Fall-Off-the-Bone Baby Back Ribs

These baby back ribs take their knee-wobblingly fall-off-the-bone tenderness from a super simple technique. Just roast 'em low and slow and then toss 'em on the grill for a spell.

Fall-Off-the-Bone Baby Back Ribs Recipe

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.] This recipe has been updated. Originally published May 25, 2010. Renee Schettler Rossi

How To Make These Baby Back Ribs Ahead Of Time

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.

Fall-Off-the-Bone Baby Back Ribs Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 2 H, 45 M
  • Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 slabs (about 3 1/2 pounds total) baby back ribs
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 12-ounce bottle of beer
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups Chipotle Maple Barbecue Sauce, or your favorite bottled sauce (although made-from-scratch will always taste better)

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (163° C).
  • 2. 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.
  • 3. 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.
  • 4. 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.
  • 5. 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 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.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

These 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 technique for baby back ribs does a very good job of producing high-quality ribs. The sweetish, zesty, smoky sauce goes very well with the 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.

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 the 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.

Comments

  1. While we did our ribs in a very similar way, it was the sauce that I made specific to the recipe and it was the best! Smoky, slightly sweet, and the heat didn’t knock your socks off but almost, which made it perfect! :)

    1. Lovely to hear, Chris. Many thanks for taking the time to let us know you like it as much as we do. I couldn’t agree more about that sauce. Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…

    1. It can be, lowandslow, I completely agree. Although sometimes when cooked low and slow it’s exactly what some folks prefer. We don’t profess to please everyone with each recipe. But this recipe has made many happy.

      1. Some people just aren’t happy unless they can say something negative. Personally I can’t wait to try these because they do fall off the bone and I won’t have to struggle and gnaw on the bones. I will get back once I’ve given these a go!

        1. That’s not negative. In the real BBQ arena, it’s true. That doesn’t mean there’s no place for ‘falling off the bone’ and low-and-slow didn’t say “don’t make these.” As a certified KCBS judge, falling off the bone means a lower score.

    2. lowandslow, when I apprenticed with the late Ricky Parker, one of Tennessee’s premier pit masters, he called me over and I watched as he took his finger and–with tug–flicked out a rib. He said that there should be just the slightest pull to properly cook ribs. Now, we’re not talk about the bones slipping out loosey-goosey here, but rather the meat should come off cleanly when eaten.

  2. Good news! Many of you will be delighted to learn that Costco’s baby back ribs (3 slabs to a cry-o-vac pack) have already had the membranes removed! Do double-check with the Costco associates or their butcher in case of regional differences. I’m in Atlanta.

    I too prefer to eat my ribs with a little tug rather than have the meat falling off the bone. I think I will try baking/steaming them 15 to 30 minutes less than the recipe calls for.

    Thank you for the timely recipe. I just happen to have a pack of Costco baby backs in my refrigerator. Happy Days!

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