Until now I had never made ribs at home. I have definitely eaten plenty of them: beef ribs, pork ribs, baby back ribs, short ribs. I’m a big fan, but I always shied away from tackling them at home because of the time commitment. I finally decided that this past Labor Day weekend seemed like as good a time as any to give them a try. I planned ahead and spread the process out over a few days, and it was totally worth the wait.
There are so many different ways to go when it comes to cooking up some racks of pork: dry rubbing, smoking, mopping with vinegar sauce, low and slow in the oven, low and slow on a grill. If you’ve ever watched one of those Barbecue Challenge shows on television (don’t lie – you know you’ve been sucked in), then you’re probably familiar with the various methods. Traditionally, Memphis-style ribs are smoked dry, and if any sauce is used it’s usually served on the side. Kansas City Ribs are dry-rubbed, smoked, and then coated with sauce during the end of cooking. I knew I wanted to try a dry rub because, in all of my rib-eating experience, that seems to infuse the most flavor into the meat. I also wanted a saucy coating on the outside. I’m not sure what’s proper rib etiquette, but I combined a Memphis dry rub recipe with my favorite barbecue sauce to create what I suppose would be considered a Kansas City-style rib. Whatever you want to call them, they were exactly what ribs should be: flavorful, saucy, and messy!
I chose pork spare ribs, because they’re meatier and more substantial than baby back ribs. However, because I chose them, that meant that I could only eat one rib before I was completely stuffed. I know. I should be ashamed of myself. I should have tried harder! Next time I’ll eat fewer side dishes and really focus on the meat! But really it was a win win, because these were fabulous leftovers to have around, and it was a great way to celebrate the “end” of summer!
6 pounds pork spare ribs
For the Rub:
1 1/2 Tablespoons smoked or sweet paprika
1 Tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ancho chile pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the Barbecue Sauce:
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup pure Vermont maple syrup
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1-1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon hot sauce
In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients for the sauce. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then remove from the heat. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the ribs, cover a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Check the back side of the ribs. If you see a thick white membrane, carefully remove it. Using the tip of a knife, slide it under the membrane. Then, using a paper towel to get a good grip, pull the membrane off and discard. Using your hands, massage the dry rub into the meat until coated all over. Place on the prepared sheet baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour or up to overnight.
Preheat oven to 250 ° F. Remove the plastic wrap covering the ribs and cover with aluminum foil instead, sealing the edges closed. Bake ribs in the center of the oven for 4 to 4 1/2 hours. Be careful when opening the foil as steam will escape. The meat should be cooked through, white with no pink meat showing. Grab a bone and gently tug; the meat should be tender and start to pull away from the bone. Remove ribs from the pan and discard the pan juices.
Preheat grill to high. Transfer ribs to the grill, and brush both sides with barbecue sauce. Cook, flipping ribs and adding sauce a couple of times, until grill marks appear, about 5 to 7 minutes per side. Alternately, preheat a broiler on high. Place the ribs on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet and brush with barbecue sauce. Broil for 5-7 minutes, or until the sauce begins to caramelize. Flip the ribs over and repeat on the other side. Transfer ribs to a large, clean platter, cover with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve with extra barbecue sauce if desired (and, trust me, you DO desire it)!