Low and slow cooking produces the most tender, juicy ribs. From everything I know about grilling ribs, taking your time is perhaps the most constant advice I’ve heard. That is three to four hours for baby backs and five or more hours for St. Louis cut and spare ribs.

But what if you need to feed a group of people on short notice? Or you want a fast dinner on a weeknight? We are talking about 1-2 hours. That’s where hot and fast ribs come in.

In this guide, we show you how to grill ribs on charcoal fast. We put aside the 3-2-1 cooking ribs method and use only a quarter of the time. You will be surprised how juicy and tender your ribs get when cooked in approximately 90 minutes. 

how to grill ribs on charcoal fast

What are Hot and Fast Ribs?

Low and slow cooking produces the most tender, juicy ribs. From everything I know about grilling ribs, taking your time is perhaps the most constant advice I’ve heard. That is three to four hours for baby backs and five or more hours for St. Louis cut and spare ribs. But what if you need to feed a group of people on short notice? Or you want a fast dinner on a weeknight? We are talking about 1-2 hours. That’s where hot and fast ribs come in. In this guide, we show you how to grill ribs on charcoal fast. We put aside the 3-2-1 cooking ribs method and use only a quarter of the time. You will be surprised how juicy and tender your ribs get when cooked in approximately 90 minutes.  What are Hot and Fast Ribs?

Hot and fast ribs are restaurant/competition St. Louis style ribs seen on Restaurant Impossible and other barbecue competitions. The ribs are grilled using the indirect heat method at relatively high degrees for about 1½ hours and are continually mopped with a soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce mop or a thin, vinegary mop.

The results are very moist and tender ribs that come off the bone with ease. Because no wood is used, there’s only a hint of smoke flavor from the charcoal.

Choosing your Ribs

There are three types of BBQ ribs with different cooking times, textures, and flavors.

Baby back ribs

baby backs

Also known as back ribs, loin ribs, or baby backs, baby back ribs are the easiest to find. They are cut from the upper rib cage of the hog. This is where the ribs meet the spine.

Backs are usually shorter than spare ribs, hence the name baby back ribs. They are not from baby pigs.

The average baby back ribs stack usually has 11-13 ribs weighing around two pounds. The slab is meatier, shorter, and leaner than other types of ribs.

If you want more meat on your back ribs, you can always ask your butcher nicely. Because baby backs come from the loin, your butcher determines the amount of meat on the baby backs. More meat comes at an extra cost, but the results are worth it.

Spare ribs

spare ribs

These ribs are also known as side ribs or spares. They are larger and flatter than baby backs and are cut from the belly. A slab usually has a minimum of 11 ribs and weighs approximately three pounds.

Spare ribs have more bone, fat, and cartilage. That’s why they tend to be cheaper than baby backs.

St. Louis Style Ribs

These are spare ribs trimmed off the hard breastbone and cartilage. Because of the fat, they are more flavorful than baby back ribs.

How to Grill Ribs on Charcoal Fast

ribs cooking

These are the best BBQ ribs you’ll ever eat on short notice. They are pretty easy to make, meaning you don’t have to be an expert to have great results.

Prep Time: 30 mins

Cooking Time: 1hr 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Serves: 2

Tools

  • Weber charcoal grill (preferred)
  • Chimney starter
  • Silicone baster
  • Heat resistant BBQ gloves
  • Instant meat thermometer

Ingredients

One rack of baby back ribs

For the mop

  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup Soy sauce
  • BBQ sauce (Optional)

Alternative for the mop 

  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup distilled vinegar
  • 1tbs Rendezvous Seasoning
  • 2tbs tomato-based barbecue sauce or ketchup

Dry Spice Rub

  • 1tsp salt
  • ½ tbs paprika
  • Pinch of chili powder
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1/4tsp garlic powder
  • Dash of cayenne pepper

Prep the Dry Rub

In a small bowl, mix the dry rub ingredients with a wooden spoon until they blend in completely.

Prep your Ribs

ribs with dry rubs

To prepare the ribs, remove the silver membrane from the bone side of the ribs. The membrane can get very tough and chewy when cooked over high heat. That’s why you need to remove it.

To do this, insert a butter knife between the meat and the membrane on one end. Then, work your fingers under and around it to loosen it. When it loosens, use a paper towel to get a good grip and peel it off gently.

Season the slab of back ribs with the dry rub. If you can, let it sit for 1-2 hours to let the seasoning absorb.

Charcoal Grill

charcoal grill

First, you need the right equipment. Not anything fancy, but a full-size charcoal grill like the Weber Kettle Grill with a 22-inch grate is excellent for the job. BBQ ribs are pretty long, and you will need two zones for the hot coals.

Start the coals in a chimney. A charcoal chimney has an upper and lower compartment, so you don’t have to use lighting fluid.

Remove the cooking grate and place the chimney at the bottom of the grill.

Put pieces of newspaper in the lower compartment and the charcoal briquettes in the upper chamber. Then light the paper and let it burn for fifteen minutes.

We like chimney starters because it’s easy to be consistent with charcoal, which gives you excellent temperature control every time.

Prepare 2-Heat Zone

two zone heating

When the coals are coated with white ash, bank most of them against one side of the grill, then push the rest on the other side of the charcoal grill. This process gives you two-zone heating.

