Memphis Style Ribs

Memphis Style Barbecue Ribs

Sauce not required

Kansas City-style Spareribs

Traditionally, Memphis style ribs are not sauced. The folks in Memphis believed their flavorful meat rubs were all their pork ribs needed to produce a great tasting rib. It wasn’t until repeated requests from travelers did a barbecue sauce appear on the Memphis smokehouse scene. Even today, when ordering Memphis style ribs, you’ll be asked if you want them “wet” or “dry”. Wet means sauced, while dry means just with the meat rub and a bit of sauce served on the side.

The sauce served with Memphis style ribs contain vinegar, ketchup, mustard and brown sugar. Cayenne, Louisiana style hot sauces and additional spices where also added. Although, each pit master had their own secret recipe, they all adhered to a common goal in flavor. Over time these sauces created a unique flavor that Memphis now calls its own.

Memphis Style Ribs
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 to 6
Traditionally, the folks from Memphis rarely put barbecue sauce on their pork ribs. The flavorful meat rubs they use was enough to produce a great tasting rib without the addition of a sauce
  • 2 slabs pork ribs
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup non-iodized salt
  • ¼ cup Hungarian paprika
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • olive oil
  • a couple of cups of hickory wood chips
  1. Prepare Your Ribs. Remove the membrane from the inner portion of the ribs. This membrane will inhibit the flavors of the meat rub and the smoke from penetrating the meat. Trim off any excess fat. See the sidebar if you need to review how that is done.
  2. Add the herbs and spices in a mixing bowl and whisk until well blended.
  3. Lightly brush the ribs with olive oil. This helps keep the meat moist while at the same time giving something for the rub to adhere to. "Rub" is a misnomer, we really don't rub it, just sprinkle it on liberally and evenly. If using a coarse rub, such as dried herbs, pat it a little to help it stick to the meat. Allow the rub to do its magic for about an hour. Reserve some of the rub for later.
  4. Preheat the grill for indirect cooking over a medium heat. About 225 to 275-degrees F.
  5. Add the wood chips. Once the chips begin to smoke, it's time to put on the ribs. Place the ribs on the grill away from the fire and close the lid. Allow the ribs to cook for 2 hours. Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust the vents as needed.
  6. Uncover the grill and flip the ribs. Apply an additional sprinkling of rub to both sides. Close grill and cook an additional 2 hours or until the ribs are tender. This is a good time to add more charcoal and wood chips.
  7. Remove ribs from grill and apply any remaining rub. Some pit masters will place their ribs directly over the fire at this point. After a few minutes the ribs will develop a slight crispiness on the outside. This is what pit masters refer to as the "bark".
  8. Serve with your favorite barbecue sauce on the side, if desired.
  9. Pig out and enjoy your Memphis style ribs.

Happy grilling and always remember…admire the fire!

How Ya Be Cookin’ Dem Memphis Style Ribs?

We here at TopRibs prefer the Low-n-Slow method of cooking our barbecue ribs, but understand that method may not be suitable all the time. Great ribs can be had from the oven as well. A quick sear on the grill can also produce a decent rack of barbecued ribs. If you want to cook your pork ribs different than the recipe above calls out for, then see your other options here.

Low and Slow

Low and Slow



On The Grill



In the Oven

Also Good

Hey!…it could happen!

A man was driving up a steep and narrow mountain road. A woman was driving down the same road. As they pass each other, the woman leans out the window and yells “Pig!” The man immediately leans out his window and replied, “Hag!” They continue on their way and as the man rounds the next corner, he crashes into a pig in the middle of the road.


What Ya Be Fixin’ Wit Dem Memphis Style Ribs?

Man can’t survive by meat alone…OK, maybe we could, but your barbecue ribs sure taste better with a side dish or two. Here’s some good ideas:

Grilled Cornbread

Click to get the recipe

The Lazy Man’s Way

Bacon & Shrimp

Click to get the recipe

A Great Appetizer!

Grilled Peaches

Click to get the recipe

Good For Any Course

What’d Ya think?

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