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Baby Back Ribs


Thanks to that catchy jingle from a certain restaurant chain, baby back ribs became an incredibly popular menu item. That's because whether you have them as an appetizer or the main course, baby back ribs offer great low-and-slow BBQ flavor. But why go out, when you can make them at home? Steven Raichlen's basic baby back rib recipe will hit the spot every time.


Prep time
15 minutes
Cooking time
4 hours
Total time
4 hours, 15 minutes

Wood Pellet Flavor -Alder, Apple, Cherry, Hickory, Maple, Oak, Pecan


2 T
coarse salt (kosher or sea)
2 T
Brown Sugar
2 T
sweet paprika
1 T
fresh ground black pepper
2 T
dry mustard
2 T
Garlic Powder
1⁄2 T
celery seed
racks baby back ribs (4-5lbs each)
3 T
unsalted butter
1 c
apple cider
3 T
bourbon or more apple cider
3 T
Soy sauce
1½ cups soaked wood chips (apple or hickory)
3 cups of your favorite BBQ sauce


  1. Make the mop sauce. Melt the butter in a non-reactive saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cider, bourbon, and soy sauce. Keep warm until ready to use.

  2. Make the rub. Place the salt, brown sugar, paprika, pepper, mustard, garlic powder, and celery seed in a small bowl and mix with your fingers, breaking up any lumps in the brown sugar or garlic powder.
  3. Prepare the ribs. Place a rack of ribs meat side down on a baking sheet. Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of the rack by inserting a slender implement, such as a butter knife or the tip of a meat thermometer, under it. The best place to start is on one of the middle bones. Using a dishcloth, paper towel, or pliers to gain a secure grip, peel off the membrane. Repeat with remaining rack.
  4. Set aside 1 tablespoon of rub for serving. Sprinkle the remaining rub over both sides of the ribs, rubbing it onto the meat. Cover the ribs with plastic wrap and refrigerate them while you set up the grill.
  5. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium (325° - 350°F). Place a large drip pan in the center of the grill under the grate.
  6. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the ribs bone side down in the center of the grate over the drip pan and away from the heat. If your grill has limited pace, stand the rack of ribs upright in a rib rack. If cooking on a charcoal grill, toss half of the wood chips on each mound of coals. If cooking on a gas grill, put half the chips in your smoker chip box. Cover the grill and cook the ribs for 45 minutes.
  7. Mop the ribs on both sides with the mop sauce. Re-cover the grill and continue cooking the ribs until well browned, cooked through, and tender enough to pull apart with your fingers, 45 minutes to 1 hour longer, 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours in all. When the ribs are cooked, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about ¼ inch. Mop the ribs again every 15 minutes and, if using a charcoal grill, replenish the coals and wood chips as needed. If using a gas grill, replenish the wood chips as needed.
  8. Just before serving, brush the ribs on both sides with some of your favorite BBQ sauce and move them directly over the fire. Grill the ribs until the BBQ sauce is browned and bubbling, 1 to 3 minutes per side.
  9. Transfer the ribs to a large platter or cutting board. Let the ribs rest for a few minutes, then cut the rack in half or into individual ribs. Sprinkle a little of the reserved rub over the ribs and serve at once with the remaining BBQ sauce on the side.

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