and knob position will give you the temperatures you’re looking for.
This way, you can cook your ribs with confidence without the bummer of sacrificing a perfectly good rack of ribs to a grill with inconsistent temperatures.
Cook Using Heat Zones
Two-zone grilling is essential here to recreate the low temperatures and convection heat you’d find in a smoker. Having your grill too hot or placing the ribs over direct heat is a one-way ticket to dried-out, tough ribs.
How to Produce the Best Smoke
Whether you’re using a pellet tube, a smoker box that came with your grill, or a foil packet you made five minutes ago, using good quality wood with the device of your choice placed right over the direct heat will produce the smoke you’re looking for.
You don’t want so much smoke that your grill looks like it’s on fire either. Small, almost transparent wisps of smoke are the sign of clean, healthy smoke that will give our ribs the best flavor.
Keep It Moist
Gas grills can quickly dry your ribs out if you aren’t careful! This makes spritzing the ribs with your apple juice/vinegar mixture and adding additional juice after you’ve wrapped your ribs essential to keeping the meat moist.
Lift the Lid as Little as Possible
The old adage “If you’re looking, you’re not cooking” has never been more true when cooking BBQ ribs on a gas grill.
You want to give your ribs as much delicious, smoky taste as possible, right? Then you’re going to have to keep the lid of your grill closed as much as possible!
Keeping the lid shut is essential to keeping the smoke and heat inside and getting the best end results. The more you open the lid, the longer it’s going to take the ribs to cook properly as well.
Use a Remote Digital Thermometer
The thermometer built into your grill’s lid probably isn’t that great, and temperature isn’t something you want to leave to chance when cooking ribs. Instead, invest in a good remote digital probe thermometer that will allow you to know your grill’s internal temperature at all times without needing to lift the lid.
How to Check Ribs for Doneness
Follow the method below for perfectly cooked BBQ ribs every time.
- A good visual cue for checking if your ribs are done is looking to see if the meat has started pulling away leaving the bone ends visible. If you can see about a quarter inch of visible bone, this is a good indication that they are close to ready. This is in no way a guarantee but a good gauge that you are getting close.
- Once you feel the ribs are about done, the second method for checking doneness is the bend test. Using a pair of gloves or tongs, pick up the ribs in the middle. They should bend downwards into an almost U shape. If they are ready, they should easily crack and almost break apart.
- Another helpful method is the toothpick test. Using a toothpick or a temperature probe needle, insert it into the meat between the bones. The probe should slide into the meat easily with very little resistance and come back out cleanly.
Finally, you’ll know you nailed the perfect doneness of the ribs when they’re tender and juicy but not quite falling off of the bone. They should be able to hold up to a bite without falling apart.
Hot Tip: Ribs should be able to be easily pulled off the bone, they should not be falling off the bone.
Vary Your Liquids for Different Flavors
Using different liquids in your spritz or water pan is a great way to experiment with different flavors. Depending on the rub and barbecue sauce you’re using, you may want to try pineapple or orange juice, soda, stock, or even beer with a few tablespoons of sugar whisked in.
If you have any go-to spritz recipes you use, let us know in the comments below.
Rib Rub Recipe
Need a great rib rub for your BBQ ribs? Try this rub recipe below for a classic BBQ flavor that is sure to impress.
This recipe combines paprika, brown sugar, salt, pepper, cumin, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and hot cayenne pepper for a rub that’s a little smoky, a little spicy, a little sweet, and a whole lot of delicious.
- 8 tbsp smoked paprika
- 6 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 tbsp Kosher salt
- 2 tbsp black pepper freshly ground
- 1 ½ tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp mustard powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp hot cayenne pepper
Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix together well. When it’s time to cook the ribs, generously coat each side including the ends with the rub.
Cooking BBQ Ribs on a Gas Grill FAQ
Can I Smoke Ribs on a Gas Grill? | How Long Does It Take to Grill Ribs on a Gas Grill? | What Temperature Do You Cook Ribs on a Gas Grill? | Should Ribs Be Wrapped in Foil When Grilling? | How Do You Know When Ribs Are Done on a Gas Grill?
Still have some burning questions about cooking delicious BBQ ribs at home with your gas grill? Read on for the answers to those most commonly asked!
Can I Smoke Ribs on a Gas Grill?
Yes, you can smoke ribs on a gas grill! You just need some form of wood for smokey flavor and a way to hold it over the burner, i.e., a pellet tube, smoker box, or foil packet. Then just follow the process we detail above and you’re good to go.
How Long Does It Take to Grill Ribs on a Gas Grill?
Grilling ribs on a gas grill will take about 3 and a half to four hours, which is a little less time than it would take on a charcoal or pellet grill.
What Temperature Do You Cook Ribs on a Gas Grill?
We recommend starting your grill at a lower temperature, around 255°F, for your first cook. Then increase the temperature to 285°F once your ribs are wrapped in foil or butcher paper.
Should Ribs Be Wrapped in Foil When Grilling?
Yes, your ribs should spend at least part of their cook time wrapped in foil or butcher paper when grilling! This helps them cook faster, retain moisture, and break down connective tissue for a deliciously tender rib.
How Do You Know When Ribs Are Done on a Gas Grill?
You will know your ribs are done by using a meat probe thermometer to check that the internal temperature of your ribs is around 190-200°F.
If you don’t have a probe thermometer, you can pick it up and bend it to check that it’s tender and flexible, or take a toothpick and push it down into the meat between the bones. If the skewer goes through without resistance, it’s ready to eat — if there’s resistance when you pull the skewer out they need to cook longer.
Finally, take a look at the edges of your rib rack — a well-cooked rack will have the meat pulling away from the bones, with the ends of the bones clearly visible.
Final Thoughts on Our How to Cook BBQ Ribs on a Gas Grill Guide
And that’s a wrap on our guide on how to cook BBQ ribs on your gas grill! We hope this guide has given you all of the know-how you need to amp up your grilling game and cook up some delicious ribs of your own.
The key takeaway here? Keep the lid shut as much as possible — without that trapped heat and smoke, your ribs won’t get that signature BBQ flavor. And remember, there’s plenty of room for experimentation with different types of wood, rubs, BBQ sauce, and liquids for spritzing.
Happy BBQing, and enjoy putting these new skills to use crafting your own BBQ ribs on your gas grill!
Now It’s Your Turn
I want to hear from you:
Which methods have you used to smoke on a gas grill?
Do you have any tips or tricks to share for smoking on a gas grill?
Are you going to be purchasing a smoker in the future? Or do you plan on looking at a pellet grill, built-in or standalone gas grill, or charcoal model?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.
If you still have questions, please feel free to send me a message.
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A backyard warrior, certified carnivore, lover of good whiskey, self-proclaimed grill master and I’m Living The Grilling Life!
I have a passion for cooking with live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I’m a real person just like you, who loves outdoor cooking and BBQ. Food, fun, and time spent with family and friends are what it’s all about! It is my mission to take my passion and knowledge for outdoor cooking and all things BBQ and share this expertise in techniques and grilling equipment with you. In other words, Living The Grilling Life!