All that’s missing from these show-stopping ribs are the fireworks! They are succulent, rich and filled with amazing flavor. Slow-cooked over indirect heat – OMG – goodness in every bite! They are also fun to make and even more fun to eat.
Before I put this recipe together for you, I asked several of my grill master friends what they thought defined the “best” ribs. As you’d expect, the answers were as varied as my friends. Some depend on a spicy dry rub for extra flavor; others prefer a simple seasoning followed by mopping on a sauce. Some put the sauce on while the ribs are finishing on the grill, and some prefer to wait until just before serving.
We all agreed on two things, however: cooking slowly over indirect heat in a smoker or on a barbecue created the best flavor, and wrapping the ribs in foil to cook in their own juices for a portion of the total cooking time creates real tenderness and keeps them delectably moist.
I have to admit that I’ve tried many methods over the years, from boiling the ribs and finishing them on the grill to starting them on the grill and finishing them in the oven. None of them gave me quite the texture I was looking for. But when I took my friends’ advice and wrapped the partially-cooked ribs in foil and continued cooking them over slow heat, I hit the jackpot!
So, first start with some meaty ribs …
The rack on the top still has the flap and membrane (silverskin) intact. The bottom rack has been cleaned and is ready for grilling.
Then slap the racks on the BBQ and start cooking. You can use a box of wood chips if you are using a gas grill to add a touch of delicious smoke.
Have sheets of foil ready to wrap the racks. Use tongs to move them and be careful, they’re hot!
You can serve the ribs without sauce … there is a ton of flavor from the dry rub.
…or mopped with sauce. I’ve included a recipe for spicing up a store-bought sauce below.
If you follow these directions, you will have championship-style ribs worthy of a blue ribbon! Take one bite and you’ll know you have a winner! Happy July 4th!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
The easiest way to cut the ribs apart is to turn them over, bone side up, and you can easily see the areas between the ribs. Use a very sharp knife and slice between the bones.
As indicated in the recipe, you can use potato vodka in place of the bourbon if any of your guests or family are celiac or have strong reactions to gluten, or leave it out altogether. Stubb’s is one brand of gluten-free BBQ sauces that are safe and easy to find in grocery stores.
- 2 racks St. Louis-style spareribs
- Organic olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- BBQ Sauce (recipe below)
- Lay the ribs on a baking sheet, bone-side up. If there is a flap of meat covering a portion of the ribs, use a sharp flexible knife to remove it, cutting as close to the ribs as possible. You can grind this piece of meat for sausage or cook it separately, but don’t throw it out. It is delicious!
- Your butcher may have removed the membrane that covers the ribs on the bone-side of the rack, but if they haven’t done so, it is easy to do yourself. Slip a rounded butter knife between the membrane and the first rib, separating them. Cut the top of the membrane away from the bone. Using a piece of paper towel for gripping (the membrane is very slippery), carefully pull back the membrane holding down the ribs with your other hand. With a little practice you can remove this in one piece. If it tears, just keep working until you have all of the membrane removed. Discard the membrane.
- Cut both racks of ribs in half, slicing between two bones, creating four individual racks. Brush all the surfaces with a little olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, onion and garlic powders, patting them so they adhere to the meat. You can also use a dry rub of your choice in place of these seasonings if you prefer. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate an hour or up to a day ahead.
- Preheat your gas grill to low heat (about 225°F to 250°F) or build a two-tiered charcoal fire, banking the coals on one side of the grill.
- Place the ribs, bone side down on the preheated and lightly oiled grill and close the cover. If using a charcoal grill place the meat on the side opposite the coals. Cook for about 60 minutes. Flip the ribs over, placing them meat-side down, and continue cooking another 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pull four long pieces of aluminum foil, fold them in half (short edge to short edge) to create a double layer and set them next to your grill. One by one, place each of the racks on a sheet of foil, cover it completely and crimp the package closed. Place the packets back on the grill and cook for another 30 minutes. Carefully open one of the packets and lift the end of the rack with a pair of tongs, bouncing it gently. You want the rack to bend in the middle and the crust to crack. The total cooking time will depend on the size and heft of your ribs.
- I cooked mine about 2 hours. Other grills can take up to 5 hours so it will really come down to your personal preference and the type of grill you use.
- When the ribs are done, use tongs to transfer the packets to a baking sheet. Let packets sit at room temperature. When they are cool enough to handle, carefully open them, place the ribs on a cutting board and pour some of the accumulated juices into your barbecue sauce - this is optional but it sure adds a lot of flavor!
- Cut between the ribs and transfer them to a warmed platter. Drizzle with the barbecue sauce and serve immediately, passing additional sauce at the table. Alternately, you can brush on some sauce, put the ribs back on the grill for a few minutes on each side to caramelize the sugars in the sauce and create more of a glaze.
- If you are using baby back ribs, they will cook in much less time, start checking for doneness about halfway through the cooking time. Wrapping the ribs in foil for part of the cooking time helps keep them moist and tender and shortens the cooking time.
- 1-1/2 cups of your favorite store-bought barbecue sauce (Stubb’s brands are all gluten-free)
- 1 tsp orange zest
- Juice of 1/2 navel orange, about 1/4 cup
- 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tbsp soy sauce (gluten-free if needed)
- 2 tbsp good-quality bourbon, such as Buffalo Trace (for gluten-free use potato vodka such as Chopin or Glacier), optional
- 4 to 5 tbsp brown sugar, or to taste
- 1 tsp chipotle powder, or to taste
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan, whisking until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking often. Taste and adjust seasonings. You may need more or less sugar depending on how tart your orange and lemon are.
- You can serve the sauce straight off the stove or you can use it to baste your grilled foods in the last few minutes of cooking for a glazing effect. With the high sugar content, you need to be careful not to let the sauce burn so watch it carefully and don’t walk away from the grill.
- If you choose to add the accumulated juice from the foil packets (see recipe above) to the barbecue sauce, stir it in and bring back to a boil to meld the flavors.
Create a New Tradition Today!
Let’s connect! If you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, need to alter a recipe for gluten-free, or want recipe suggestions, don’t hesitate to contact me. Thanks for joining the Heritage Cook Family!
Unauthorized use, distribution, and/or duplication of proprietary material from The Heritage Cook without prior approval is prohibited. This includes copying and reprinting content and photographs. If you have any questions or would like permission, I can be contacted via email. Feel free to quote me, just give credit where credit is due, link to the recipe, and please send people to my website, www.theheritagecook.com.The suggestions here are not intended as dietary advice or as a substitute for consulting a dietician, physician, or other medical professional. It is the reader’s sole responsibility to determine which foods are appropriate and safe for their family to consume. Please see the Disclaimers page for additional details.