These baby back ribs are, quite literally and quite true to their name, fall-off-the-bone tender. The secret is all in the technique. They’re first baked low and slow in the oven and then tossed on the grill for a spell.
The time on the grill may be relatively short, but it slaps a slightly smoky flavor onto the ribs through some important alchemy between flame and barbecue sauce. We love the technique not just for what it does to the ribs but because you we can just toss them in the oven rather than tend the smoker for hours, which means we can tuck into them any time of year, even midwinter.
[Editor’s Note: On particularly chilly or windy or rainy days, we dare say these could do without the time on the grill. Just be sure to baste the ribs during the final minutes and perhaps run ’em under the broiler for just a minute or so just before serving.]
Why Our Testers Loved This
Our testers were smitten with the tender meat on these baby back ribs and the “sweetish, zesty, smoky sauce” that accompanies them. They loved the easy method of slowly cooking them in the oven and finishing them on the grill to give the ribs a slight char and smokiness.
Karen Depp summed it up with her comment, “Not only is this one of the easiest recipes, but it’s also among the very best recipes for ribs.“
What You’ll Need to Make This
- Baby back ribs–This cut of meat is very tender and perfect for oven baking and finishing on the grill. If you substitute a different cut of ribs, it may require a longer cooking time to become tender.
- Beer–Use a mild-flavored lager that you enjoy drinking. If you are avoiding alcohol or don’t want to use beer, substitute stock or apple cider.
- Chipotle maple bbq sauce–Any leftover sauce is excellent on this chipotle brisket. Feel free to substitute your favorite bbq sauce.
How to Make This Recipe
- Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. Either run a sharp knife down the ribs to cut through the membrane (like I did above) or wriggle the round tip of a table knife under the membrane and the bone. Grab an edge of the membrane with paper towel to pull it away.
- Slice an onion and place the slices on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Slowly pour the beer into the baking sheet.
- Season the ribs with salt and pepper, cover tightly with foil, and cook for 2 hours at 325°F (162°C).
- Slather the ribs, top and bottom, with barbecue sauce. Grill meat-side down for 10 to 15 minutes
- Flip the ribs and grill for another 10 to 15 minutes. Be mindful that they don’t burn.
Sure can. You can substitute chicken or beef stock, water, or even cola. In autumn, I like to use fresh-pressed apple cider. I also slice an apple along with the onion to line the baking sheet.
There are lots o’ names for baby back ribs. They’re also sold as pork loin back ribs, back ribs, or loin ribs.
Oh, and the term “baby” isn’t a reference to the pig’s age but rather to the size of the ribs. Baby back ribs are shorter than spare ribs. And “back” refers to the fact they’re cut from near the spine, while spare ribs are cut from near the breast bone.
By removing the membrane, a thin sheath that lines the bone side of the ribs, the rub or sauce can penetrate deeper into the meat, making it more flavorful plus it allows the meat to become more tender.
There is only one way: low and slow. Whether cooked completely on the grill or the oven or started in the oven and finished on the grill like these,
- Consider asking your butcher to remove the membrane if you’re not comfortable with it.
- Be extremely careful when taking the ribs out of the oven. The beer can spill.
- The ribs can be baked up to a day in advance. Simply let them cool completely, wrap them up in aluminum foil and then plastic wrap, and then toss them in the fridge. Note that you’ll need to leave them on the grill a few minutes longer to make sure they heat all the way through.
- In the winter or bad weather, I skip finishing the ribs on the grill and instead baste them with sauce and cook them for 20 to 30 minutes in the oven. I then blast the broiler for a minute or two to char them a bit.
Dishes to Serve with Your Ribs
Write a Review
If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David
Awesome. The only thing I did differently was nothing! I used Bud light and Jack Daniels bbq sauce. Yummy!!!!!Jason
Fall-Off-the-Bone Baby Back Ribs
- 3 1/2 pounds baby back ribs (about 2 slabs)
- 1 large onion, sliced
- One (12-ounce) bottle beer
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 cups Chipotle Maple Barbecue Sauce, or your favorite bottled sauce
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (163° C).
