Memphis-Style Dry-Rubbed Ribs

Memphis is not only the pork barbecue capital of the world, it’s home to dry rubbed ribs.  Here with her take...
Staff Writer

Memphis is not only the pork barbecue capital of the world, it’s home to dry rubbed ribs.  Here with her take on the Bluff City classic is Kingsford Invitational judge and owner of Memphis Barbecue Co., Melissa Cookston. Make the dry rub (and add it to your rack of ribs) a day in advance for maximum flavor


For the Rub

  • 1  Cup  turbinado sugar, ground
  • ¼  Cup  Kosher salt
  • 6  Tablespoons  Spanish paprika
  • 4  Tablespoons  chili powder
  • 2  Tablespoons  granulated garlic
  • 1  Tablespoon  onion powder
  • 2  Teaspoons  ground cumin
  • 2  Teaspoons  ground mustard
  • 1 ½  Teaspoon  cayenne pepper
  • 1  Teaspoon  black pepper, coarse ground

For the Ribs

  • 2.25-pound slab of baby back pork ribs (also known as loin-back ribs)
  • 2  Tablespoons  yellow mustard
  • Tablespoon  BBQ sauce, for glazing, optional


For the Rub

The day before cooking the ribs, mix the turbinado sugar, salt, paprika, chili powder, granulated garlic, onion powder, ground cumin, ground mustard, cayenne pepper and black pepper together.


For the Ribs

Take a slab of ribs and turn over so the curved side is up. Using your fingernail or a knife, pry under the membrane until you can put your finger under it and then pull it off.

Sprinkle this side of the ribs with about 1 tablespoon rub, and then about 1 tablespoon yellow mustard. Use the mustard to help evenly distribute the seasoning. Turn the ribs over and repeat the process. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight.

To cook, start a smoker and bring the temperature to 200 degrees F. Use apple or cherry wood chunks to provide smoke and flavor. Place the ribs in the smoker, curved side down. Smoke for 2 hours at 200 degrees F, and then raise the temperature to 250 degrees F for about 2 ½ hours. Check for tenderness by testing if the bones will pull apart with a slight bit of pressure. If they are still tough, allow to cook for another 30 minutes.

Remove the ribs from the smoker. For dry-style ribs, sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon rub. For wet-style ribs, glaze with the BBQ sauce.

Rib Shopping Tip

Most cattle are fed a diet of grass until they are sent to a feedlot – where they are finished on corn. When possible, choose beef from cattle that are “100% grass fed” - it will be more expensive, but better for your health.

Rib Cooking Tip

The method used to cook beef is dependent on the cut. Cuts that are more tender, like filet mignon, should be cooked for a relatively short amount of time over high heat by grilling or sautéing. While less tender cuts, like brisket and short ribs, should be cooked for a longer time with lower heat by braising or stewing.