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Smoky and Spicy Pork Ribs for Grilling Weather

By Athena Calderone for Cook Beautiful. Photography by Johnny Miller.

Sticky fingers, tender meat sucked off the bone, and a messy face to boot—bring it on, summer! I love the primal act of sinking my teeth into a meaty pile of ribs, just off the grill. But while I’ve always craved a finger-lickin’ rack of baby backs, I didn’t make them at home very often until I developed this complex, smoky-spicy sauce. Now I’m absurdly addicted.

This recipe does require some prep time, but the sauce can be made well in advance—it keeps for weeks. (Double it if you can. It’s really good.) Likewise, the ribs allow some flexibility in timing. You cook them low and slow in the oven until they’reüber-tender but not quite falling off the bone. At this stage, they can sit for a few hours until you’re ready to finish them on the grill. One caution: The sauce can cause a bit of a flare-up, so be sure to keep an eye on the grill.

Smoky and Spicy Pork Ribs for Grilling Weather



½ cup (110 g) packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 ½teaspoons cayenne pepper
40 grinds freshly cracked pepper
2 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
6 pounds (2.7 kg) baby back ribs, membrane removed (ask your butcher to do this)


1 ½ sticks (6 ounces/170 g) unsalted butter
8 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup (120 ml) cider vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons mirin
1 ½ tablespoons minced fresh ginger



Preheat the oven to 300°F (150 ̊C). In a bowl, mix together the sugar, paprika, cayenne, pepper, and salt. Transfer about a third of the spice mixture to a small bowl and set it aside; it will be used for the sticky sauce.

Lay a large piece of foil on a work surface. Working with one rack at a time, place the ribs on the foil and rub them on all sides with some of the remaining spice mixture. Fold up the foil around the ribs, using one or two additional pieces of foil to make a sealed, sturdy packet.Repeat with the remaining rack(s). Place the packets on a baking sheet and roast until the meatis very tender, 2½ to 3 hours.


While the ribs are roasting, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Whisk in the garlic, vinegar, mirin, ginger, and the reserved spice mixture. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and reduced by half, about 20 minutes.


When the ribs are done, carefully open the packets and transfer the meat to a clean baking sheet. Pour any juices that have accumulated in the packets into a measuring cup; use a spoon to skim the fat from the top. Whisk the juices into the sticky sauce and simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Preheat a grill over medium heat to about 400°F (205 ̊C). Brush the ribs on all sides with the sauce. Grill until the ribs are lightly charred, about 4 minutes per side. Brush with the remaining sauce before cutting the ribs into portions and serving.


Ribs are never a neat and tidy affair, which is part of why we love them. Rather than attempting to achieve perfectly even pieces, honor their sticky, gooey spirit by jumbling together single, double, and triple-rib portions on a simple platter—and don’t dream of wiping up the saucy drips.

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