Last Updated on August 23, 2021
For many BBQ experts and enthusiasts, few dishes can compare to ribs. Whether you choose beef or pork, the best ribs are so moist and juicy that the meat will fall right off the bone. You may not even need a knife. Professionals and those who take part in BBQ competitions are hesitant to share their recipes with others. If you want to make the best BBQ ribs, just keep reading. This recipe uses one slab of baby back ribs and will work with both spare ribs and other rib types too.
1. Making the Rub
The first step in any good BBQ rib recipe is the rub. This is a mixture of dry ingredients that you apply to the ribs and then rub into the meat. Our recipe uses some great spices that give you a hint of heat and a little sweetness.
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic flakes
- ½ teaspoon mustard powder
To make the rub, simply combine all the ingredients in a small bowl until thoroughly mixed. You can use the entire recipe on a single rack of ribs or save any leftovers for later. The spice rub will last for up to one month in an airtight container.
2. Prepping the Ribs
Image courtesy of Daryn Nakhuda
Rinsing is the first step you should take when making BBQ ribs. When you buy from a grocery store or a butcher, there is a good chance that bone fragments may linger on the surface of the meat. Simply running the ribs under cool water will remove those particles.
Though the next step requires trimming the ribs, you may have the chance to skip this step. You’ll want to flip the ribs over and check the bottom for a thin layer of skin called the membrane. The easiest way to remove the skin is with a butter knife or a filet knife that you slip under the skin. As you carefully wiggle the knife, you should create a pocket that lets you insert your fingers and remove the membrane. A good butcher can remove this skin for you.
Some experts recommend brining the meat before cooking it. This step involves a small amount of salt, usually around ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt for every pound or the ribs. You simply sprinkle the salt across the surface of the ribs and let it sit for several hours or overnight. If you want to skip this step and go directly to the rub, feel free to do so. The rub has a nice amount of salt that can give the ribs the crispy outside that you want.
When it comes to the rub, you generally want some type of liquid or moisture that holds the spices to the meat. Water or chicken/beef stock is suitable for this step, though some prefer using apple cider vinegar or yellow/whole grain mustard. After applying a liberal amount of the liquid of your choosing, liberally sprinkle the dry rub over the ribs and rub it into the meat with your hands.
3. Cooking the Best BBQ Ribs
The secret to great ribs that fall off the bone is low and slow cooking. You can make the ribs on a propane or charcoal type grill and in a smoker. If you use a smoker, you want to set the temperature to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a digital thermometer to check the temperature on a grill. The best temperature is 225 but 220 and 210 will work too. If you use a higher amount of heat, you risk charring the meat and giving it a rough texture.
When it comes to wood, you can pick from types such as hickory and cherry that add an extra note of flavor to the ribs. You only need three to four ounces of wood at the beginning. Check the wood again after 20 minutes and add more wood as needed.
You’ll typically want to add more wood every 30 minutes, though some smokers can go through wood much faster. Make sure that you don’t waste a lot of time turning the ribs over or opening and closing the door. You want to leave them sitting for as long as possible.
If you find that the ribs are just a little too tough, feel free to use the aluminum foil method. You can wear gloves or oven mitts as you remove the ribs from the smoker and place them on a piece of aluminum foil.
Add around ¼ to ½ cup of liquid such as beef stock or beer. After wrapping the foil around the meat, place the ribs back in the smoker for no more than one hour. Most ribs finish cooking in four to seven hours. Though some recommend testing the ribs to see if they are flexible to indicate that they’re done, you can also use a knife or fork to remove a small piece of meat.
Tasting it is the best way to tell if it has the flavor you want.
4. Add the Sauce
The last step in making the best BBQ ribs is the addition of some sauce. You can go with any type of sauce that you want, including one you buy from the store or one you make at home.
A good barbecue sauce starts with a thin base made from ketchup or mustard. You can then add classic spices such as garlic, paprika, pepper and onion powder. Some also swear by a sauce made from a vinegar base.
You can add the sauce in two different ways. One method requires adding sauce to the ribs while they’re still in the smoker or on the grill.
This can give the ribs a charred flavor as the sauce sticks to the ribs. You can also sauce the ribs once you remove them and serve extra sauce on the side. With the best BBQ ribs, you will want to invite your friends over and ask them to celebrate any special occasion with your recipe.
READ MORE: Avoid smoking mistake that can ruin your BBQ.