- To remove the membrane from the back of the ribs, slip the tip of a small, dull knife, such as a table knife, in between the membrane and bone anywhere along the edge of the slab of ribs. Lift the knife to separate the membrane from the bone, then grab the membrane with one hand through a paper towel (the towel helps keep the membrane from slipping out of your grip) and rip it off.
- Spread the onion slices evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the ribs, bone side down, on the onion. Pour the beer over the ribs, season with salt and pepper, and cover tightly with foil. Bake, undisturbed, for 2 hours.
- Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill and let the coals burn to a gray ash with a faint red glow, or until you can hold your hand 3 to 4 inches above the fire for no more than 6 seconds.
- Brush both sides of the baby back ribs with the barbecue sauce and place the ribs, meat side down, over the coals. Grill the ribs, basting the top-facing side several times, until slightly charred, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Turn the slab of ribs and liberally baste the cooked side. Treat the slab gingerly, so as not to lose any of the luscious meat to the flames of the grill. Close the lid of the grill and cook the ribs, basting often, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Cut the slabs into individual ribs, pile them onto a large platter, and serve warm.
- Removing the membrane–Consider asking your butcher to remove the membrane if you’re not comfortable with it.
- Use caution when removing ribs from the oven–Be extremely careful when taking the ribs out of the oven. The beer can spill.
- Get ahead–The ribs can be baked up to a day in advance. Simply let them cool completely, wrap them up in aluminum foil and then plastic wrap, and then toss them in the fridge. Note that you’ll need to leave them on the grill a few minutes longer to make sure they heat all the way through.
- Finish them in the oven–In the winter or bad weather, I skip finishing the ribs on the grill and instead baste them with sauce and cook them for 20 to 30 minutes in the oven. I then blast the broiler for a minute or two to char them a bit.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
These fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs lived up to their name. Baking them slowly with beer and finishing them on the grill was so easy and worked just perfectly. The biggest problem will be turning the ribs on the grill without them falling apart on you, because they really are that tender.
The sauce is great for basting–it’s clearly intended to caramelize on the grill to fully develop its flavors. It’s not really the kind of sauce you would serve on the side, but cooked on the ribs it was delicious.
Not only is this one of the easiest recipes, it’s also among the very best recipes for ribs. The directions are clear and concise, and the result is delicious. My table of critics deemed these “the best ever,” “yummy,” “moist and tender, fall off the bones for sure,” and “make these again and again!” These eager eaters ranged in age from 67 to 9 years and from “investigative” to “professional-almost” in experience.
The recipe for these tender baby back ribs is one that also invites experimentation with other liquids and vegetables to put in the pan.
The sauce is a combination of sweet and piquant with a shot of “pow” at the end. It has a different taste before being grilled on the meat–I think the grilling process caramelizes some of the sugars and gives the sauce a more well-rounded and complete taste. This is a definite keeper.
These fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs were so delicious and easy to make—just set ‘em and forget ‘em! My butcher was fresh out of baby back ribs, so I ended up using trimmed-down St Louis-style ribs.
The recipe went off without a hitch, until I pulled the ribs at 2 hours and found that while the bone came out quite easily, the meat was still on the tough side. I should’ve adjusted the cooking time for the thick cut. I’d imagine with the smaller baby back ribs, that the 2-hour cooking time would’ve been quite sufficient.
Nonetheless, the ribs finished splendidly on the grill, and tasted so good with the slight char from the open flames.
I tend to be more of a purist when it comes to barbecue, but if you’re in a hurry, or inexperienced with a smoker, this baby back ribs recipe does a very good job of producing high-quality ribs.
The sweetish, zesty, smoky sauce goes very well with the tender ribs, but be mindful of the heat to prevent scorching. I had great results with less than 10 minutes per side. After all, the ribs are already cooked, and it’s just the sauce that has to be cooked onto them.