Spiced with a smoky-sweet homemade dry rub and finished with your favorite BBQ sauce like this Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce, these are the Ultimate Fall off the bone BBQ Baby Back Ribs! Whether slow-roasted in the oven or grilled over hot coals, each bite is more flavorful and tender than the last. There’s nothing like fall-off-the-bone ribs to start this Summer with a splash! If you love these, you will adore these Smoked Beef Ribs and Marinated Skirt Steak!!
It may not technically be Summer yet, but boy am I feeling the Dallas heat! With the temperature steadily climbing towards well, absolute insanity, my mind is on nothing but Summer recipes. From lemonade inspired cakes to fruity hand pies, I’m taking inspiration from warm-weather and creating this season’s tastiest treats.
Today, I’m taking a break from the kitchen and taking the party outside. The grill is hot and this recipe is even hotter! I adore a classic Southern BBQ: cornbread, potato salad, corn on the cob, sweet tea and greatest of ‘em all, Baby Back Ribs. Tender, sweet, smoky ribs coated in rich BBQ sauce is my achilles heel!
Not to toot my own horn but, toot toot! This girl can throw down on the grill and make a mean rack of baby backs. And guess what? I’m gonna prove it to ya!
HISTORY OF BBQ RIBS
The history of BBQ ribs is as diverse as BBQ itself. The path to tender, juicy grilled ribs began in the Caribbean, traveled north by Spanish Conquistadors, moved overseas to the Americas, and then seasoned with flavors brought over by European settlers.
For many years, ribs were made using beef due to the abundance of cattle in America. In 1539, a man by the name of Hernando de Soto brought over America’s first 13 pigs. In three years the flock grew to over 700 pigs, both domestic and wild! Since then, both pork and beef ribs have been a quintessential American food.
WHAT ARE BABY BACK RIBS?
Baby Back Ribs come from the top of the rib cage between the spine and the spare ribs, below the loin muscle. A rack of baby back ribs should have a minimum of eight ribs but may have as many as thirteen!
BEEF VS. PORK
Though this recipe works with both beef and pork back cuts, I’d like to equip you with the information you need to make a choice.
These ribs taste mild, but also have a slightly sweet flavor. Not only do they take to heavy seasoning very well, but their low fat content means more fall-off-the-bone meat! Because pigs have a small ribcage, the size of these ribs will be smaller in comparison.
Assuming these ribs are cooked well, the meat should taste beefy and robust. Beef ribs tend to be less meaty, but they make up for it in taste! If you want beef ribs, definitely check out my Smoked recipe with tons of steps HERE.
HOW TO MAKE A DRY RUB
A rack of baby back ribs is nothing without a good spice rub! A quality rub should not only help to tenderize the meat, but it should also impart a deep, complex flavor profile. Although store-bought rubs can be delicious, I often find they’re either too salty or missing a little something. By throwing together a homemade rub we can ensure it’s well-balanced and tasty as all-heck!
Let’s dig through the pantry together:
- Brown Sugar- sugar is a natural tenderizer, which means moist, supple meat. The caramelized, molasses-like flavor also pairs well with BBQ sauce.
- Onion & Garlic Powder- both are sweeter and less-assertive versions of their natural counterparts. They add roasted, caramel like undertones.
- Smoked Paprika- ribs love to be coated in anything super rich and smoky!
- Kosher Salt & Pepper- salt helps to develop flavor and tenderize meat. Pepper kicks up the smoky goodness.
- Cumin- earthy, nutty and somewhat bitter, cumin is perfect for adding dimension and aroma.
- Cajun Seasoning- boosts the smoky, garlicky, peppery flavor elements that we associate with barbecue and grilling.
- Chili Powder- adds a mild, herby heat.
- Mustard Powder- mustard has a clean, tangy flavor that is a perfect counterpoint to rich ingredients like beef.
- Cayenne Pepper- heat ain’t ever hurt nobody! Well, at least not a few dashes of it anyway.
HOW TO GRILL BABY BACK RIBS
Contrary to what you might think, ribs are super-straightforward and easy-to-make. With a killer rub in one hand and a quality rack in the other, you’ve got a stellar grilled dinner in the making. Wanna know how it’s done?
Follow these tips for the BEST Baby Back Ribs ever:
Buy the Right Meat
Avoid slabs of ribs with exposed bones or uneven distribution of meat. You’ll want meat evenly distributed over the rack; the meat itself should be a bright reddish-pink and plump in volume.
Remove the Membrane (Silver Skin)
When preparing your ribs, be sure to remove the silver colored skin from the underside of the ribs. If possible, have the butcher do it for you!
