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Fred’s Finest Baby Back Ribs

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Serves six.

  • by Fred Thompson from Grillin' with Gas

No offense to those chicken folks but here's the real "finger lickin' good" meal. These ribs are mouth-happy perfection. The key is slow-roasting heat combined with moisture to create steam that melts away some of the fat and softens the meat. I like to start these in the oven, but if you prefer to do it entirely on the grill, I've provided that method too. No matter which way you start the ribs, finish them over direct heat to get a nice carmelization of the sauce.

  • 6 racks baby back ribs, roughly 12 pounds (spareribs will also work)
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. paprika
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne 
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup water or apple cider
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce (use your favorite)
  • 2 Tbs. honey, or as needed
To oven-roast the ribs:

Preheat your oven to 300°F.

Rinse the ribs and pat them dry. Remove the membranes from the back of the ribs. Place the ribs on a baking sheet and brush the ribs generously with the mustard. Combine the sugar, paprika, chili powder, cayenne, and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle this mixture over both sides of the ribs. Grind fresh pepper over the ribs.

Place the ribs in an aluminum roasting bag and add the water. Seal the bag tightly, place on a baking sheet, and put in the oven. Slowly cook the ribs for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the bag from the oven and let the ribs cool in the roasting bag for 30 minutes. Open the bag away from you in case there is residual steam. The ribs are ready for the next step when you can grab them with a pair of tongs, lift them up, and they bend easily. 

OR to grill-roast the ribs:

Set up your grill for indirect cooking. Add some wood chips or hunks of wood, like hickory or oak, to your smoke box, or make a foil-smoking packet. Let some smoke build in your grill, then place the ribs (brushed with the mustard and rub) on the grill, bone side down, and adjust the temperature to low. You want the temperature to stay at about 200°F, so check with an oven thermometer. Smoke for about 3 hours, replenishing the wood chips as needed. About every 45 minutes, spray the ribs with apple cider. The ribs are ready for the next step when you can grab them with a pair of tongs, lift them up, and they bend easily. 

To finish the ribs:

Oil the grill racks. Preheat your grill using all burners set on high and with the lid closed for 10 to 12 minutes.

When the grill is hot, reduce the heat to medium and place the ribs, meaty side down, on the grill. Close the lid and cook for about 15 minutes, then turn. Brush the seared side with the barbecue sauce, cover again, and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Turn, brush with sauce, cover, and let them enjoy the heat for another 10 minutes. Brush the same side with sauce again, cover, and cook for no more than 5 minutes. Uncover, drizzle the ribs with the honey, and let them stay on the heat a couple of minutes more to allow the honey to glaze. Remove and serve to hoots and hollers.

Make Ahead Tips

You can grill- or oven-roast the ribs several days ahead and even freeze them. If you do freeze them, let them cool completely (in the roasting bag, if they're oven-roasted) then drain off any liquid, wrap them well in foil or the roasting bag, and stick them in the freezer. Thaw before finishing the ribs.

Photo: Ben Fink

This recipe is flawed. When I read it I was skeptical about the timing. Pork ribs need much more roasting time than an hour especially at only 300 degrees. The 45 minute grilling time with all of the sweet sauce made for burnt charcoal texture on the outside & undercooked & bland meat on the inside. Sorry to post such a negative review but this one didn't work on any level & I followed it to the letter.

These ribs are wonderful!!! Like all grill recipes, they require you pay attention to flare-ups and temperature. After applying the honey, I placed the ribs in the oven at low temperature while I used the grill for steaks and vegetables. A perfect summer dinner!

This is an excellet recipe. The flavors are spot on. For those of you who profess to be grillers, shame on you for leaving your grill. With any new recipe on the grill, you should monitor it very carefully as that each grill reacts differently. My cooking times were shorter as well and my crew is more into the spices, so we elected not to use the honey. Thank you Fred, we are going to try the burgers next.

I thought these were awesome. The honey really adds a nice finishing touch. Didn't have a problem with the final cooking burning them, it probably depends on your grill.

This is by far the worst way to cook ribs. You owe me 20 bucks for the ribs that got burnt. It was fine until the second part where you turn your grill to med. and put them meat side down. I went out to check them with 8 min. left and my grill was an inferno of flames. and your recipe still called for 20 more min. of cooking with the bone side down. Thanks Fred glad I spent 20 bucks to get chicken nuggets.

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