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Grill Smoked Pork Western Ribs

Pork “western ribs” aren’t really ribs; they’re pork shoulder cut into thick, rib-like strips. The advantage? They’re almost entirely meat, and cheaper than real ribs.
If you like riblets – oh, how my kids like riblets – this is the cut of meat for you.

This is easy barbecue. That’s an oxymoron, right? Barbecue is supposed to take time and effort.
Or at least time. The effort? Tending the fire once an hour while drinking beer.

I’m breaking all the rules in this recipe: I smoke on a gas grill, using wood chips, wrapping the ribs in foil for the last hour. (The wet heat tenderizes the ribs by melting the collagen in the tough shoulder cut.)

Of course, You should do this in a charcoal grill, using wood chunks, and add an extra hour to avoid using the foil.
Barbecue traditionalists would recommend an offset smoker, using nothing but logs burned down to coals. And foil? I’d be run out of Dodge City for that one.

My excuse? Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do…when he needs barbecue, and it’s a busy Sunday. Not every meal is about the pursuit of perfection, y’know?

Recipe: Grill Smoked Pork Western Ribs

Cooking time: 4 hours



  • 2 cups wood chips – hickory are traditional; I used oak from a wine barrel
  • 3 pounds western pork ribs (pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch thick strips)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon barbecue rub (My recipe here or substitute your favorite rub)
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce(My recipe here or substitute your favorite sauce)


1. Soak the wood
One hour before cooking, submerge the smoking wood chips in water.

2. Preheat the grill
Preheat the grill, and set it up for indirect medium-low heat (300°F). On my Weber Summit, I preheat the grill with all burners set to high for 15 minutes, brush the grill grate clean, then I turn burner #4 down to medium, turn all the other burners off, and turn on my smoker burner. (If I didn’t have the smoker burner, I’d leave another burner on medium.)

3. Season the ribs
While the grill is heating, sprinkle the ribs evenly with the salt and the barbecue rub. (If your barbecue rub already has salt in it, skip the salt. My rub is salt free.) Drain the wood chips. If you don’t have a smoker box on your grill, wrap the chips in an envelope of aluminum foil and poke a few holes in it for the smoke to escape.

On the grill
…after 3 hours

4. Cook the ribs
Put the wood chips in the smoker box (or put the foil envelope under the grill grate, directly on the burner cover over a lit burner.) Put the ribs on the grill over indirect heat – not directly over one of the lit burners. Close the lid and cook on medium-low (300°F) for 3 hours. After three hours, brush the ribs with the barbecue sauce, wrap them in aluminum foil, and seal the foil. Put them back over indirect heat, close the lid, and cook for another hour.

Sauced, ready to wrap
Wrapped in foil

5. Serve the ribs
Remove the foil pack of ribs to a carving board. Let them rest for fifteen minutes, or up to an hour. Open the foil and remove the ribs to a platter. Carefully pour the liquid from the foil into a bowl and whisk in the rest of the barbecue sauce. Brush the ribs with this sauce, then serve, passing the rest of the sauce at the table.


  • If your store doesn’t sell pork western ribs, ask them to cut a pork shoulder roast (preferably a Boston butt roast) into 1 1/2 to 2 inch thick strips.
  • These are not country ribs! Country ribs are cut from the end of the pork loin, and cook like pork chops, not pork shoulder. If you really want to substitute them, cook the country ribs for an hour, then wrap them in foil and cook for another half hour to hour. They won’t come out as tender as pork shoulder, but they’ll still be good.
  • If you do want to do these ribs up right, use a charcoal grill with two fist sized lumps of smoking wood. Set the grill up for indirect low heat – use a half chimney of charcoal, poured on one side of the grill, with a drip pan on the other side. Put the wood chunks on the charcoal, put on the grill grate, and put the ribs over the drip pan. Follow the rest of the recipe, adding 16 fresh coals every hour to keep the fire going. (See the Grilled Chinese BBQ Boneless Ribs recipe, in the related posts section, for more details)

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:

Homemade Barbecue RubEasy Barbecue SauceGrilled Chinese BBQ Boneless Ribs

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Filed under: Grilling


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.

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