How To Make Barbecue Pork Spareribs

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I’ve tried lots of different marinades for my ribs, thinking I would get some great flavor into the meat before even cooking it. But with ribs it’s all about the sauce. So now I go with a simple preparation to get the tenderest meat, and then finish with a good sauce either under the broiler or on the grill.

For this batch I’m using the apple cider sweet onion sauce from yesterday’s post. I’ve heard from a friend that I re-discovered North Carolina BBQ sauce. I went looking and I can’t find any of them that are mostly onion, as mine was. If anyone knows of an onion-based sauce, tell me about it in the comments below, I’m really interested.

In any case, today isn’t about the sauce, it’s about the technique. This will get you great ribs with a great finish every time. And in my experience any sauce cooked well is going to beat any sauce cooked badly.

Ingredients


1 rack pork spareribs
salt and pepper
1 cup your favorite barbecue sauce

Directions

Unlike baby back ribs, spareribs will not be all the same length when you get them. They’re less expensive and taste just as good, but they do take a little more prep work before you cook them. If you really want to do it yourself, here’s a great tutorial on trimming spareribs. If you have a good butcher, which I do, you can ask him to trim it for you.

I didn’t trim the skirt meat from the bone side. The extra pieces that look like skirt meat above are actually a couple of “western style” pork ribs. Basically they’re pork chops cut in half. I got two of the boneless side for the girls. They like ribs, but they don’t like eating off the bone (yet), and I hate trying to handle a knife while I’m eating ribs.

It’s very difficult to do ribs on the grill unless you have a really good grill, or even better, a smoker. So the first step will be braising the ribs low and slow in the oven. Line a cooking sheet with a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil — the extra-wide kind — that is about six inches longer than the slab. Give the top of the ribs a generous coating of salt and fresh ground black pepper.

You can add whatever dry rub you prefer at this point, but as I said above, for me it’s all about the sauce. Put the seasoned ribs upside-down in the center of the foil.

Don’t crowd or stack the meat. Every piece should be on the bottom of a pack so it will braise in the liquid that comes out of the meat.

Fold both sides of the foil up and pinch them together above the ribs. Roll the ends down tight against the bone side.

Roll the ends up and pinch tight so that steam won’t escape from the package.

Make sure one end is tight, but the end is still exposed so you can open it up later.

Make sure the package is well sealed and somewhat tight, but not squeezed tight all the way around. The idea with braising is to cook the ribs about halfway submerged in liquid. As long as the foil is tight, the ribs will give up enough liquid that you won’t need to add more.

Put the pan in the oven at 200° for a half-hour. By that time there will be enough liquid for the braising, and you can turn the temperature down to 160° and leave it there for at least two hours. Four or six would be better. The longer you can go, the more tender the ribs will be.

About a half-hour before you want to eat, take the pan out and open up one end of the foil. Aim the opening away from your face when you open it. (Steam. Lots of it.)

The liquid in the bottom will be about half collagen, which we will add to the barbecue sauce to make a glaze. Pour the liquid into a small pan …

… and add the barbecue sauce.

Stir well and put over medium heat to start warming and reducing the glaze. Turn on the grill to start warming up while the sauce reduces.

When the grill is nice and hot, open up the foil.

You’ll notice that the ribs are completely white and don’t look at all appetizing. That’s OK, we’ll fix that right up.

Carefully — remember, this has been in the oven for several hours — place the ribs on the grill.

Add whatever other cuts you have around the ribs.

If your grill has a side burner, put on the pot with the glaze. If you don’t have a burner, try to make room on the grill to put the pot or pan.

Turn the ribs over the first time as soon as you start seeing it form a crust, then brush a coat of the glaze onto the ribs.

Keep turning the ribs over every two minutes or so, adding another coat of the glaze after each turn. Keep going like this until you’ve used up all the glaze on the top …

and bottom.

You’re done when there’s no more sauce, and the last bit added is cooked on but not burned.

Bring the finished ribs inside and call everyone together to “Oooh” and “Aaah” over your magnificent rack.

Cut the ribs into two- or three-rib sections.

Serve with old-fashioned macaroni salad.

And that’s it.


Cleanup

You may remember back near the beginning of the macaroni salad recipe where I said that the ribs were going to take a lot of attention and you might want to stick with the store-bought mayonnaise. Well … normally I clean as I go, and by the time the food hits the table the only thing left to clean is the serving dish. With this meal, I had everything finishing up all at the same time. I was a little behind on the cleaning.

Comments

  1. That looks excellent. I have never made ribs before but your pictures make me want to try.

  2. Ribs is one of those foods I keep putting off. I have to put my cook hat on and tackle the pork. and I will do it following this recipe. Thanks for the pictures they are really a very good way to show what to do and how to do it.

