Pork ribs are a smokehouse staple, and the baby back cut (also known as loin ribs) is the most tender pork rib.
If you fancy improving your barbecue skills with some authentic, low and slow style cooking, Red’s True Barbecue co-founder James Douglas has shared his recipe for baby back ribs.
True barbecue ribs should never fall off the bone, says James – there should be a bite mark left behind when you chomp at them.
For this recipe you need a charcoal grill with a lid, as you’ll get the best results with this indirect way of cooking. The dry rub and sauce recommended below are from Red’s own range, available in supermarkets, but you can use a suitable alternative or your own recipe if you have one.
4 slabs of baby back ribs, weighing 600-900g each, rinsed in cold water
4 tbsp yellow American mustard
100g Basic Dry Rub, plus 50g for finishing
100ml unsweetened apple juice
100ml cider vinegar
200g Kansas City BBQ Sauce
- Remove the back membrane from the ribs. This is not good to eat, as it becomes leathery. Set the ribs meaty-side down and, using a small round-ended knife, insert it along the end bone. Use a sheet of kitchen paper to help you grip the membrane, pull it away from the rack and discard it.
- Slather each slab with 1 tablespoon of mustard then sprinkle with 25g of the dry rub, making sure to cover the ribs evenly on both sides. Wrap each slab in cling film and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours (up to 12, if you like).
- Prepare your smoker for a constant, indirect heat at 120°C (250°F) by pushing the coals aside and placing a foil tray of water below the ribs. This will catch any drips and create a moist environment for the ribs.
- Thirty minutes before you are ready to cook them, take the ribs out of the fridge to allow them to reach room temperature. Remove the cling film and add a little more rub. Add 3 soaked wood chunks to the hot coals and leave them for 5 minutes to begin to smoulder before adding the ribs.
- Place the ribs into the smoker on the top rack or shelf, meat-side up. If you are pushed for space, roll the ribs into coils, meat-side facing outwards, making sure there is enough space between each rack for the smoke to lick the inside of the coil. Close the lid of the smoker. While the meat is smoking, mix together the apple juice and cider vinegar in a clean, sterilised spray bottle to make a spritz.
- After 1 hour, open the lid and, using long-handled tongs, take out the ribs and spray each rack on both sides with the spritz before returning them to the grill, meat-side up. Close the lid and add more wood chunks (and coal if needed, to maintain temperature).
- After 2 hours of smoking, prepare 4 sheets of double-layered aluminium foil. Remove the racks from the smoker and place one in the middle of each sheet. Before wrapping them in the foil, lift one side of the rack and spray each one 2-3 times with the spritz so the spritz pools between the foil and the meaty side of the ribs (this will help braise the ribs a little to encourage tenderness). Wrap them tightly in the foil to make a package known as a ‘Texas Crutch’. Return the foil packages to the grill.
- After 3 hours of smoking, remove the racks from the grill and take them out of the foil. Flip the ribs over and glaze both sides with BBQ sauce. Then put them back in the smoker, add the remaining chunks of wood and close the smoker.
- After 30 minutes, glaze the ribs with the BBQ sauce on both sides again. At this point the ribs will be slightly bendy, which means they have tenderised. Grill for another 30 minutes then remove from the smoker. Sprinkle a little dry rub on the meaty side and leave to rest for 20 minutes, covered. Once rested, slice and serve.