Stabilize the indirect zone temperature at 350 degrees F. To control the temperature; you have to control the supply of oxygen using the intake and exhaust vents. You can do this by cracking open the bottom vents, so they are open halfway. Put the lid back, leaving the vents half open and positioned over the meat.

Put a temperature probe on a cable into a vent hole on the lid to read the temperature.

Insert a rectangular or square metal drip roasting pan between the two zones.

If you want to add smoke flavor to your BBQ ribs, add a handful of soaked mesquite woodchips on the charcoal. Soaking will prevent them from igniting. The mesquite woodchips will add an excellent wood smoke flavor to the ribs.

The indirect heat cooking method works great when you have meaty ribs. This way, you can start at a low temperature, bring the inside of the ribs to your desired finish temperature, and then crisp the exterior quickly over direct heat.

Cooking Ribs

ribs on the grill

Lightly oil the grate to prevent sticking.

Place the rack of ribs on the cooking grate, directly under the grill pan, with the meat side up. Mop the meat on all sides with the prepared mop when you place the meat on the grill. Grill with the lid closed.

After 15 minutes, open the grill and quickly mop the meat on both sides. Then flip it. Mop the baby backs every 15 minutes for 90 minutes.

Because we are grilling for only 90 minutes, you don’t need to add more coals. What you can do, however, is open the vents wider if the temperature drops. You may also need to knock ash from the coals using a stick or remove some of the ash if it’s blocking the airflow.

Open the lid for mopping and only if the temperature soars or dips. If the temperature is too high, close the bottom vents, leaving a tiny crack to let in oxygen to prevent the coals from dying.

Glazing

glazing ribs

If you are using BBQ sauce, you’ll want to brush the sauce at the end, and then let the ribs cook for another five minutes over direct heat to allow the sauce to glaze the ribs and give you a nice, crispy, meat side.

Final Step – Check if the Ribs are Done.

taking ribs off the grill

The Bend Test

Pick your BBQ ribs carefully using barbecue gloves or tongs. Bend the ribs gently. You should see cracks start to appear on the surface of the meat and between the bones. If the ribs start tearing away from each other, the ribs are ready. If only a few cracks form, give them a little more time.

What you Don’t Want

Fall-of-the-bone BBQ ribs. If your meat has detached from the bone, it has cooked past perfectly done. But this scenario is rare with hot and fast ribs. 

When the ribs are ready, place on a cutting board and wait for five minutes before serving. You can serve with a side of corn and beef stew or beef casserole.

Nutritional Facts

Per serving: 441 calories; protein 24.6g, fat 30g, carbohydrates 16.9g, cholesterol 17mg, sodium 581.8mg.

How do you cook ribs on a charcoal grill?

If you don’t have a smoker, you can have perfectly grilled BBQ ribs on the charcoal grill. The juiciest ribs are cooked low and slow. The low temperature breaks the collagen over a long time, allowing the meat to fall off the bone with ease.

Cook Ribs

In this method, all the hot coals go on one side of the grill. On the other side, place a foil pan filled with water. The water helps control the temperature, but it does not get hot enough to steam it.

Stabilize the indirect heat zone at 275 degrees F. You can still add wood chunks to add a smoked wood flavor to the ribs.

Cook the ribs with the lid closed for two hours, rotating the ribs every 30 minutes and adding charcoal as needed.

After two hours, wrap the ribs in foil and return to continue cooking for another 30 minutes.

When the ribs are done, brush with barbecue sauce and return for another five minutes before plating.

How long does it take to grill ribs on charcoal?

It can take anywhere from an hour to six hours to grill ribs on charcoal. We don’t recommend direct heat because all it does is toughens and dries out the meat.

If you have time, the 3-2-1 method is mostly recommended.

The 3-2-1 method is ideal for spare ribs since they have more fat than baby back ribs. It involves smoking the ribs for 3 hours, cooking them wrapped in foil for 2 hours, and 1-hour unwrapped. This method is foolproof for tender, juicy ribs every time.

For baby back ribs, the 2-2-1 method is ideal.

How long does it take to cook ribs on grill?

Whether grilling on a charcoal grill or a gas grill, as long as you use the indirect heat method and control your temperature, the grilling time is roughly the same. The big difference between a gas grill a charcoal grill is searing.

Charcoal grills sear ribs easily because they produce more direct infrared heat. Only a few expensive gas grills have special sear burners.

How do you speed up cooking ribs?

Except for the hot and fast method, you wrap the ribs tightly in aluminum foil and bake them for a few hours in the oven ahead of time. Then when it comes to grilling time, take the rack of ribs out of the foil and place them on the grill for basting to get a nice char.

Do not parboil ribs before cooking. Water diffuses the flavors, and you end up with flavor in the sauce and not in the meat itself.

What charcoal is best for grilling ribs fast?

I like using charcoal briquettes for grilling ribs. Briquettes burn longer and maintain consistent temperature easily. They are also easier to acquire and cheaper than lump charcoal. However, charcoal briquettes take longer to light and produce ash in large amounts.

For a more consistent burn that lasts long, Kingsford Original Briquettes are my favorite.

Conclusion

We trust that you now know how to grill ribs on charcoal fast. Hot and fast ribs are your way to fast dinner when grilling time is tight. You still get to enjoy nicely done, juicy ribs, only that you don’t have to wait seven hours for great results.

Go on and show your newly acquired grilling technique!