Perfect Baby Back Ribs
These baby back ribs with a bourbon marinade and smoky dry rub are the perfect weekend grilling recipe -- tender, deeply flavorful, and a great way to feed a crowd.
- 4 racks baby back ribs will feed up to 12 people
- 1 cup bourbon a little less or more is fine
- 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sweet paprika or smoked would be nice as well
- 3 tbsp black pepper
- 3 tbsp coarse salt such as kosher
- 1 tbsp hickory-smoked salt or more coarse salt
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp cayenne powder less if you are not into a bit of spicy
- smoker chips
- barbecue sauce of your choosing - we like to stick with the bourbon theme and use Jack Daniel’s brand
Preparing the Racks
First, I buy my ribs at a butcher counter where they will remove the membrane on the back of the ribs - saves time at home. If you buy your ribs pre-packaged, perhaps at Costco, be sure to find and remove the membrane on the back of the rack. It’s not hard to do and it is necessary for tenderness and ease of cutting.
Marinate in Bourbon
When I am ready to marinate them in the bourbon, I cut each rib rack in half - it’s easier for handling later on. To marinate in the bourbon, place a couple split racks in a plastic bag and pour the bourbon over and then lay flat on a sheet pan or roasting pan. I wrap a couple at a time in heavy duty foil, then re-use the foil for the pre-baking. We let them sit in the bourbon in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight, turning them once or twice to distribute the juices.
Prepare the Rub
Meanwhile, make the rub. Combine all of the rub ingredients in a bowl, mixing it up well with your hands or fork, making sure you combine completely and remove any clumps of brown sugar. This mixture can stay on your kitchen counter covered until you need it. The rub recipe was enough for 4 full racks of baby back ribs, which fed 9 people with lots of leftovers so could probably feed 12 people easily.
Rub the Ribs
When the ribs are done marinating in the bourbon, pour off the extra liquid and then rub them all over with the rub mixture. Put them back in the tin foil and let them “marinate” for at least 1 hour. I’ve let them sit in the refrigerator for as long as overnight but usually for just a few hours until I am ready to pre-cook the ribs in the oven.
Pre-cook the Ribs
Before they go out to the gas barbecue, pre-cook the ribs in the oven, wrapped in the foil for 1 hour at 300 degrees convection. If you don’t have a convection oven, 1 hour at 325 degrees should do the trick.
When they are done pre-cooking, take them out and hand them over to the person in the family with the barbecue gene. In our house, that is @dormantchef. Here’s how he finished the cooking on the barbecue:
The Barbecue Part
About an hour before he’s ready to bbq, he soaks the smoker chips in some water or bourbon. The best ones we’ve tried are the Jack Daniels wood smoker chips but you can try other brands and types to your liking. When he’s ready to start cooking, he places the chips in the smoker tray of the gas grill.
Total time on the barbecue is about 2.5 - 3 hours. Most of the cooking is indirect but he starts with the bbq on high and sears the ribs briefly all over. Then he turns off one side of the grill, and turns the other side to medium to medium low, placing a pan of water on the bread rack to create some moisture. The ribs remain on the no-heat side, and he rotates the ribs every 20 minutes for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours until tender. Then he turns the heat back up to high for about 20 minutes to brown the ribs again. Then back down to medium to start brushing with sauce for about the last 1/2 hour. The exact timing and heat settings will depend on your grill. The ribs are done when they are very tender but offer some resistance when you bite them; the meat should easily pull off the bone. The sauce should caramelize without burning.
We have chosen over the years to try any number of different sauces, but end up using Jack Daniel’s barbecue sauce, combining the regular and spicy.
Calories: 78kcalCarbohydrates: 7gSodium: 2329mgPotassium: 93mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 1240IUVitamin C: 0.3mgCalcium: 18mgIron: 0.7mg