Memphis Mop

Memphis mop recipe

 The Spruce

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Serving: 1 to 3 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
43 Calories
0g Fat
4g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1 to 3
Amount per serving
Calories 43
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 6090mg 265%
Total Carbohydrate 4g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 1mg 7%
Calcium 71mg 5%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 172mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

While Memphis ribs are typically (not always) done without a sauce, they do get some moisture, tenderization, and flavor from a good mop. Mops are applied during the smoking process to prevent meats from drying out and to create a layering of flavor that is vital to great barbecue.

Memphis mops, like most barbecue mops, are made with vinegar and some seasoning. Vinegar is used as the mop base when you want to tenderize the meat, as you do when smoking ribs. The seasonings match the rib rub.

The tool you use to apply a mop sauce looks like a miniature kitchen mop. The cotton fibers of the little mop head hold just enough of the liquid mop to apply it to the meat. You don't want to disturb the spice rub on the meat, and having the same spices in the mop sauce ensures you are adding some back. Another option is to use a spray bottle, which is far less likely to disturb your spice rub. This works best if your spices are all well-ground so they don't clog the sprayer. You can process your spice rub in a clean coffee grinder to get them well-pulverized.


  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/4 cup Memphis rub

  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Memphis mop
     The Spruce
  2. Combine all ingredients—apple cider vinegar, water, Memphis rub, and barbecue sauce (if using)—in a large jar and shake to combine. This mop will settle, so shake it each time before using.

    Memphis mop ingredients combined in a jar
     The Spruce
  3. Store this mop an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 months.

How to Use This Memphis Mop

To use the mop on ribs, apply it to the ribs every 30 minutes to an hour while they smoke. You don't want to disturb your ribs too much or let heat and smoke escape by opening your smoker too often. Keep in mind that using a mop comes from grilling rather than smoking, especially with open-pit barbecue where the heat is harder to control. At higher temperatures, the mop helps keep the meat moist. At the lower temperatures of smoking, you are helping tenderize the ribs as well as layering more flavor.


  • Apply mop to meat during the smoking process.
  • If you are using a little cotton mop, it's best to place some of the mop sauce in a separate dish to use each time. This prevents transferring bacteria to the main container of mop sauce. Using a spray bottle prevents this problem.
  • The Memphis rub used to season the mop typically has over a dozen ingredients, with the heart of it being paprika. This spice gives the ribs a rich, red color without adding a tomato-based barbecue sauce. While the rub is generously added to the meat before it hits the heat, some of the rub is added to the mop to continue to layer the same flavors. The other seasonings in the rub include garlic powder, onion powder, mild chili powder, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, cumin, coriander, allspice, and celery seed. This gives the complex flavor typical of the Memphis-style.

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