Mouth Watering Memphis Style Pork Ribs Recipe

By Chris Johns •  Updated: 07/10/24 •  4 min read

Memphis Style Pork Ribs
The Memphis Style pork rib is one of the most popular and mouth watering styles of rib preparation. One of the reasons for the popularity with the Memphis Style rib is its unique blend of barbecue tradition and flavorful seasonings.

The only sauce applied to Memphis Style ribs is mop sauce used for basting during the cooking process. Barbecue sauce is never used during the cooking process but rather served on the side with the ribs at the table. Because a barbecue sauce is not used, the mop sauce is an important component in keeping the meat moist. A Memphis Style barbecue sauce will be a tomato and vinegar-based sauce that may also contain mustard. With this style, the quality of the meat is much more important than any sauce. The idea is to feature the meat rather than covering it up with a sauce. While some people can’t wait to dip the ribs in their favorite barbecue sauce, others enjoy the pure flavor of just the meat and rub seasoning.

Memphis-style ribs are traditionally smoked and not grilled, baked, or broiled. White oak and hickory are the traditional woods used however many other kinds of wood are now used. Other woods used include apple and cherry.

While the quality of the meat is extra important in the Memphis Style, choosing which cut is up to the individual and the occasion. The most popular pork rib is the St. Louis Style Rib which comes from the pig’s rib section. The back rib, also known as the Baby Back Rib comes from the loin portion or back and is also quite popular. The St. Louis Style Rib is typically easier to work with and has more meat making it a favorite for the hardy eater.

However you decide to cook them, low heat and slow cooking will give you the best rib.

Happy grilling!

Memphis Style Pork Ribs

Mouth Watering Memphis Style Pork Ribs Recipe

The Memphis Style pork rib is one of the most popular styles of rib preparation. It has a blend of barbecue tradition and flavorful seasonings.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 5 hours


For the mop sauce

  • 1 ½ cups cider vinegar
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 tbsp hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • ¾ cup BBQ Rub, recipe follows

For the rub

  • ¼ cup paprika
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp celery salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper


Preparing the ribs

  • Wash the ribs and blot dry with paper towel.
  • Place the ribs meat-side up.
  • Cut the line of fat on the base of the ribs to remove the cartilaginous rib tips.
  • Flip the meat over and cut off the flap of meat on the inside of the ribs. This is not essentially but will help prevent them from burning.
  • Remove the membrane on the back of each rack of ribs. You can use your fingers to pull it off but sometimes it's easier to use a paper towel or a dishtowel to get a secure grip.
  • Combine the ingredients for the rub and mix well. Liberally rub the ribs on both sides with the mixture.
  • Wrap each rib in plastic wrap then aluminum foil and let marinate for at least 4 hours, but over night is best.

Preparing the smoker

  • Presoak your wood chips in water for roughly an hour.
  • Place a drip pan in the center of your smoker with plenty of water.
  • A charcoal chimney is best to get your coals started. Once you have hot coals spread them out and put a health amount of your chips down.

Smoking the ribs

  • Place aluminum foil on the rack before placing the ribs down and another loose piece on top of the ribs.
  • Place the ribs on the smoker over the drip pan and cover the smoker.
  • Start basting with the mop sauce after 30 minutes, basting every 20-30 minutes. You will need to replenish the coals and wood chips form time to time as needed.
  • The ribs are done when the meat is very tender and it has shrunk back from the ends of the bones. At temperatures ranging from 200-250 your ribs should take roughly 4-5 hours however every smoker is different.


Cut each slab between the rib bones and serve with your favorite barbecue sauce on the side.

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Chris Johns

Chris Johns is the founder of Rock's Barbecue® and has been an avid barbecue fan for over 20 years. His mission is to make grilling and smoking the best food possible easy for everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people with grilling, smoking, and barbecue recipe recommendations.