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.
Recipe: BBQ Baby Back Ribs with Homemade Barbecue Sauce
Serves 4 to 8, depending on how many ribs you can eat
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Transfer the ribs to a cutting board and cut between the bones. Serve right away, passing the remaining BBQ sauce on the side.