Baby Back Ribs with Cola Barbecue Sauce

These baby back ribs with cola barbecue sauce are coated with a spice rub, cooked low and slow on your grill or smoker, and then slathered with a homemade cola bbq sauce. Sweet, hot, and smoke.

A white oval platter filled with individual baby back ribs with cola barbecue sauce.

These baby back ribs with cola barbecue sauce may sound terrifically sweet. They’re not. They’re perfectly balanced with spice, smoke, and yeah, a little sweetness. Our latest smoking fixation.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Baby Back Ribs with Cola Barbecue Sauce

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 4 H, 45 M
  • Serves 4 to 5
5/5 - 1 reviews
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Ingredients

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  • For the rub
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon granulated onion
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • For the ribs
  • Two (3-pound) racks meaty baby back ribs
  • 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • For the basting mixture
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • For the grill or smoker
  • 4 or 5 small cherry, hickory, or apple wood chunks or 3 to 4 handfuls wood chips
  • For the cola barbecue sauce
  • 1 cup store-bought or homemade ketchup
  • 1 cup cola
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

Directions

  • Make the rub
  • 1. In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Set aside 2 teaspoons for the basting mixture.
  • 2. Trim any excess fat from the ribs. Remove the membrane from the racks by using a dull knife and sliding the tip under the membrane that covers the back of each rib rack. Holding a paper towel in your hand, grip the membrane at one end of the rack and tug. It usually pulls right off.
  • Prepare the ribs
  • 3. Evenly cover the ribs with a light coating of mustard and season them all over with the rest of the rub. Let stand at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • 4. Meanwhile, prepare a grill or smoker for indirect cooking over very low heat (250° to 300°F | 120° to 150°C).
  • Make the basting mixture
  • 5. In a small saucepan or skillet over low heat, warm the butter and vinegar until the butter melts. Stir in the reserved 2 teaspoons rub. Remove from the heat.
  • Grill the ribs
  • 6. Brush the grill or smoker cooking grates clean. Add the wood chunks to the coals or the smoker box and close the lid.
  • 7. When smoke appears, grill the ribs, bone side down, over very low indirect heat with the lid closed for 1 1/2 hours. Maintain the temperature between 250° to 300°F (120° to 150°C).
  • Make the cola barbecue sauce
  • 8. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine all the sauce ingredients and bring to a gentle boil, stirring often.
  • 9. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, stirring occasionally, 15 to 30 minutes. You should have about 1 1/2 cups sauce.
  • Finish the ribs
  • 10. When the ribs have cooked for 1 1/2 hours, swap the positions of the racks for even cooking. Lightly baste both sides of the ribs with the butter mixture.
  • 11. Continue cooking the ribs, bone side down, over very low indirect heat, with the lid closed, for 1 1/2 hours more.
  • 12. After 3 hours, quickly brush both sides of the ribs with some of the sauce and immediately close the lid to maintain the temperature. Continue to cook the ribs, bone side down, over indirect very low heat for 15 minutes more.
  • 13. Check for doneness. The meat should have shrunk back from the ends of most of the bones by at least 1/4 inch (6 mm) and the ribs are done if, when you pick up a rack at one end with tongs and bend it, the meat near the middle begins to tear from the bones. If it hasn’t, continue cooking for about 15 minutes more.
  • 14. Lightly brush each rack again on both sides with more sauce.
  • 15. Remove the ribs from the grill, lightly brush with more sauce, and cut between the bones into individual ribs. Serve warm with the remaining sauce on the side.

Recipe Testers Reviews

As an avid barbecue and smoker fan, I was immediately drawn to this recipe but as I put the dry rub together—with fairly typical dry rub ingredients—I thought the last thing the world needs is another dry rub and barbecue rib recipe. Boy was I wrong.

First of all, while the rub is fairly typical, a few different touches like oregano, black and white pepper, and chili powder gave this rub an added punch that came through in the final product. The other twist that I think really made a difference was the one-hour brine. That kept the ribs from drying out during the four-hour cook and indeed kept them moist and juicy.

As for the flavor, there was a perfect amount of smoke and we could taste a lot of the rub flavors. Often, barbecue rub flavors just all blend in but here, we could taste the sweet, the hot, the smoke. It was pretty perfect. Finally, this was a very easy recipe, even if you're not an experienced barbecue-er.

I used hickory wood for the smoke. It took about 35 minutes for the charcoal to gray over. Timing on the ribs was about right. It was two hours before more charcoal was needed and then another two until they were done. I probably could have pulled them off after an hour and a half after adding more charcoal.

We got four to five servings and served the ribs with homemade cornbread and coleslaw.

These ribs were fantastic!!! The rub, the basting sauce, the BBQ sauce, and the smoking process all were very simple. The hardest part of this recipe is waiting for the ribs to smoke. The rub was very flavorful and complemented the ribs well. The BBQ sauce was excellent! It wasn't too sweet or too savory.

I did have to cook the sauce about 15 minutes longer than the recipe indicated in order to thicken it. I used apple wood chunks and the smoke flavor on the ribs was excellent. The ribs were juicy with a firm texture.

This recipe is definitely a keeper.


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