Spice-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs

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.

Seven spice-rubbed baby back ribs on a piece of parchment on a wooden surface.

Adapted from Jennifer Newens | Cooking With Spice | Weldon Owen, 2013

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

Seven spice-rubbed baby back ribs on a piece of parchment on a wooden surface.
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.
Jennifer Newens

Prep 30 mins
Cook 2 hrs 30 mins
Total 1 d
Entree
American
6 servings
900 kcal
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Ingredients 

  • 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

Directions
 

  • 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.
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Notes

*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.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 900kcal (45%)Carbohydrates: 11g (4%)Protein: 74g (148%)Fat: 63g (97%)Saturated Fat: 22g (138%)Trans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 261mg (87%)Sodium: 360mg (16%)Potassium: 1203mg (34%)Fiber: 4g (17%)Sugar: 5g (6%)Vitamin A: 4922IU (98%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 155mg (16%)Iron: 6mg (33%)

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.

This recipe for spice-rubbed baby back ribs works with St Louis-style ribs too! The recipe was very easy to follow and one that created a really good bark with a moist interior that was very tasty. For a recipe that wasn’t smoked for hours, it was truly delicious. I used a homemade concoction of ketchup, yellow mustard, hoisin, and soy sauce with a touch of red wine vinegar for my BBQ sauce. Although, on their own, the ribs were really good before adding the sauce. We served ours with buttered rice and a salad. And will definitely make it again.

This method has taken ribs in our small household to a whole new level of ease--and the results assure they'll be a repeat. The dry rub is only a few minutes work, the oven roasting is easy and hands-off, and with a few minutes at the grill, you have spice-rubbed baby back ribs that guarantee you will pick them up with your fingers and enjoy every bite. You'll want extra napkins, but there is no stress and while we normally have turned to a pressure-cooker recipe that we love (suited perfectly to two people), this method takes the ribs to a more unctuous yumminess.

The rub can tilt towards your preference—I used a combination of paprikas (sweet, smoked semisweet, and hot), and medium-hot New Mexico chile powder. You could bump the heat a bit (maybe even a bit of dry chipotle powder), and make the smokiness as prominent as you wish.

Our choice of barbecue sauce was to contrast a bit, so we brushed on a tangy, citrusy mop sauce for grilling, and passed more at the table along with a Carolina and a Texas-style. Since my tastes veer less sweet, I was most happy to have just a bit of the extra citrus or the mustardy, tamarind-based one but everyone could have their own choice. Since rubbing a single rack or several is no extra work, we prepared a full recipe and only grilled one rack, sealing up the rest to save for future meals. I'll be happy to serve this to anyone who'd be happy about finger-licking friendly good eats.

These spice-rubbed baby back ribs were tender, delicious and the rub added the extra touch we needed! I used sweet paprika, dark brown sugar, and ancho chile powder. For the sauce, I played it safe and used Sweet Baby Ray Original because I know that is my husband’s favorite and I didn’t want to risk a sauce he didn’t love.

I’m anxious to try the suggested ones but it was the rub I was excited to try. Ribs were rubbed and refrigerated overnight. I removed them from the fridge and allowed them to warm a bit at room temp before roasting. At about 2.25 hours they were fork tender. On the grill, they did begin to burn a bit and we moved them to a cooler spot. The temp on our grill was about 400°F—I thought that was medium but I think we would have been fine at about 250°F. I'd say the recipe serves 8 but not if my husband or brother are dining with you—then it's 6 at best. Those two will polish off a rack plus each! This will go in regular rotation at our house. I’m itching to see what else will benefit from that rub.


Originally published May 13, 2021

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