Use Medium-Heat Coals
You’ll want to cook the ribs at a low to medium heat. Going low and slow is the best way to get super-tender, smoky meat.
Watch the Ribs Carefully
Cooking meat on the grill requires constant attention. Stay close to the grill, tongs in hand, and only flip when necessary. Only baste with BBQ sauce in the last 30 minutes of cooking or the sugars will burn along with your ribs.
Rest Your Meat
Let the cooked ribs sit for at least 15 minutes before you serve them! If cut too early the ribs will leak out their juices and become dry. Serve with extra BBQ sauce.
WHAT KIND OF BBQ SAUCE SHOULD I USE?
If you ask me, BBQ sauce is the best part about Baby Back Ribs. There’s nothing like smoky, spicy, molasses-ey barbecue sauce that sticks to your fingers and makes a home on the corners of your mouth. Your choice of sauce will give the ribs all the saucy personality it needs!
I love using a sauce that’s on the sweeter side with spicy, earthy notes. For store bought, I love Sweet Baby Ray’s brand.
Try out a Chipotle-Blackberry, Mango Habanero or a Smoked Cherry sauce! If you can’t get your hands on any of those, no worries: use any BBQ you’ve got on hand.
SIDES & DESSERTS
We’ve already started a party, why not keep it going? BBQ Baby Back Ribs are best served with an assortment of simple, full-flavored sides. Serve up some of the South’s best or make it your own!
- SOUTHERN BAKED BEANS
- BAKED POTATO SALAD
- SOUTHERN FRIED CORN
- MEXICAN GRILLED CORN ON THE COB
- SOUTHERN CORN MUFFINS
Top off this epic BBQ spread with a light, refreshing dessert! If you’ve come this far, a little something sweet won’t kill ya, right?
- PINK LEMONADE CAKE
- NO-BAKE ORANGE CREAMSICLE CHEESECAKE
- SOUTHERN EASY BLACKBERRY COBBLER
- EASY DELISH KOOL-AID PIE
MORE GRANDBABY CAKES GRILLED FARE
Get it while it’s hot! Why turn down the heat when you can put the grill to work? Try out a few of Grandbaby Cakes’ BEST grilled meats and treats:
- MARINATED GRILLED SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN
- LEMON PEPPER WINGS
- TEQUILA LIME CHICKEN
- CARNE ASADA
- GRILLED PINEAPPLE DONUT SUNDAES
BBQ Baby Back Ribs
- 8-10 lbs pork baby back ribs (you can also cut the recipe in half if you are cooking for a smaller group)
For the Dry Rub
- 2/3 cup brown sugar packed
- 2 1/2 tbsp onion powder
- 2 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp cajun seasoning
- 4 tsp black pepper
- 4 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp mustard powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- Oil cooking spray
For Final Basting
- BBQ sauce use your fave or homemade
- Properly rinse ribs and pat dry with paper towels.
- Turn the rack of ribs bone side up. Using a sharp small knife, slip it between the membrane and the bone then remove the membrane. It should pull right off after you get some momentum.
- In a plastic bag, shake together brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, cajun seasoning, black pepper, smoked paprika, kosher salt, cumin, chili powder, mustard powder and cayenne pepper until combined.
- Line a large baking sheet with non-stick foil and lay one of the racks of rib on top. Make sure the foil is longer than the rack.
- Spray the outside of the rack of ribs with oil spray then massage dry rub into each side of the ribs.
- Cover the ribs with the foil and wrap tightly then store in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.
To Grill Ribs
- Make sure to properly oil the grates of the grill so the meat won’t stick.
- Once the grill is ready and hot, place the ribs bone side down on the grill over indirect heat. Grill covered for an 1 ½ hours then turn them over and grill for an additional 1 ½ hours still over indirect heat.
- Make sure you are checking every now and again on the ribs to make sure they don’t stick or burn if they get close to direct heat. After 3 hours or so, the ribs should be super tender. If not, continue for an additional 30 minutes. The ribs should have an internal temperature of 145°F.
- Transfer the ribs to direct heat and brush with bbq sauce on both sides. Grill uncovered for 5-10 minutes then remove.
To Bake Ribs
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Bake ribs for 2 ½ hours. Check to see if they are incredibly tender. If not, leave covered and allow to bake an additional 30-45 minutes. The ribs should have an internal temperature of 145°F.
- Drain the excess fat from the ribs then apply bbq sauce to both sides.
- Turn your oven on to broil and allow the sauce to stick to the ribs then remove.