Baby Back Ribs - ☺

Baby Back Ribs

To save time and effort I usually slow cook baby back ribs in a 225ºF to 250ºF oven, wrapped in aluminum foil to retain moisture, for four to five hours to render the fat out and also to have very tender meat. Then I use the fantastic Kansas City Classic Barbecue Sauce® and baste them and then slow cook them without being covered with aluminum foil for an additional 30 minutes. The recipe for the Kansas City Classic Barbecue Sauce® is next in this section of Food Nirvana.

I found the recipe provided below on the Internet and I decided to provide it here. It is well thought out and it has good explanations, so I have included it in Food Nirvana as a "How to" item for folks interested in barbecueing meat on a charcoal grill.

I make baby back ribs fairly often, and I have smoked many meats, fowl and fish so I know the information provided is good. In fact it is very educational for those lacking experience when barbecuing pork, and that is why I included it.

Note that there is a recommendation in this recipe to slash the baby back ribs membrane on the backside of the ribs between the bones while raw, or if you can, remove the membrane altogether. These steps are supposed to aid in rendering the fat out during baking or smoking. It sounds like a good idea but I have yet to try it. Also, complete removal of the membrane is said to be somewhat difficult.

I preserved the most of the text of this recipe as I found it on the Internet, so the first person comments within it are not mine.

Serves 2 adults.

Preparation time: Overnight dry rub marinating is optional.

Cooking time: We will be cooking low and slow at about 225°F, so allow 5 to 6 hours for St. Louis Cut ribs and 3 to 4 hours for baby back ribs. Thicker, meatier slabs take longer, and if you use rib holders so they are crammed close to each other, add another hour.


One grill with a cover. You can use a dedicated smoker or any charcoal grill or gas grill as long as it has a cover. A tight fitting cover with adjustable vents like those on the Weber® Kettle is best.

One 18 pound bag of charcoal briquettes for grills or smokers. You won't use all that charcoal, but because you will need more on cold, windy, or wet days than on sunny and warm days, have a full bag on hand. Hardwood lump is best, but regular briquettes will do fine. Absolutely do not use the instant igniting stuff that has solvent in it. Chimney starters are by far the best way to start charcoal, especially for long slow cooking where the smell of the solvent in charcoal starter fluid can ruin the taste of the meat.

One tank of propane for gas cookers. You won't need it all, but, until you get the hang of this technique, don't risk running out by starting with a partial tank.

Eight ounces of wood chips. It doesn't matter how many slabs you are cooking, 8 ounces should be enough. I prefer chunks of apple, oak, or hickory for pork. Never use any kind of pine unless you want meat that tastes like turpentine. Never use construction lumber because it is often treated with poisonous chemicals to discourage rot and termites. You do not need to soak the wood.

One pair of long handled tongs.

1 sauce brush, preferably one of the silicon types

One good digital oven thermometer

One six pack of cold beer (for the cook!)

One lawn chair

One good novel and plenty of tunes


One slab of SLC (Saint Louis Cut) ribs. That's 1/2 slab per adult. If you use baby back ribs get a whole slab per adult. You'll probably have leftovers, but what's wrong with that? SLC’s are the meatiest and most flavorful ribs. They are spareribs with the tips removed so they form a nice rectangular rack. You can use baby back ribs if you prefer. They are smaller and cook faster. Country ribs come from the shoulder and are not really ribs, so don't use them for this recipe. Get fresh, not frozen meat if possible. Fresh meat has the best pork flavor and the most moisture. Ever notice the pink liquid when you defrost meat? You can't get that back into the meat, so buy fresh meat whenever possible. Ask the butcher to remove the membrane on the backside.

Three tablespoons vegetable oil

Four tablespoons Meathead’s Memphis Rub® or a similar spice rub

One cup of your favorite barbecue sauce.


Rinse the ribs in cool water to remove any bone bits from the butchering and any bacterial film that grew in the package (don't worry, cooking will sterilize the meat). Pat dry with paper towels.

If the butcher has not removed the membrane from the backside, do it yourself. There can be a lot of fat under there and you want to scrape some of it off. Insert a butter knife under the membrane, then your fingers, work a section loose, grip it with a paper towel, and peel it off. Finally, trim the excess fat from both sides. If you can't get the skin off, with a sharp knife, cut slashes through it every inch so some of the fat will render out during the cooking.

