“Barbecue” Grilled Spare Ribs

There are some things that are meant to be eaten delicately; minute bites, dab the mouth gently, use flatware, and such.

This is -most emphatically- not one of those dishes. Tear into it with your hands and teeth. Get sauce all over your chin and halfway up your cheeks. Ribs demand pride-free commitment to the eating process. I dare you to try to eat ribs with a fork and knife. You’re going to end up looking a-fool. The rib bone will careen off of your plate onto the table (and heaven help you if you’re using a tablecloth.) It’s best just accept the mess is coming, tie your hair back and dive into it with gusto.

Meaty, smoky, full-body-eating-experience ribs are an American summer tradition. If you’re lucky, you live somewhere that people take the process of cooking ribs very seriously. If you’re seriously blessed, you live just up the way from a good rib joint. If you don’t? Well, don’t despair. You can turn out superb quality ribs using nothing more than an oven and a grill. The key is really in patience. You don’t do ribs every day, so do not be in a rush. You can’t hurry ribs just like you can’t hurry love. No. You’ll just have to wait. (Yes, I did just break into song. Don’t tell me you didn’t.)

You have to rub the ribs and let them sit for twenty four hours then cook low and slow and then finally you can slather them with barbecue sauce (if it floats your boat, and it does float mine) at the tail end of cooking. You don’t sauce it at the beginning because the sugars in the barbecue sauce burn when cooked for too long. A little char on a rib is a good thing, but a charcoal rib is not. Next you move those sticky, sweet, spicy, salty, smoky ribs to a cutting board and let them sit for a couple of minutes. I mean it. You let ’em sit. Don’t rush those ribs. Cut them into one- or two-rib servings, depending on how meaty they are

After all that, you can finally dig in. And dig in you will.While you’re digging in, the dogs will look at you longingly. The cat will circle around the table none-to-discreetly. Neighbors you’ve never met will drift into your yard because the scent of just cooked ribs will have wafted down the street and onto their patio.

You’d better share. It’s the right thing to do. While you’re at it, give them a napkin because they’re going to need one.

“Barbecue” Grilled Spare Ribs
Sticky, smoky barbecue ribs are an All-American summer tradition. You'll want to plan ahead before cooking these as they need to sit in the refrigerator with a dry rub for 24 hours before grilling.
  • ½ cup sweet paprika
  • ¼ cup granulated or raw sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated onion (or onion powder)
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 rack of pork spare ribs (about 4 pounds)
  • 1 cup peach salsa (or substitute peach juice or nectar plus 1 peeled clove of garlic if salsa is unavailable.)
  • barbecue sauce for brushing on the ribs at the end of cooking time and for serving
Also Needed:
  • Heavy Duty Foil
  • ½ cup food quality wood chips (apple, cherry, hickory, etc...) soaked in water for ½ hour before needed
  1. In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to mix together the paprika, sugar, granulated onion, and cayenne pepper.
  2. Remove the membrane from the rack of ribs and lay the ribs on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle half of the spice mixture over the ribs, rub in enthusiastically, flip the rack and rub on the remaining half of the spice mixture. Cover the ribs with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for 24 hours before grilling.
  3. Pull off a section of heavy-duty foil that is several inches longer than your rib rack on either end. Be sure the foil is wide enough to come up around the rib rack and close securely. If necessary, lay two pieces together and fold along the long edge three or four times, crimping, to form a wider piece. Remove the plastic wrap and lay the rib rack down on the foil. Spoon the peach salsa (or nectar and garlic) over the ribs. Pull the long sides of the foil up together over the center and fold down . Crimp up both ends of the foil and put in a cold oven on a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Set the oven to 250°F and let the ribs bake for 1½ hours.
  5. Preheat half of your grill to 275°F. Form a ball of double layer of heavy duty foil up around the soaked wood chips, leaving am open space about the size of a half-dollar for smoke to escape. Place that on the heated side of the grill. Place the partially cooked rib rack over the cooler part of the grill, curl side facing up, using indirect heat to finish cooking the ribs.
  6. When the rib bones twist easily in the meat, they are done. Before you pull them off of the grill, brush one side generously with barbecue sauce, flip the rack and brush the other side. Continue cooking until they are as caramelized as you like them. I like mine done with a bit of char on the sauce, so I left mine over the heat for about 5 minutes after they were fully cooked.
  7. Transfer the ribs carefully to a cutting board and let them rest for 5 minutes before cutting between the bones.
  8. Tuck a napkin under your chin and enjoy!

P.S. Yes. I know that real barbecued ribs are done over the grill all the way. This is a great way to get mega barbecue flavour with half the work.




  1. says

    Oh my friend, how you would laugh in shock at Steve’s best friend Mike. You know, southern boy Mike? Outdoorsman Texas Mike? He eats ribs with a knife and fork. Flawlessly. Always has, always will. It slays all of us, his wife included.

    I have been cuh-RAV-ing my slow barbecue ribs recently, too. Soon.

  2. says

    I cheated this week and did ribs on my gas grill instead of one of my smokers. I checked the weather report on the news that night and Hades did not freeze over after all.

    I know you didn’t use salt in your rub because you were doing a long rest in the rub before cooking (and salt would make them “hammy”), but did you lightly season with salt right before going in the oven?

    It all looks good. Makes me wish I was making ribs today instead of the pork shoulder I have in the smoker right now :)

    Y’all have a great weekend!

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