Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible


First-Timer’s Ribs

Recipe from Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible Best Ribs Ever

  • Advance Prep: None

Well, if this is your idea of the perfect rib (and it should be), here’s your master recipe. It will teach you the principles of first-class ribsmanship – skinning the ribs, rubbing the meat, using a mop sauce, glazing with a barbecue sauce, and harnessing the mouth-watering powers of wood smoke. But ultimately, it’s so simple you can prepare it from start to finish in about an hour and a half, only ten minutes of which is actual work. This is the foolproof recipe that gives you competition-quality bones every time!


  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Method: Indirect grilling, followed by direct grilling
  • Equipment: 1 1/2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory or apple), soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained; barbecue mop
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For the mop sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon, or 3 more tablespoons apple cider
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce

For the rub and ribs:

  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard (preferably Colman’s)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 2 racks baby back pork ribs (4 to 5 pounds total)
  • Lemon Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce or another favorite barbecue sauce

Step 1: Make the mop sauce: Melt the butter in a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cider, bourbon, and soy sauce. Keep warm until ready to use.

Step 2: Make the rub: Place the salt, brown sugar, paprika, pepper, mustard, garlic powder, and celery seed in a small bowl and mix with your fingers, breaking up any lumps in the brown sugar or garlic powder.

Step 3: Prepare the ribs: Place a rack of ribs meat side down on a baking sheet. Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of the rack by inserting a slender implement, such as a butter knife or the tip of a meat thermometer, under it. The best place to start is on one of the middle bones. Using a dishcloth, paper towel, or pliers to gain a secure grip, peel off the membrane. Repeat with the remaining rack.

Step 4: Set aside 1 tablespoon of rub for serving. Sprinkle the remaining rub over both sides of the ribs, rubbing it onto the meat. Cover the ribs with plastic wrap and refrigerate them while you set up the grill.

Step 5: Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium (325° to 350°F). Place a large drip pan in the center of the grill.

Step 6: When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the ribs, bone side down, in the center of the grate over the drip pan and away from the heat. (If your grill has limited space, stand the racks of ribs upright in a rib rack.) If cooking on a charcoal grill, toss half of the wood chips on each mound of coals. Cover the grill and cook the ribs for 45 minutes.

Step 7: Mop the ribs on both sides with the mop sauce. Re-cover the grill and continue cooking the ribs until well browned, cooked through, and tender enough to pull apart with your fingers, 45 minutes to 1 hour longer, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours in all. When the ribs are cooked, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about 1/4 inch. Mop the ribs again every 15 minutes and, if using a charcoal grill, replenish the coals as needed.

Step 8: Just before serving, brush the ribs on both sides with some of the Lemon Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce and move them directly over the fire. Grill the ribs until the barbecue sauce is browned and bubbling, 1 to 3 minutes per side.

Step 9: Transfer the ribs to a large platter or cutting board. Let the ribs rest for a few minutes, then cut the racks in half or into individual ribs. Serve the ribs at once with the barbecue sauce on the side. Serve any the reserved rub on the side.

Tips:

How to cook First-Timer’s Ribs in a smoker: Set up and light the smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat it to low (250°F). Place the ribs in the smoker bone side down and smoke until cooked through, 4 to 5 hours. Start mopping the ribs with the mop sauce after 1 hour, then mop the ribs again once every hour. Brush the ribs with the Lemon Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce a half hour before they are done smoking. You’ll need to replenish the wood chips or chunks after the first and second hour of smoking and to replenish the coals every hour.

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