  3. Thanks, Andy, that’s exactly what I like to hear. :-)

    Ben, if you’re taking requests, why don’t you do a mango based sauce? I suspect it would be great, but I don’t want to do ribs again right away.

  4. さくら says:

    It became reference very much!!!
    Moreover, it comes.

    Please link to this site

  5. Antonella says:

    Thank u for the photos and clear directions. It looks nice and simple. I live in an apartment and would like to know if I could substitute a cast iron pan for the grill?

    Thank you,

    Antonella

  6. Antonella, you just gave me a great idea for a post next week. You can do these inside and they’re nearly as good. So them under the broiler in your stove.

    The process is the same as doing it on the grill: Put on a coating of sauce, broil until it is caramelized, flip it over and do the other side. Keep going until you’ve got a nice dark crust or you run out of sauce, whichever comes first.

  7. My grandma made the best pork spareribs (not barbecue, though yours sure do look good :)

    She would cut and trim the ribs, then coat them in flour and season with salt and pepper. Brown them in oil, in a skillet on the stove. Place them in a single layer, in a 9×13 baking dish on top of saurkraut that has been sprinkled with sugar. She would cover the dish with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Then remove the foil and bake for 20 minutes more to brown the ribs.

    Thankfully she showed me how to do it before she passed, and it is my husband’s absolute favorite meal.

    I recently found you blog, and I’m loving it!

  8. Jen, I told my wife about your grandmother’s recipe. She said her grandmother used to make them the exact same way.

  9. jacqueline says:

    I just made this for dinner tonight and they were excellent. I love the way the BBQ sauce carmelized as I was grilling the ribs…Great recipe! Thanks for a wonderful dinner this evening!!
    Jacqueline

  10. Jacqueline, glad to hear you liked it. But every time someone comments here I start craving ribs again.

  11. Like the recipe. I am currently trying it. Did a rub of salt/pepper/garlic powder/paprica/parsley. I usually cook the ribs in foil with the barbecue sauce but this time I will follow yours. I like the glaze idea. I am a big fan of using stock to inhance flavor. Hope it comes out great..

    Mike

  12. I'm in the middle of a downpour now, and it's supposed to keep raining right through Friday. Maybe I'll do ribs for the 4th. Hmm, that's a really good idea, actually.

  13. But what about those of us who don’t have a grill? Can this be done in the oven or broiler. Yards are hard to come by in Brooklyn, NY :)

  14. Susan, I do these under the broiler all the time. Keep a very close eye on it, as flare-ups are a much bigger deal inside than on a grill.

  15. Thanks for the wonderful recipe! I’m definitely going to give it a shot. I don’t have a grill so I’ll have to use the stove broiler. Looks fantastic!

  16. shirley oneill says:

    I live in a condo and have no access to a grill. I parboil my ribs in some seasoned water until tender. Then I cover them in barbecue sauce and when fully marinated, I put them in the oven to finish. My question is regardless of where I buy my ribs, usually baby back ribs, there is a smell when cooking them, that I don’t like. Is there a way to elimate that smell? Shirley

    • shirley oneill says:

      Pls respond to my question about ribs. I get a not nice smell when I cook them. How can I ellminate that?

      • Tim Violette says:

        I had this problem with an unpleasant smell as well. The ribs however tasted fantastic. An ex-wife told me what was happening. The steam from the slow cooking in the oven was mixing with residual cleaning agent on the inside of my oven. The unpleasant smell was the oven cleaner that I had used. Thoroughly cleaning my oven again and rinsing really well eliminated the smells.

      • Tim, thanks for the tip. I never would have thought of that.

    • Shirley, I’m not sure how to answer this one. Smell and taste are very closely related, so the smell when cooking is usually similar to the taste. I’m not sure what you’d be smelling that you don’t like, if you like the taste when they’re done.

  17. Thanks Drew! I did everything like you said and the ribs were excellent!!! Thank for the easy recipe!!

  18. Hello, I am not a very good cook. My husband is a chef and I wanted to make the spare ribs. I saw how you make them but my question is, Can you please tell me how much salt, pepper, and how in steps do I make them in the oven and not on a grill? Please help me I really want to show him I can do this. Please let me know. thank you..

    Sincerely,
    Crystal

Trackbacks

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  2. […] Braising is cooking the meat mostly submerged in liquid. The easiest way to do this with the minimum liquid — which keeps the flavor concentrated — is to wrap the meat somewhat tightly in foil. This is the same process I used for my pork spareribs. […]

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  5. […] way: I did two slabs with the long, slow braising, then two days later did another slab with my normal technique. Bad idea.Normally the whole family loves my ribs. After doing them the new way? The […]

  6. […] Braising is cooking the meat mostly submerged in liquid. The easiest way to do this with the minimum liquid — which keeps the flavor concentrated — is to wrap the meat somewhat tightly in foil. This is the same process I used for my pork spareribs. […]

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