Dry-Rubbed Baby Back Pork Ribs with Molasses Barbecue Sauce
There are various different methods for grilling pork ribs. I grew up with saucy spareribs, precooked in water until tender, then grilled and basted with any of a variety of barbecue sauces. Then there is the dry rub, where a variety of herbs and spices are rubbed onto the meat, then it is slow cooked over indirect grill heat until tender. Another method is a combination of the two, where the ribs are rubbed, grilled, and then basted with a sauce, called a mop, for the final thirty minutes or so. That is the method I decided to use in this recipe, and the result is the best baby back ribs I have ever tasted. The whole family agrees. Feel free to alter the rub spices to taste. If you like hotter foods, add more black pepper or cayenne.
Ribs and Dry Rub
- 4 pounds baby back pork ribs
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons salt (or less to taste)
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon butter or oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 1 large clove garlic, chopped
- 1 cup ketchup
- 6 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
- Salt and pepper to taste
Remove excess fat from ribs, but not all. If desired, cut each rack in half. Mix together the ingredients for the dry rub. Rub or pat the spices all over both sides of the meat. Place in a large shallow baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the butter or oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir about 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to medium. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Let cool before using.
Heat the grill and prepare it for indirect cooking. (See notes below.) Grill the ribs over medium indirect heat, covered, and cook until tender, turning every 15 minutes. This will take from 1 to 2 hours, depending on thickness and grill. (Lean baby back ribs will dry out if overcooked, so be careful.) When done, place over direct heat. Brush each side with barbecue sauce. Continue to cook until browned, basting and turning often, for 15 to 30 minutes. Do not walk away, because there might be flare-ups. Cut into serving sizes and enjoy.
Notes: If you have a gas grill with multiple burners, you probably already know how to grill over indirect heat. Just use one burner on medium and place the ribs over the other burners. In a charcoal grill, place the coals to one side and the ribs over the other. If you cannot place the ribs on an indirect source, or the grill does not have a cover, the ribs can be baked in a slow 300° F oven until tender, about 2 hours, then transferred to the grill for the final cooking and basting. If you do alter the spices in the rub, just make sure you have a total of 5 to 6 tablespoons in order to cover the meat on both sides.