Being a Texan transplant, I am a serious lover of real barbecue. It’s just in your blood when you are from the Southern part of the US. And when I say “real barbecue,” I mean dusty backroads Texas, straight-from-the-smoky-pit kind of barbecue. Blackened spice-crusted brisket with plenty of fat that melts in your mouth. Spicy sausages that pop juice when you bite into them. And slow-smoked pork ribs that make you just want to sit back and chew on bones for a good long time.

But I also know that the commitment to true barbecue is far too much for most people. Beyond even having the equipment and know-how, there are the hours of slowly stoking the fire in a smoker to keep it low and slow. But if you have an oven and a charcoal grill, you can make some damn fine ribs.

Start with a spicy rub, it imbues the meat with a lot of flavor. Let the ribs sit in the rub overnight ideally, before you start cooking. A 2-hour stint in the oven, well-wrapped in foil, is all you need to make the meat incredibly tender. But the key is to pop the baked ribs over a hot charcoal fire to crisp up the outside and lend plenty of smoky flavor. Baste them with barbecue sauce while they are over the fire to caramelize it and add another layer of yumminess to the ribs; or leave it off if you like.

I included my homemade barbecue sauce as part of this recipe because I find most prepared sauces you get in the grocery store are overly sweet and fake-smoky. This one has a nice balance of vinegary-sweet with a bit of heat. And the best part is that you can personalize it according to your tastes.

Serve these bad boys with a big bowl of coleslaw and some barbecue baked beans and you’ve got yourself a memorable party.

Baby Back Ribs on the Grill.
Baby Back Ribs on the Grill. (Wendy Goodfriend)

Recipe: BBQ Baby Back Ribs with Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Serves 4 to 8, depending on how many ribs you can eat


    Barbecue sauce

  • ½ yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 cup beef or chicken stock
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup Worchestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Hot pepper sauce to taste
    Rib rub

  • 3 tbsp kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 racks baby back pork ribs (about 5 or 6 lbs), silver skin membrane removed and racks halved crosswise

  1. To make the BBQ sauce: in a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion in the oil until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, stir well, and bring to a slow simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Taste as you go and adjust the soy sauce, sugar, hot sauce, and vinegar as needed. Let cool completely, then refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week. It will make 2 cups BBQ sauce.
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  3. To prepare the ribs: Preheat the oven to 325F. In a bowl, stir together all of the ingredients for the rub. Coat the racks all over with the rib rub. Wrap each rack in foil, place on a rimmed baking sheet, then cover the baking sheet with foil. (If you like, at this point, refrigerate the ribs overnight. Let come to room temperature for 1 hour before baking.) Bake for 2 hours, or until very tender.
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  5. About 30 minutes before the ribs are finished, prepare a charcoal or gas grill for medium-high heat. Clean and oil the racks. Remove the ribs from the foil, place the racks on the grill, and brush them with some of the sauce. Cover the grill and cook for 5 minutes. Flip and brush the ribs and cook another 5 minutes. Repeat again, grilling and turning the ribs until the meat is crisp and caramelized with sauce.
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  7. Transfer the ribs to a cutting board and cut between the bones. Serve right away, passing the remaining BBQ sauce on the side.
  8. Transfer the ribs to a cutting board and cut between the bones. Serve right away.
    Transfer the ribs to a cutting board and cut between the bones. Serve right away. (Wendy Goodfriend)
  • Thank you Kim and Wendy– great recipe! I made it with “country style” ribs– thick strips of bone-in pork shoulder– and it came out truly fabulous, with plenty of extra sauce. Now I’ll do it again for Memorial Day and add spoon bread on the side.


Kim Laidlaw

Kim Laidlaw is a cookbook author, editor, food writer, producer, project manager, and baker who has been in the kitchen covered in flour since she was big enough to stir the biscuit dough. She has over 16 years of experience in book and online publishing, and a lifetime of experience in the kitchen.

Her first cookbook, Home Baked Comfort, was published in 2011; her second cookbook, Baby & Toddler On the Go, was published in April 2013; and her third cookbook, Williams-Sonoma Dessert of the Day, was published in October 2013.

She was the first blogger on KQED’s Bay Area Bites blog, which launched in 2005, and previously worked as a professional baker at La Farine French Bakery in Oakland, CA. She lives in Petaluma with her husband and their child, whom she cooks for everyday. Find out more at


Wendy Goodfriend

I am the Senior Interactive Producer for KQED Food. I have designed and produced food-related websites and blogs for KQED including Bay Area Bites; Check, Please! Bay Area;  Taste This; Jacques Pepin's websites; Weir Cooking in the City and KQED Food. When I am not creating and managing food websites I am taking photos and video of Bay Area Life and designing online navigation systems. My professional education and training includes: clinical psychology, photography, commercial cooking, web design, information architecture and UX. You can find me engaged in social media on Twitter @bayareabites and on Facebook at Bay Area Bites. I can also be found photoblogging at look2remember.

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