BBQ Ribs

Baby Back Ribs

Which Ribs are Which?

Ribs are one of my favorite go-to meats to make whether it be game day or picnics alike. Family and friends alike tend to enjoy eating them and often check to see if they are “on the menu” for a tailgate party or family picnic. There are four basic cuts to choose from and all are easy to cook whether it be smoking them, grilling them, baking them in the oven, or letting them cook slow and long in the slow cooker.

Spareribs (aka side ribs) are the long cuts from the belly behind the shoulder. Racks typically have 11-13 bones and have meat on top of and between the bones. While they have the least amount of meat, a lot of folks think they’re the tastiest. Like the spareribs, St. Louis-style ribs come from the belly but trimmed a bit further. No breastbone, cartilage or tips. The result is a rectangular rack of deliciousness. The Kansas City variety is very similar with even more bone removed. Baby back ribs (also called loin ribs or riblets) these tasty little guys are small and easy to hold. They tend to be a bit fattier than other styles but taste great when done right. Each slab is generally about 1-1/2 pounds and are very flavorful. Country-style ribs are from the shoulder (or blade) end of the loin. With these, you’ll find the most meat per bone and the least amount of fat. You can eat with your fingers but they have enough meat to knife-and-fork them. (Source:

Dry Rubs and BBQ Sauces

Ribs hold up great to both dry rubs and bbq sauces. Depending on which cooking method I use determines which I use. Since I live in a small studio with a small space outside I tend to grill my ribs. With grilling one can use both a dry rub or ooey gooey bbq sauce, although I will occasionally use both the dry rub and bbq sauce when grilling if I want a really intense flavor. I tend to let who is coming over determine which way I go. On the rare occasion I get to smoke my ribs I go with a dry rub. But when cooking in the slow cooker or the oven I’ll go with the bbq sauce.

Smoking and Grilling Ribs

Start smoker on the smoke setting for 5-10 minutes. Increase heat to 225 F degrees. Prep and trim your ribs if needed. Take your dry rub and generously rub over your ribs. Place the ribs in the smoker and smoke the ribs, meaty side up, for 3 hours. Leave smoker on at 225 F degrees and place ribs on foil sheets.

If you wish to add a wet sauce when smoking, remove your ribs after smoking for three (3) hours foil your ribs with some apple cider, 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, and 2-3 Tablespoons of butter then close the foil and smoke for another 2 hours. After the 2 hours baste the ribs basted in your favorite BBQ sauce and return them to the grill for a final hour to hour and a half to finish the ribs and set the sauce.

For grilling ribs, heat the grill to a medium heat and make sure the grill is clean. After cleaning oil the grill before adding the ribs. When the grill is ready place the ribs on the grill and cover, cooking over indirect heat for 30 minutes each side. After the first hour move the ribs over the heat and cook another 20-40 minutes or until ribs are nice and tender. Tip: Once you start to baste with the sauce, keep a watchful eye on it in case the sugars start to caramelize (brown) quickly. You’d hate to burn the ribs now after all your preparations up to this point. This is why I wait to baste until the end of the cooking time

Kansas City Dry Rub

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

Combine all the ingredients together. Apply generously over the ribs. If not using immediately you can store this rub in an airtight container and store for up to six (6) months.

Kansas City BBQ Sauce

  • 4 cups ketchup or tomato sauce or combination
  • 11/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup apple cider or red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Simmer on low for about one (1) hour until the sauce is nice and thick, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to use a high heat or scorch the sauce. Slather the ribs with the sauce in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking and serve extra sauce on the side. Note: This sauce can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Memphis Dry Rub

In Memphis the restaurants use the dry sauce without a wet sauce. They use the basic pork spare rib and are traditionally smoke. The method of smoking with the dry rub brings out the fabulous flavor.

  • 1/2 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 1/4 chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons celery seeds
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice

Mix all the ingredients together until well combines. Apply generously over the ribs. Note: This rub can be stored in an airtight container for up to six (6) months. You can also use your preferred chili powder anywhere from mild to the spiciest depending on how much heat and kick you want.

Mississippi Sweet and Sour BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 (5 1/2 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dark corn syrup
  • 2 fluid ounces pineapple juice
  • 1 fluid ounce bourbon whiskey
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons minced white onion
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce ( such as Tobasco)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 pinch Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 pinch celery salt

Combine all the ingredients together in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer until all the flavors have blended together and the sauce is slightly reduced, approximately one (1) hour. Slather over ribs last 5-10 minutes of cooking.

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