“Don’t tell your Uncle Dave…but I like your ribs better.”** In my family, those words are spoken quietly out of earshot of most other family members, but I’ve been lucky enough to hear them a few times over the past few years that I’ve made these ribs for get-togethers at my mom’s house.
Ok, so the ribs may not actually instigate a family feud (though this post might), but they are damn good.
I actually started making them before I even had a grill, since they’re cooked mostly in the oven and finished under the broiler. They were delicious that way so non-grill-have-ers can make these with no problems at all, but they’re amazing on the grill. They don’t take much effort or attention, are pretty much fool-proof, and considering the last time I made these I found a neighbor’s dog standing on my porch waiting for his share, they appeal to just about everyone.
One of the great things about this recipe is that the preparation can be scheduled to fit your needs. The rub can be prepared in advance (it actually makes more than is needed for one recipe, so you can save the rest for your next rib-fest), the ribs can be cooked the morning of a cook-out or even the day before (or toss half a rack in the freezer and have ribs in December), and then quickly finished on the grill or under the broiler with a slather of sauce.
However or whenever you make these, whether you usurp the family rib-maker or not, they are best served with lots of amazing family or friends gathered around to share. Though I doubt anyone has family as awesome as mine.
**He does, however, make great barbecue sauce, kielbasa, and some killer whole grilled onions. His ribs are pretty good too.
Serves 4-6; modified from Alton Brown’s process for braised ribs
2 racks baby-back ribs
Rub (enough for 4 racks of ribs)
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) light brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ancho powder
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup cider (or apple juice)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Combine the ingredients for the rub in a bowl and mix well. In a jelly-roll or other pan with raised edges, place each rack of ribs on a long sheet of heavy-duty foil and sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of the rub over each side, rubbing it well into the meat. Be careful not to tear or puncture the foil. Wrap the foil around each rack, crimping it at the top and ends to create a foil packet, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.
Stir together the ingredients for the braise in a small saucepan or microwave-proof measuring cup and heat just until the honey melts. Open one end of the foil packet for each rack of ribs and divide the liquid evenly between the packets. Tilt the pan slightly to make sure the liquid is even (if you find that your foil had a hole and the liquid leaks into the pan–as has happened to me more than once when I’m not being careful–you can pour the liquid back into a measuring cup, wrap the ribs in new foil, and re-pour the liquid). Braise ribs in the oven for 2 hours or just until the meat begins to pull away from the edges of the bones; this means the meat will be tender but not completely fall-off-the-bone. Discard the braising liquid.
Once the ribs are cooked, they can be refrigerated (or frozen); simply let the ribs come back to room temperature before continuing. If you can’t wait, heat up the grill or turn on your oven’s broiler to high. Brush ribs with your preferred store-bought or homemade (or Uncle Dave-made, if you’re so lucky) barbecue sauce and cook to your preferred doneness; I like my ribs to have a nice layer of carmelized sauce. Cut the ribs into individual pieces, serve with extra sauce on the side, and prepare for the family best-ribs debate to begin.