These fall off the bone ribs are perfectly seasoned with a smoky-sweet dry rub and finished with your favorite BBQ sauce. Either grilled to perfection or slow-roasted in the oven, these ribs will be a big hit at your Summer backyard bash!
Is there anything better in the Summer than a pile of smoky, sweet, finger-lickin’ fall of the bone bbq ribs? I think not. As soon as the temperature climbs above 70 degrees, all I can think about is spending as much time as possible outdoors!
At first, ribs might seem intimidating but they are surprisingly easy to make. There are a million and one ways to make them but this recipe is simple enough for the entry level pitmaster. Let’s get into it.
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What are Baby Back Ribs?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly are Baby Back Ribs? Baby back ribs are pork ribs that come from the section of the ribs that are beneath the loin muscle and connected to the backbone of the pig. They’re shorter than spare ribs, leaner and much more tender. Baby back ribs are not particularly fatty, making for that irresistible fall off the bone texture that we’re going for here. They’re a bit more expensive, but trust me, just get them.
How to Season Ribs
Baby back ribs have a mild flavor that takes well to a lot of seasoning. There are infinite ways to do this but we’re keeping it easy here. I like to make a simple dry rub and then finish with my favorite bbq sauce. A dry rub helps tenderize the meat and gives it deep, complex flavor. Don’t skip this step or you won’t get the result you’re looking for. Because we’re using a rub and sauce, the ribs only need to sit with the rub for a few hours.
A homemade dry rub is easy to throw together. Let’s hit up the spice rack.
Dry Rub Ingredients
- Brown Sugar: Adds that sticky sweetness and helps the meat caramelize on the outside
- Paprika: I prefer smoked in this recipe but use what you have
- Chili Powder: Adds more depth of flavor
- Onion Powder: Much milder than fresh and adds sweet and savory flavor
- Garlic Powder: Goes hand in hand with the onion powder!
- Mustard Powder: Adds a bit of brightness and tang to cut the richness
- Cayenne Pepper: A little kick never hurts!
- White Pepper: A bit more earthy and musty than black pepper. Either one will work!
- Salt: Gotta have it
We’re using a significant amount of spice here so make sure that you’re stocked up before you to to make this recipe. When I know I’m going to make a lot of ribs for a party, I order all the dry rub ingredients from Thrive Market.
To make the rub, just combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. I mash it together with a fork so that the brown sugar gets thoroughly incorporated.
How to prep ribs
A few hours before you’re ready to cook, prep and rub your ribs so the flavors have time to sit and thoroughly season the meat.
First, you want to pat your ribs dry with a paper towel. Next, you want to remove the membrane or silver skin from the underside of the ribs. Slide a paring knife under the membrane and just peel it off. It might be a little hard to get started but keep at it and once you get a good grip, it will come right off. If you buy your ribs from the butcher, they may be able to do it for you.
Coat the ribs thoroughly in all of the dry rub. It will seem like a lot but it’s the right amount. Work it in and massage it all over both sides of the slab. Cover the ribs tightly with foil and let them hang out in the fridge for 2-4 hours. I do this step first thing when I wake up in the morning on the day of my cookout so they’re ready to hit the grill by mid-afternoon.
How to grill ribs
Grilling ribs is really easy. You can do it on a gas or charcoal grill, just make sure it’s indirect, low heat. Low and slow is the best way to get that tender, smoky fall off the bone vibe that we’re going for here. They will cook for about 1.5 hours per side. Only baste with bbq sauce during the last 30 minutes or so on the grill or the sugars will cause your meat to burn! I use two sets of tongs to carefully flip and transfer the ribs when they’re done to a platter. They will be so fall off the bone tender that you want to proceed with caution!
How to cook ribs in the oven
Weather not cooperating? Don’t have a grill? Don’t worry! You can totally make these in the oven. Simply put foil wrapped ribs on a baking sheet in a 300 degree oven and let them cook low and slow for about 2.5 hours. When they’re almost done, I brush on the bbq sauce and then run them under the broiler for a few minutes to pick up some char. Simple!
What kind of bbq sauce should I use?
Whatever kind you like! A lot of people make their own bbq sauce, but honestly, if I’m hosting a bbq, I short cut it and use store bought. There’s nothing like getting that smoky, sticky sauce all over your fingers and face. It makes for a glorious mess. Hands down my favorite bbq sauce is Stubbs. I like the spicy one but they have several different varieties!
Tips and Notes
Really work the dry rub into both sides of the meat. It’s called a “rub” and not a “sprinkle” for a reason!
I always use two sets of tongs when flipping and transferring the ribs because they are so tender and will easily pull apart. If this makes you nervous, cut your slabs in half before you grill them so that you have smaller sections to handle.
Always remove the membrane on the bone side of the slab. If you leave it on, it will make them chewy.
Only baste with bbq sauce for the last 30 minutes of cooking. The sugars will cause it to burn if you do it any earlier.
Make sure to rest your meat for 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Resting meat is always a must!
Leftover bbq keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 ribs. Reheat in the microwave or wrapped in foil in the oven.
Sides to serve with BBQ Baby Back Ribs
The ribs are the star here. I stick with a few simple sides that I can prep ahead of time so that I can really enjoy myself at the party and not just spend the whole time in the kitchen. I highly suggest this Marinated Cauliflower Salad as a perfect accompaniment!
- 2 slabs baby back ribs
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp Smoked paprika
- 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
- 1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
- 1 Tbsp Onion Powder
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- Favorite bbq sauce for basting and serving
- Thoroughly pat ribs dry with paper towels and place on a large, foil lined baking sheet.
- Slide a sharp paring knife under the membrane on the bone side of the ribs and remove the thin silver skin. It may be tough at first but once you get a good grip on it.
- In a small bowl, mash together all of the dry rub ingredients until thoroughly combined.
- Work the dry rub into the meat with your hands, making sure to cover it completely on both sides.
- Wrap tightly in foil and place in the fridge for 2-4 hours.
To Grill Ribs
- Oil the grates of the grill.
- Once the grill is hot and ready, place the slabs of ribs, bone side down over indirect heat. You want the cooking temperature to be about 300 degrees. Grill covered for about 90 minutes, checking on them to ensure that the heat isn't too high, causing them to burn.
- Using two sets of tongs, carefully flip the slabs over to meat side down and grill for an additional 90 minutes.
- Flip the slabs back to bone side down, baste with your favorite bbq sauce and cook uncovered for an additional 15-20 minutes until the sauce gets sticky and caramelized. Ribs get fall off the bone tender when the internal temperature reaches 190-200 degrees.
- Carefully transfer the slabs to a cutting board or serving platter and tent with foil. Let rest for 15 minutes. Serve with more bbq sauce on the side.
To Bake Ribs in the Oven
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Place slabs on a large baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake for 2.5 hours until super tender. If they're not tender enough after 2.5 hours, keep cooking for an additional 30 minutes.
- Uncover and brush with bbq sauce. Turn on the broiler and watch them carefully for about 3-4 minutes until the sauce gets sticky and caramelized, being careful not to burn.
- Let rest for 15 minutes. Serve with more bbq sauce on the side.
Ribs are done when they reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees. They get fall off the bone tender at 190-200 degrees.