If you want to go with sand, 'play' sand is the ticket. Personally, I prefer water; I find it easy and do not have an issue with clean-up. There are many who have switched to sand exclusively and really like it. It's a personal preference though, should you decide to try it, know that, since sand does not have the 212 limit, temperature control is different. You have to be a bit more vigilant at the outset of a cook but there's nothing difficult about it--the parameters are different, that's all.
Kloset is, of course, correct: You need one or the other in a pan for low-and-slow Q, so nothing in the pan is not suitable for ribs.
For high-heat grill-roasting (with or without the addition of smokewood) such as you might want to do for chicken, turkey, or other fowl for a crisp-skin finish, or for lean meats you prefer to cook at a high temp to a lesser degree of doneness (rib roasts, e.g.), you can get temps of 300+ with nothing in the pan, 400+ with no pan at all. I do beef and pork rib roasts at 300+ and chicken at 400+.