Spice-rubbed baby back ribs are first given a dry rub of paprika, cumin, garlic, and more spices. After they sit for a spell in the fridge, they’re grilled and slathered with your favorite sauce.
This is a hybrid recipe for ribs, fusing the dry-rub method of Memphis-style barbecue with the sauce-slathered style of Kansas City fare. The ribs are first coated with a spice rub and refrigerated overnight, then partially cooked in the oven until tender. Just before serving, they are coated with sauce and finished on the grill.–Jennifer Newens
Spice-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs
- 1/2 cup sweet or hot paprika
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ancho or New Mexico chile powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black peppercorn
- 4 slabs (about 5 lb) baby back pork ribs trimmed and membrane removed*
- Store-bought or homemade barbecue sauce
- In a small bowl, stir together paprika, brown sugar, chile powder, garlic powder, mustard, cumin, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.
- Rinse ribs under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Generously season all over with spice mixture, massaging it in well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Place ribs in a shallow roasting pan and roast, turning occasionally, until they are fork-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours
☞TESTER TIP: Line your roasting pan with foil for easier cleanup.
- Prepare a grill for direct grilling over medium heat. Brush and oil grill rack.
- Move ribs to a cutting board and cut each slab into 3- or 4-rib portions. Brush with barbecue sauce on both sides.
- Place ribs on grill rack directly over hot coals or heat elements and cook, turning once, until shiny and glazed, 3 to 5 minutes per side. If barbecue sauce begins to burn, place the ribs on a cooler area of grill.
- Move ribs to a cutting board. Cut ribs between bones and pile high on a platter. Serve immediately with additional barbecue sauce on the side.
*How do I remove the membrane from ribs?To remove the membrane or silver skin from a rack of ribs, use the tip of a small knife to loosen a corner and then grab the membrane with a paper towel and slowly pull it off. If it rips before you're able to pull it off completely, just start again in a different spot.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
This solid recipe for spice-rubbed baby back ribs will please both fans of dry-rub and saucy versions of ribs—just remember to plan a day ahead before you invite friends over for a BBQ. I served these with Asian coleslaw and crispy oven fries.
My husband is the rib fanatic in the family, and after making these spice-rubbed baby back ribs I am, too. We had a heap of bones at the end of dinner. The spice rub is the perfect blend of slightly sweet and warmly spicy. I made a chipotle maple barbecue sauce to finish the ribs; what a flavor bomb that is! Prep time is minimal, just plan a day ahead for the ribs to sit in the fridge. I made the sauce while the ribs were in the oven and let it simmer away for two hours until it was nice and thick. Less than 10 minutes on the grill and you have a feast. I also made grilled sweet onions, grilled red bell pepper, and roasted asparagus. A damn fine Sunday supper.
My two slabs of ribs weighed 7.74 pounds, so I doubled the spice rub mix. It stores easily in a jar and I used some on my husband's swordfish last night. This would serve 4-6 hungry people. This is a recipe I will make again soon; I took some to work during the week and they reheat beautifully.
Originally published May 13, 2021