Raichlen on Ribs
by Steven Raichlen
Indirect grilling followed by direct grilling
For the mop sauce:
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup apple cider
- 3 tablespoons bourbon, or 3 more tablespoons apple cider
For the rub and ribs:
- 2 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard (preferably Colman’s)
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
- 2 racks baby back pork ribs (4 to 5 pounds total)
- Lemon Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce (recipe follows)
You’ll also need:
- 1 1/2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory or apple), soaked
for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained; barbecue mop or spray
- Make the mop sauce: Melt the butter in a nonreactive saucepan over medium
heat. Stir in the cider, bourbon, and soy sauce. Keep warm until
ready to use.
- 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.
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 the remaining rack.
Set aside 1 tablespoon of the 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.
Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium (325 to 350
degrees F). Place a large drip pan in the center of the grill under the
When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the ribs, bone
in the center of the grate over the drip pan and away from the heat.
(If your grill has limited space, stand the racks of ribs upright in
a rib rack.) If cooking on a charcoal grill, toss half of the wood chips
on each mound of coals. Cover the grill and cook the ribs for 45 minutes.
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 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours in all, mopping once or twice more. When the ribs
are cooked, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones
by about 1/4 inch. If using a charcoal grill, replenish the coals as
Just before serving, brush the ribs on both sides with Lemon Brown Sugar
Barbecue Sauce and move them directly over the fire. Grill the ribs until
the barbecue sauce is browned and bubbling, 1 to 3 minutes per side.
Transfer the ribs to a large platter or cutting board. Let the ribs rest
for a few minutes, then cut the racks in half or into individual ribs.
Serve the ribs at once with the remaining barbecue sauce on the side.
Serve the reserved rub on the side.
Yield: About 3 cups
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard (Coleman’s)
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and whisk to mix. Gradually bring
the sauce to a simmer over medium heat, and continue to simmer until
thick and flavorful, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or clean
jars; let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.