Baby Back Ribs & Bare Bones BBQ Sauce

The Smoke Shop

Keep the indoor cooking to a minimum and fire up the grill to enjoy one of summer’s quintessential foods: ribs. Andy Husbands, chef-owner of The Smoke Shop, BBQ champion and cookbook author, shares a little something from his most recent collection of recipes, The Smoke Shop’s Backyard BBQ: Eat, Drink, and Party Like a Pitmaster.

You don’t need a smoker for these Salt & Pepper Baby Back ribs which end up being a bit more like the”best grilled pork chops you’ve ever tasted, tender inside with a crunchy, salty exterior.” And the sauce! It’s so simple you’ll never buy another jarred one again. You’ve probably got all the ingredients in your pantry already plus it’ll keep for up to a month so you can make extra so you always have some handy.


Servings: 4 to 6


for the sauce (makes 4-5 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (225 g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (235 ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons (33 g) yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon (9 g) garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon (7 g) ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons (10 g) coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (5 g) dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups (480 g) ketchup
for the ribs
  • 1/4 cup (56 g) kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup (24 g) coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (9 g) garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves (optional)
  • 2 racks baby back ribs (3 to 4 pounds [1.4 to 1.8 kg])
special equipment
  • Charcoal grill
  • Charcoal chimney
  • Charcoal briquettes
  • Instant-read thermometer


for the sauce
  1. Combine all the ingredients except the ketchup in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking to blend.
  2. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Whisk in the ketchup and continue to simmer for 5 minutes more.
  4. Remove from the heat and serve atop or alongside smoked meats of your choosing. Or to store for future use, cool to room temperature and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
for the ribs
  1. Combine the salt, black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and rosemary (if using) in a small bowl and mix well.
  2. With a paper towel, peel the membrane off the bone side of the ribs. Evenly dust both sides of the ribs with the spice mix.
  3. To prepare your charcoal grill for two-zone cooking, pile unlit charcoal against one side of the grill. Fill a charcoal chimney two-thirds full with briquettes to create medium-high heat. Stuff 2 sheets of newspaper into the bottom of the chimney and light the paper. When the coals are fully engaged—you should see flames peeking over the top—pour them over the unlit charcoal. When you can hold your hands 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to 13 cm) over the fire for no more than 3 to 5 seconds, clean the grill grate. Cover the grill and open the vents all the way. Wait 5 minutes.
  4. Place the ribs on the cooler side of the grill, meat-side down. The closest rib should be 3 inches (7.5 cm) away from the hot coals. Keep all the vents completely open and place the cover back on the grill. Every 10 to 15 minutes, rotate the ribs, turning them over and end to end. You want to get a dark golden-brown crust on the ribs without burning them. Cook until the ribs reach an internal temperature of 170°F to 180°F (77°C to 82°C) when measured in the thickest part of the meat between the bones, about 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Serve with barbecue sauce. Or, to store for future BBQ-eating, wrap room-temperature ribs tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

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