Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baby Back Ribs

Baby Back Ribs

In my household both of my stepsons, Randy and Jacob, 20 and 16, will rarely if ever eat leftovers, unless the food is incredible. I cooked baby back ribs on Saturday, 3 racks – about 6 pounds, and they were gone the next day! I would have to say they were the best ribs I’ve had in a long time and we will be making them again without any real changes to the recipe. Well I might use our secret rub next time, though the rub we used was excellent.

Eating ribs brings back a lot of good memories for me, but the best were the times when I would go visit my sister and her husband in San Jose, back in the ’80s. I was in my teens, my brother-in-law Randy would BBQ the ribs and my sister would make real, fried in oil.. super yeah, French Fries… I just loved them.

I found the somewhat adapted recipe for the ribs in “How to Grill” by Steven Raichlen. If you like to grill and enjoy back back ribs, I would suggest you make them soon. I would also suggest picking up Mr. Raichlen’s books as there is a ton of good information and so far his recipes work! I know, I know, ribs seem complicated, indirect this, temperature control, adding that, spraying them, huh and what the heck is a rib rack. They are actually much easier than you think and your friends and family will be impressed.

I have been grilling lately with my gas Weber grill, but for this task I went with the Weber Kettle grill. I wanted to cook them on medium heat with wood chips and I wanted them to have some smoke… Gas misses the mark a bit on this one, but if you don’t have a charcoal grill handy, don’t let it stop you.

When shopping look for a package marked either “Baby Back Ribs” or “Lion Ribs” or “Back Ribs”. The meat between the ribs are called “finger meat”. These ribs are cut from higher up on the hog near the backbone where the chops and tenderloin come from which means more tender! Each package should weigh approximately 2 pounds. Below I will list the recipe for the rub and the ribs. It is hard to explain how to prep the ribs so take a look at the YouTube video from Weber that does a great job.

Baby Back Ribs


  • 4 racks of ribs (about 6 – 8 pounds)
  • 3 cups of wood chips, hickory – Soak 1 hour in apple cider, then drain
  • 6 cups of apple cider, plus additional for spraying the ribs
  • 2 whole lemons, halved
  • 2/3 cup of Basic Barbecue Rub (see recipe below)
  • 3 cups of BBQ sauce (make your own or use a commercial brand)

Place the ribs in a large nonreactive roasting pan. Pour the cider over the ribs. Squeeze the juice from the lemons over the ribs. Turn the ribs over a few times to coat with marinade. If desired let the ribs marinate in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours, turning several times. I didn’t have time to marinate them for long, so feel free to skip or reduce the time to 10 – 15 minutes. I did, and the results were still amazing.

Drain the ribs, blot them dry with paper towels. Liberally cover both sides of the ribs with the rub, pushing it into the meat. Let the ribs sit in the fridge again for 1 to 2 hours. Oh, yeehaw, I didn’t have time for this either. My dad was patiently waiting for dinner already… I didn’t want to push it. I did let them sit on the counter for a half hour while I got the grill going.

Meanwhile set up your grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. You want the temp in the grill to be 350 degrees. I lit one charcoal starter full, about 40 – 50 briquettes for a large Weber. Once the coals are ready, ashed over, you will place half on each side leaving the middle empty where you can place a drip pan, which can be an aluminum half pan. Hmmm… how do I ever get things to work? I didn’t use a drip pan and didn’t have any problems with flare ups as I had no coals under the meat.

If using a gas grill it should be easy to get the temp to 350. You will most likely leave the back burner on high and turn the others off. You will want to make a smoke pouch. You can do this by placing your soaked chips on a sheet of heavy aluminum foil, cover the chips with the foil, making an enclosed pouch. Then poke holes in the top so the smoke can escape.

I used an oven thermometer, placed through the vent hole, to track the temperature in the grill, again shooting for 350. You can adjust the temperature by opening and closing the vents on the top and bottom of the grill. If you see the temperature on the grill going above 350 you can close the vents halfway on the top. If you have the top fully open and the temp starts to fall to below 300 then add another 10 more unlit coals, see below.

When ready to go, toss 1 cup of wood chips on the coals or if using gas, put your smoke pack on top of one of the burners that is producing heat. Cover the grill and cook the ribs for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Spray the ribs with apple cider every 30 minutes until done. After about an hour add 7 more fresh coals and 1/2 cup of wood chips per side.

Lightly brush the ribs with 1 cup of BBQ sauce 20 minutes before the ribs are done. When the ribs are fully cooked the meat will have shrunk back from the bones 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch and the meat will be tender enough to tear apart with you fingers. Be careful not to overcook.

Transfer the ribs to a platter, let rest for a few minutes, cut as desired and serve with BBQ sauce.

Basic Barbecue Rub


  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 3 tablespoons of black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons of onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons of celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Combine with your hands. If you want more spice substitute the sweet paprika with hot paprika!

Notes: I used a rib rack that I purchased at Williams Sonoma so I could fit more ribs on the grill at one time. If you don’t have a rack I would invest in one. They are everywhere! You can pick them up online for anywhere from $16 to $40. The temperature of my grill was a fairly consistent 350 to 370 and it took exactly 1.5 hours to finish the ribs. The rub was also from “How to Grill” by Steven Raichlen. I may share the rub we use at the restaurant in the future, but I might have to fire myself if I do. Still thinking about it!

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