Memphis-Style Pork Ribs: A Flavorful Barbecue Classic

Memphis-style pork ribs are a quintessential barbecue dish known for their tender meat, flavorful dry rub, and smoky aroma. This recipe captures the essence of Memphis barbecue with a perfect balance of spices, a touch of sweetness, and a hint of tanginess. Whether you’re firing up the grill for a backyard cookout or hosting a summer gathering, these ribs are sure to impress your guests and leave them craving more.

Preparation Time:

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Marinating time: 2-4 hours (optional)
  • Cook time: 4-6 hours
  • Total time: 6-10 hours (including marinating and cooking)


  • 2 racks of pork spare ribs (about 4-5 pounds each)
  • For the Dry Rub:
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons paprika
    • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
    • 1 tablespoon onion powder
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon black pepper
    • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
  • For the Mop Sauce (optional):
    • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
    • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (optional)
  • Barbecue sauce, for serving (optional)


1. Prepare the Ribs:

  • Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs by sliding a knife under the membrane and then pulling it off with a paper towel for better grip. This helps the rub penetrate the meat.

2. Make the Dry Rub:

  • In a small bowl, combine all the dry rub ingredients: brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, cumin, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
  • Mix well to ensure the spices are evenly distributed.

3. Season the Ribs:

  • Generously coat both sides of the ribs with the dry rub, pressing it into the meat to adhere.
  • For extra flavor, cover the ribs and refrigerate for 2-4 hours, or overnight, to allow the flavors to meld. This step is optional but highly recommended for optimal flavor.

4. Preheat the Grill or Smoker:

  • Preheat your grill or smoker to 225°F (107°C) using indirect heat.

5. Smoke the Ribs:

  • Place the seasoned ribs on the grill or smoker, bone side down, away from direct heat.
  • Close the lid and let the ribs smoke for 4-6 hours, maintaining a consistent temperature of 225°F (107°C). You can add wood chips or chunks to the coals for extra smoke flavor, such as hickory or applewood.

6. Make the Mop Sauce (optional):

  • In a small saucepan, combine all the mop sauce ingredients: apple cider vinegar, water, yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and hot sauce (if using).
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, then remove from heat and let it cool.

7. Baste the Ribs:

  • Every hour or so, baste the ribs with the mop sauce using a brush or spray bottle to keep them moist and add an extra layer of flavor.

8. Check for Doneness:

  • The ribs are done when the meat has pulled back from the bones and is tender enough to easily tear with a fork. You can also check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer; it should read around 195-205°F (90-96°C).

9. Serve:

  • Once the ribs are done, remove them from the grill or smoker and let them rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.
  • Slice the ribs between the bones and serve with your favorite barbecue sauce on the side, if desired.

10. Enjoy:

  • Serve the Memphis-style pork ribs hot and enjoy the delicious, tender meat with its flavorful dry rub and smoky aroma.

Cooking Tips:

  • For best results, use spare ribs or St. Louis-style ribs, which have more meat than baby back ribs and are ideal for smoking.
  • Make sure to maintain a consistent temperature in your grill or smoker throughout the cooking process to ensure even cooking and optimal flavor.
  • Letting the ribs rest after cooking allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in juicier and more flavorful meat.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe:

  • Authentic Memphis Flavor: This recipe captures the essence of Memphis barbecue with its perfect blend of spices and slow-smoked flavor.
  • Tender and Juicy: The low and slow cooking method ensures that the ribs are tender, juicy, and full of flavor.
  • Perfect for Sharing: Whether you’re hosting a backyard barbecue or a casual get-together, these ribs are sure to be a hit with family and friends.


Memphis-style pork ribs are a true barbecue classic, known for their tender meat, flavorful dry rub, and mouthwatering aroma. With this recipe, you can recreate the authentic taste of Memphis barbecue in your own backyard. Fire up the grill or smoker, follow these simple steps, and get ready to enjoy tender, juicy ribs that are bursting with flavor.

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