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The Ultimate Memphis Barbecue Recipe

Source: Canva

The Ultimate Memphis Barbecue Recipe

Memphis-style pork ribs. If you’ve ever visited Memphis, chances are that you’ve tried these, they’re a Memphis food classic. The majority of ribs across the US come in a wet style, smothered in syrupy unctuous barbecue sauce. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, they’re shards of heaven designed to make us happy.

That said, in my opinion, if you’re after a true gastronomic event, you have to try a dry-rubbed rib. The purity of the spiced rub gelling flawlessly with the natural juices from within the meat is a match like no other. The simplicity is a beautiful thing, and if you’re a sauce fan, there’s no reason to say that you can’t have some alongside it. 

Making The Memphis Rub

This will make for a classic Memphis Rub, many restaurants and pits in Memphis will use this as their base before further enhancing it with their own style. They might add a little more of a certain ingredient, remove some altogether or even add something a little unusual.

The Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup paprika

  • 1/4 cup garlic powder

  • 1/4 cup mild chili powder

  • 3 tbsp salt

  • 3 tbsp freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tbsp onion powder

  • 2 tbsp celery seeds

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

  • 1 tbsp dried oregano

  • 1 tbsp dried thyme

  • 1 tbsp cumin

  • 2 tsp dry mustard

  • 2 tsp ground coriander

  • 2 tsp ground allspice

The Process

The process couldn’t really be easier, simply gather all of the ingredients and mix them up until it’s completely combined. You’ll be left with an earthy brown rub with hints of golden yellow running throughout.

Once you’ve prepared it store it in an airtight jar. By using a jar that seals you’ll be able to store it for up to six months. 

Remember that people like varying levels of heat. You can start with a mild chili powder for the base rub and then add a hotter powder as required. Cayenne pepper is a perfect addition.

Source: Canva

Making Classic Memphis-Style Pork Ribs

Now our attention turns to the main event. For your first try use the rub that we’ve created above, you can’t go wrong with it. Then it’s time to experiment, eventually, you’ll curate your own blend of spices that forms your own secret rub recipe.

The preparation and cooking process really isn’t that complicated. Rub, cook low and slow, and serve. That might be oversimplifying it somewhat, but it’s the sum total of what you have to do. I will, of course, go into more detail.

The Ingredients

This recipe doesn’t really call for many ingredients, two actually. Rub and ribs. 

  • 2 Ribs: Aim for St Louis-cut ribs, if you can’t get hold of them spare rib racks will do just great!

  • The rub from the recipe above

You’ll also need a grill for best results but you could always use the broiler or even the oven. The grill, however, is going to serve the tastiest ribs. The addition of the smoke flavor is all part of the enjoyment.

If you do use a grill, cook with an indirect heat source. That means a slow-burning, low heat fire to the side and not directly under the ribs. Aim to cook slowly, 12-18 hours sort of slow, but if you’re pressed for time you could cook them in 3 hours.

Source: Canva

The Process

  1. First, we need to prepare the ribs. That means removing the membrane. You could always ask your butcher to do this for you. The membrane is a tough, thin layer of connective tissue that covers the bone side of the ribs. It is also known as silver skin. Leaving the membrane on can make the ribs tough and chewy by preventing the rub and smoke from penetrating the meat completely. 

To remove the membrane, first, loosen one end with a sharp knife, then grab it with a paper towel or clean cloth and pull it off in one piece. It will take some practice, but with a little perseverance, you will be able to easily remove the membrane and improve the tenderness and flavor of your ribs.

  1. Get rubbing. Smother the ribs in the rub. How much you use is basically down to what sticks. If you can’t get any more to stick then you’re done.


  1. Put the ribs onto the grill with a temperature between 200-220°F. Unlike many recipes, you don’t want to hear any searing or sizzling when you lay them down. If you do, remove them and reduce the heat. Close the lid and leave them alone for an hour.


  1.  For the next four hours turn and rotate. Don’t be tempted to add sauce. Aim to keep the temperature within the range.


  1. From the 4-hour point, you can begin to check to see if they’re cooked through. To check simply lift up the ribs and give them a slight shake. If the crust cracks and opens then they’ll likely be cooked. 

These are a thing of absolute beauty and once you’ve tried them once you’ll make them time and time again. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

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