How To Make Braised Spareribs


After making the Carolina style pulled pork, I decided to try the same technique on some spareribs. Did it work? Let me put it this 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 old-style ribs were a disappointment. Still tasty, but the fall-off-the-bone tenderness of this new method just can’t be beat.


Cider / onion sauce

4 pounds Vidalia onions
3-4 tablespoons bacon fat
2 tablespoons each kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper
(Not shown)
6 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cups brown sugar — plus ½ cup per rack of ribs


The sauce

This was supposed to be a big batch of grilled onions. They had 5-pound sacks of Vidalias on sale at the grocery store, so I thought I’d make a bunch and freeze them to use through the summer on steaks and sausages from the grill. That way when I cook out I don’t need to do a pan of onions inside on the stove and heat up the kitchen.

Well, it didn’t work out that way. I tried to go high-volume and do them all at once. So into the dutch oven went the bacon fat, until it was melted, then all the shredded onions.

Once they had cooked down enough that I could stir them without flinging hot veg all over the stove, I added the salt and pepper. (Which I did not measure.)

Instead of browning, like I wanted, the onions gave up so much liquid that I was almost making French onion soup. Which is good, but not what I was going for.

I didn’t have any beef broth, and wasn’t really in the mood for soup anyway. Then I remembered the three racks of ribs I had just bought so I could test my new knife.

Okay, change of plans. I’ll recreate the apple cider sweet onion sauce I made before. But a whole bunch of it this time.

In went the cider vinegar, which I processed with the immersion blender.

Then stir in the brown sugar.

The ribs

Now the ribs went into a large foil pan, with a generous coating of salt and pepper.

Then enough onion sauce to cover them.

Look at how much sauce is in there — just enough to coat the ribs and a tiny bit in the bottom of the pan. This is important in two more pictures.

Wrap tightly with foil, and put in a 250° F oven for 8 hours.

Seriously. Eight hours. I told you this was the pulled pork technique, didn’t I?

Uncover the pan and take a look at how much liquid is in there now.

Some of that is fat, but a whole lot more is water and melted connective tissue. That’s the stuff that makes pulled pork so lip-smacking good. It’s also why I’m using so much vinegar to cut through it, because otherwise it will feel like you’re sucking on a stick of butter. Moist is good. Greasy? Not so much.

So now that you’ve saved all that liquid instead of letting it drip into the coals and flare up, imparting smoky flavor, you need to get it back onto the ribs. I used a ladle but if you’ve got someone helping, you can just pour it out of the pan.

And you’ll be left with some sort-of-ugly ribs.

I knew this was going to be good, because bones were already falling out of the meat without me even touching them.

The sauce, part 2 — AKA the mop

After letting the liquid settle for a few minutes, I skimmed out the grease from the top, then added another cup of brown sugar.

Bring to a boil and let it start reducing.

Put the ribs under the broiler until the top just starts to bubble. (You can click on any of the pictures to see larger versions.)

Brush a little sauce on, and put back under the broiler until it’s bubbling again.

Return the sauce to the burner every time you put the ribs back under the broiler. And for God’s sake, don’t walk away. You can go from just-starting to bubbling-a-little to hey-why-is-the-smoke-detector-going-off in about 30 seconds once things are really going.

Do this several times, until you’re almost out of sauce, and the ribs are a deep brown.

Pull them out and admire your handiwork. Make your significant other come in and tell you how much they love you, and they’re lucky to have you.

The big finish

This is the part where you realize how amazing these are going to be. Don’t try to lift the slab from one end, like you normally do, or they’ll completely fall apart. Get two sets of tongs and reach as far under as you can.

Take a big knife and cut the slab into two- and three-bone sections.

Remember when I reviewed that knife, and I showed that bone you have to cut through?

This time it went through like there was no bone. I dug through the pieces of pork and found this.

That’s all that was left of the bone. And you could pull it apart with your fingers.

For comparison, here’s the back bones in that other rack I told you I did two days later. These were only cooked for 3 hours.

You’ve heard the phrase “falls off the bone”? With these, the bones fell out on their own.

I’m not kidding.

That’s some tender meat. And pretty, too.

And did I mention absolutely delicious? Yes, I think I did.

And that’s it.


  1. I noticed that you left out the following ingredients from the apple cider sweet onion sauce

    2 whole heads garlic
    2 teaspoons ground cardamom
    1 teaspoon cumin

    Was this intentional?

  2. Low and slow baby 😉

    I love ribs and these look amazing!! I like to cook mine similarly to this and then throw them on the grill real quick for that smokey grill char!! Yum!!

  3. Yes, I left out those ingredients on purpose. This time was about trying the new cooking technique. But you know what? We all liked the sauce better anyway.

