The trick to THE BEST baby back ribs is seasoning them with a dry rib rub then baking them low and slow in the oven before grilling them. Trust me, it works!
From steaks and chicken to veggies and shrimp, we grill all week long during the summer. One of the easiest recipes we cook is the best baby back ribs. Some cooks think baby back ribs need to start over an open grilled flame slathered from the beginning with BBQ sauce. Do not fall for this hype! This method only creates dried-out ribs with a crisp-burned carcass.
Instead, we season the ribs with a dry rub that infuses flavor into the meat, then bake them in the oven, low and slow, where all the succulence blooms. But what about the grill? It comes in at the end as the finishing agent when the ribs are coated with BBQ sauce and cooked just long enough to add a smoky flavor.
What’s In the Best Baby Back Ribs?
The main ingredient, naturally, is baby back pork ribs, with:
- Baby back pork ribs (9-12 pounds)
- BBQ dry spice rub — see below
- Apple cider—the sugars in this help tenderize and flavor the ribs, adding steam as they bake
- Your favorite BBQ sauce—any kind will do, as long as you love the flavor. If you’re itching to make your own barbecue, try making my Raspberry Chipotle BBQ Sauce.
Start With A Dry Rib Rub
Most of the ingredients needed for this baby back rib recipe are the spices that make up an epic pork rib dry spice rub. The rub recipe is from my brother-in-law, a Texan with a penchant and passion for grilling and smoking. I think my husband dreams of this rub as he covets my brother-in-law’s ultimate smoker.
Here’s what’s in it:
- Sweet paprika
- Dark brown sugar—I love the rich, molasses flavor it imparts, and it doesn’t burn as quickly as processed white sugar.
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Chili powder
- Garlic powder
- Dry mustard
- Celery salt
- Kosher salt
- Cayenne pepper
How to Make These Baby Back Ribs
If you’ve never grilled ribs before, don’t be scared! It’s a straightforward process anyone can master.
Rub-a-dub-dub, make that rub. Whisk together the homemade pork rub and rub it liberally over the surface of the ribs.
Rest and refrigerate. Chill the ribs for at least 4 hours, or overnight. This allows the spice rub to penetrate the ribs and make them super flavorful.
Bake the Ribs Before Grilling
The best baby back ribs don’t go straight to the grill, they start in the oven instead. Baking the ribs prior to grilling is what really makes this recipe so great, low and slow for 3 hours.
Bake the dry-rubbed ribs, low and slow. Preheat your oven to 250°F and place the ribs on a high-edged sheet pan lined with a wire rack (the rack supports the ribs so they don’t puddle in the apple juice). Pour 1 cup of apple cider into the baking sheet and bake the ribs for 90 minutes. Add more apple cider to the sheet pan and bake for another 90 minutes before grilling them.
Ready, set, grill. Grill the ribs over medium-high heat for roughly 10 minutes per side. Remember: you’re just looking to get some color on them, they don’t need to cook any longer.
The final step is brushing the ribs with BBQ sauce. Cook until the sauce is warmed creating a rich, smoky covering.
Tips for Making Ribs
Make sure you’re using apple cider and NOT apple cider vinegar for this grilled ribs recipe. You want non-alcoholic cider that hasn’t been flavored with cinnamon or other spices.
It’s also important that you place a wire rack in the baking sheet, as you want some of the fat to drip off the ribs. Plus, you don’t want them cooking directly in the apple cider.
Finally, when grilling the ribs, heat them on the grill first, then baste with sauce. If you add the sauce too early you’ll be sure to end up with blackened crusty outtards thanks to the potential for burning the sugar in the barbecue sauce rather than the savory and delicious variety we all crave.
Should Ribs Be Wrapped in Foil When Grilling
Some people prefer to wrap their ribs in foil to prevent them from drying out, but there’s honestly no need here. The ribs spend such a short time on the grill, and the slow baking beforehand keeps them nice and juicy and tender.
What to Serve With Your Ribs
- How to Make the Best Potato Salad
- Greek Pasta Salad with Cucumbers and Artichoke Hearts
- Asian Ramen Noodle Salad
- How to Make the Best Easy Grilled Corn
- How to Make the Best Creamy Coleslaw
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
How to Make THE BEST Baby Back Ribs
- 4 racks baby back pork ribs , 9 to 12 pounds
- 2 cups apple cider*
- ¼ cup sweet paprika
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 2 teaspoons celery salt
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Your favorite barbeque sauce
- Combine all dry ingredients and generously rub over surface of ribs. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 250°F. Place room temperature ribs on a high edged sheet pan lined with a wire rack. Pour 1 cup apple cider into the sheet pan, place ribs on the rack, and cook for 1 ½ hours. Add another 1 cup cider and cook for another 1 ½ hours or until meat pulls apart from bones.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Grill ribs for 7-10 minutes each side, basting with barbeque sauce. Remove and serve.
- Make sure you're using apple cider and NOT apple cider vinegar for this grilled ribs recipe. You want non-alcoholic cider that hasn't been flavored with cinnamon or other spices.
More Easy Grilling Recipes You’ll Love
- Cilantro Lime Grilled Chicken
- Grilled Swordfish with Smoked Paprika and Herb Fruit Salsa
- The Best Grilled Chicken Breast Recipe
- How to Grill the Best Ribeye Steak
- Mediterranean Grilled Pork Chops with Tomato Salad
- The Best Grilled Salmon
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