Pork ribs by Kent the Deck Chef Whitaker

Memorial Day Weekend Racing Pork Ribs

Memorial Day weekend has become the official start of summer for many people. The United States version is a National holiday with roots dating back to the earliest battles during the American Revolution. Locals honored the fallen in their communities wit decorating grave sites. Not dissimilar to the act of placing flowers on gravesites today.

Ove the years the practice grew but towns, cities, and states chose different dates to designate as a day of remembrance. In 1868, the holiday officially became known as Remembrance Day which was celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery and was attended by Union and Confederate veterans of the Civil War.

Today, while we still hope people take time to remember why we have a day off from work, the three-day weekend is packed with racing, swimming, and grilling. On the Sunday before Memorial Day, the day starts with the F1 race in Monaco, that’s followed by the Indy 500, and that evening the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 takes place. In fact, racing is where this recipe comes from!

Race Day Smoke

Serving Pork at the Track

Cooking at the Speedway with the Pork Board Crew.

Several years ago when I was working on my tailgating cookbook, Checkered Flag Cooking, I was often at a track as a guest of the National Pork Board or one of local ARCA teams where I did some volunteer work. The National Pork Board was sponsoring seven-time ARCA Racing Series Champion Frank Kimmel.

I assist the Pork Board folk in handing out free smoked pulled pork sandwiches to people in the garage area. They included members from teams, drivers, track workers, ARCA, and NASCAR officials, fans, and of course the Kimmel crew because the smoker was set up in front of their Hauler.

Here’s where this story turns into my favorite time-saving recipe for grilling pork ribs. It works on any grill, is packed with flavor, and is easy! Some may call it cheating… I call it tasty! Anyway, here’s the recipe that was shared with me by a representative of the brand of smokers they used and a few of the Pork Board Grilling gurus.

ARCA Racing Pork Board Pork Ribs


I officially rolled out my version of the recipe a few weeks late on a Memorial Day weekend event when I was giving a grilling demo. It’s been my go-to rib recipe for every Memorial Day weekend since 2004. Check it out, then add your twist to make it your own. Adjust the ingredients to the number of racks you are preparing. I use 4 racks for my crew and a large grill or offset smoker. But the method works on all covered grills where you can also include wood chips.

Note: I like to season and prep my ribs the day before grilling or smoking them.

  • 4 racks pork ribs
  • Splash of beer or olive oil or your favorite marinade or even liquid smoke.
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • Hickory chips or chunks

Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. Place ribs in a heavy-duty foil pan and drizzle with something… beer, fruit juice, olive oil, your favorite marinade, or even a few dashes of liquid smoke. Cover and chill for about 30 minutes.

While the ribs are chilling, combine the remaining rub ingredients in a bowl, double if needed. Next, remove the ribs from the fridge and rub evenly. Cover the pan tightly with plastic cling wrap and marinate in the refrigerator overnight if possible.

At least 1 hour before grilling, soak wood chips in enough water to cover. Drain before using. In a charcoal grill with a cover, spread preheated coals around a drip pan for medium indirect heat. Add 1/2-inch hot water to drip pan. Sometimes I toss in some beer, or Apple or Orange juice for bonus flavor.

Sprinkle half of the drained wood chips over the coals or use a chip holder. Place ribs, bone side down, on the grate DIRECTLY over the hot coals! Quickly grill both sides over the higher heat to add some golden color and some grill marks. Now, move the ribs to a cooler zone. On my smoker that’s the top rack with the vents closed. For smaller grills, over the drip pan away from the direct heat. Grill covered for thirty to 45 minutes, check and rotate as needed, baste, and close the lid for another 30 to 45 minutes. Maintain a grilling temp of around 250 degrees.

Finally, take each rib, baste, and tightly wrap in a few layers of foil. Increase the temperature of the grill to 300 to 325 degrees. I keep my wrapped ribs on the top rack of the smoker. Close the lid, grill for 20-30 minutes, check and rotate, close and grill an additional 20-30 minutes, repeat as needed until you notice the juice dripping at a more rapid pace from the foil. Check to see if the meat has pulled back slightly from the bone.

When done, keep wrapped in foil and allow to rest for about 30 minutes. Serve as racks, half racks, or sliced double bone portions.

It’s Not Hard – Trust me!

I know that was a lot of info but here’s the recipe edited down to the quick notes version. Prep, season overnight, grill and flip, grill and flip, reduce the temp, grill and flip, etc, wrap in foil, grill and flip until juice drips faster rest, and then eat with family and friends on Memorial Day. Enjoy your day off but please remember those who gave everything so that we can have some time off. Oh, and I’m adding this picture because, we’re talking about grilling ribs and racing, plus it’s AWESOME, and Bobby Dale Earnhardt is a great dude!

The Deck Chef Logo getting ready to ride with Bobby Earnhardt

The Deck Chef Logo getting ready to ride with Bobby Earnhardt

Author Bio: Kent Whitaker, also known as “The Deck Chef,” is an award-winning culinary writer and cookbook author. He’s also penned Young Reader, NASCAR and History titles. The former winner of the Emeril Live Food Network Barbecue Contest also covers football, motorsports, and bass fishing. Kent currently lives in East Tennessee with his wife, son, and a couple of dogs that love when he fires up the smoker or grill. You can reach out to Kent at www.thedeckchef.com, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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