    It could have done with a little more heat, so some crushed red pepper and/or mustard. But I know I like things hot, and if I cook for me the girls won’t like it.

  4. I have never been a really big rib eater…never made them.

    I am sitting here drooling. I am going to HAVE to try making these.

  5. Oh man, this looks so good. I’ve been working in Japan the last few weeks, and this recipe has made “meaty meaty ribs” skyrocket to the top of my “foods I can’t wait to eat when I get back to the States.

  6. Ok, I have never made ribs at home either, but I HAVE to try this, it looks incredible. What cut of ribs is this? I see a lot of different types of ribs available at the market.

  7. These are pork spareribs. The other kind you’re most likely to see are baby back ribs. They are a more even length from one end to the other, and don’t have that big bone at the large end to deal with. They’re more tender, too, so they don’t need this treatment as badly as the spareribs do.

  8. Allan Boyd says:

    Hey Drew,
    I cooked these yesterday…and on into last night, but since I didn’t have on hand all the ingredients you listed, I improvised with what I had on hand. Also, I have a new smoker that I wanted to take advantage of, so the first four hours of cooking was done absorbing a nice applewood smoke. Since I didn’t have any Vidalia onions on hand, I just used regular, yellow onions, but cooked them down until they were caramelized into a nice dark brown sweetness. Also didn’t have any apple cider vinegar on hand, so I substituted red wine vinegar and just a bit of Balsamic (but not too much, because this could easily become overpowering). Since I didn’t have quite enough enough brown sugar on hand, I added a bit of Hershey’s chocolate syrup to the final sauce mix. I also coated the ribs generously ahead of time with both Montreal Steak Seasoning and a generous amount of crushed red chili. The end results were amazing. They are some of the best ribs I’ve ever eaten. I brought some to a neighbor and they couldn’t stop eating. It’s kinda’ addicting. Later, I’ll try it again with a purer use of the ingredients you suggested. Thanks for the recipe and all your tips. :-)

    • Hershey’s? I would not have thought of that. I wish I could have tasted those.

      • Allan Boyd says:

        Yeah, there wasn’t so much chocolate that you would recognize it, especially after cooking down all of the other ingredients with it. But, there was just a little somthin-somthin about the sauce on these ribs that defies explanation, but made them addictive. Years ago, I saw another rib sauce recipe that called for chocolate syrup and always thought it would be interesting to try, but was never brave enough to risk ruining my ribs by trying it. This time, my lack of ingredients forced me to try it. It turned out to be outstanding. I have since given a few other friends a taste of these. They say they are the best ribs they’ve EVER tasted. 😛

  9. My family hates ribs…but I have convinced them to let me try this recipe since I LOVE ribs. Can’t wait to try these…they look incredible!

  10. The chocolate sauce is reminiscent of Mexican mole (mole-ay). I had a BBQ chicken mole down in Rosarito, Mexico a few years ago that was out of this world. So it makes sense. (A shout out about Allan: I turned him on to your website because I’ve known him experimenting with ribs and have had some of his amazing home made sauces for over 20 years, so this is no rib gringo cooking this stuff up.)

    • Ahh, that makes sense. For a complete cooking newbie to improvise like that and come up with something that works, that would take nearly a miracle.

  11. I’m testing out this recipe today (and will do the last part under the broiler tomorrow, before guests arrive). My husband is usually the rib cooker in our home (he smokes them), but that’s a big “event” because he has to check the smoker often and make sure it’s maintaining it’s temp. It can just be a big bother. I remembered coming across this recipe and he “approved it”. (FYI, that’s a big deal because he’s a true Cajun and we used to own a BBQ restaurant where he did all the smoking/cooking of the meat.)

    Hoping it turns out as great as everyone says!!! Can’t wait to taste test! I’ll let you know the reaction of our friends! (This is my first time cooking ribs as “ribs” and not pulled pork!)

  12. Okay, great … no pressure there, huh? :-/

  13. This made about twice as much onion sauce as I could use to coat the ribs. Any suggestions for the leftover?

  14. It’s great on pork loin in the slow cooker.

  15. If your ribs are falling off the bone, they are overcooked. There is a common misconception about this, most likely because restaurants started advertising this as meaning something other than they boil their ribs in huge batches for way too long.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by DrewKime, DrewKime. DrewKime said: New on HTCLYG: How To Make Braised Spareribs […]

  2. […] this week I mentioned the braised ribs and said I did another rack later. I’ve updated the ending with a picture of that other rack […]

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alex Jones, Maximus Nofunicus. Maximus Nofunicus said: added to @delicious How To Make Braised Spareribs | How To Cook Like Your Grandmother […]

Tip Jar

Like what you see? Buy me a drink.