Coat the meat with a thin layer of vegetable oil because most of the flavorings in the rub are oil soluble, not water soluble. The oil should help the flavor get into the surface and for a better crust. A lot of seasoned barbecue cooks use a base of mustard, but I think oil works better. Sprinkle enough Meathead’s Memphis Dust® to coat all surfaces but not so much that the meat doesn't show through. That is about 2 tablespoons per side depending on the size of the slab. Many of the herbs and spices in the rub are oil soluble, so the vegetable oil will help them penetrate a little better. Spread the Memphis Dust on the meat, rub it in, and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour. Some folks insist on putting the rub on the night before, but I don't think this is necessary.

Set up the cooker for two cooking zones. That means that one side is hot and the other is not. If you have a gas grill, use only one burner. Put a disposable aluminum pan with water on top of the hot burner. Moisture and combustion gasses in a propane grill combine to create a seductive, bacon-like flavor in the meat. If it has only one burner, put the water pan between the meat and the burner. If you have a charcoal grill, start with a full chimney, about 75 briquettes, and push the coals to one side. You can use a water pan, but it is not necessary. If you have an offset firebox smoker, follow the instructions for setting up an offset smoker. If you have a bullet smoker like the Weber® Smokey Mountain, again follow the directions.

Adjust the temperature. Preheat your cooker to about 225°F and try to keep it there throughout the cook. Adjust the air intake dampers at the bottom to control heat on charcoal grills. Intake dampers are more effective than exhaust dampers for controlling the temp because they reduce the supply of oxygen to the coals. Take your time getting the temp right. Cooking at 225°F will allow the meat to roast low and slow, liquefying the collagen in connective tissues and melting fats without getting the proteins knotted in a bunch. It's a magic temperature that creates silky texture, adds moisture, and keeps the meat tender. If you can't hit 225°F, get as close as you can. Don't go under 200°F and try not to go over 250°F.

Smoke. For charcoal or gas cookers, add 4 ounces of wood at this time. On a gas grill, put the wood right as close to the flame as possible. On a charcoal grill, put it right on the hot coals. Resist the temptation to add more wood. Nothing will ruin a meal faster and waste money better than oversmoked meat. You can always add more the next time you cook, but you cannot take it away if you oversmoke.

Relax. Put the slabs in the cooker on the cooler side of the grill, meaty side up. Close the lid and go drink a beer and read a novel.

More smoke. When the smoke disappears after 20-30 minutes, add another 2 ounces of wood. After the first hour, stop adding wood. Adding wood at the beginning of the cook allows better penetration before the meat surface seals itself.

If you have more than one slab on, halfway through the cook you will need to move the ribs closest to the fire away from the heat, and the slabs far from the flame in closer. Leave the meat side up. There is no need to flip the slabs. Otherwise, keep your lid on. Opening the lid just upsets the delicate balance of heat, moisture, and air inside your cooker. It can also significantly lengthen the cooking time.

The Texas crutch. This step is optional. It involves wrapping the ribs in foil with a little liquid for up to an hour to speed cooking and tenderize a bit, but not a lot. Almost all competition cooks use the crutch to get an edge. If you want to skip this step, feel free, you'll still have killer ribs.

The bend test. Do this after 5 to 6 hours for St. Louis Cut ribs or 3 to 4 hours for baby back ribs. The exact time will depend on how thick the slabs are and how steady you have kept the temperature. If you use rib holders so they are crammed close to each other, add another hour. Check to see if they are ready. I like the bend test (a.k.a. the bounce test). Pick up the slab with tongs and bounce them. If the surface cracks and is almost ready to break, it is ready.

Sauce. Now paint both sides with your favorite home made barbecue sauce or store bought sauce and put it back in to bake the sauce on. Better still, move the slab directly over the hottest part of the grill in order to caramelize and crisp the sauce. On a charcoal grill, just move the slab over the coals. On a gas grill, remove the water pan and crank up all the burners. On a water smoker, remove the water pan and move the meat close to the coals. On an offset smoker, put a grate over the coals in the firebox and put the meat there. With the lid open so you don't roast the meat from above, sizzle the sauce on one side (only for a few minutes with a hot grill) and then the other. One coat of a thick sauce should be enough, but if you need two, go ahead, but no more! Don't hide all the fabulous flavors under too much sauce. If you think you'll want more sauce, put some in a bowl on the table, but only if the sauce tastes okay without caramelizing.

If you've done all this right, you will notice that there is a thin pink layer beneath the surface of the meat. This does not mean it is undercooked! It is the highly prized smoke ring caused by the combustion gases and the smoke. It is a sign of Amazing Ribs. Now be ready to take a bow when the applause swells from the audience.