Here it is the beginning of April, and the weather is great in the central valley. Beautiful sunshine, perfect for getting outdoors – hiking, drives in the country and best of all backyard barbecues. Hubby had been eyeing the country ribs for a while, waiting for the rains to subside and the days to warm. Guess everyone else in the neighborhood had the same longing because when we finally decided to pick up a few pounds of meaty country ribs, the pickings were slim. However, the pork baby backs were looking pretty good. Switching gears just a bit, we picked up a couple of nice racks.
To get baby backs that are tender requires a little work. The ribs need to be trimmed, the silver membrane on the back side of the ribs must be removed and the ribs themselves need to be slow-cooked. While “pros” will accomplish this in a good smoker, slow-smoking the ribs over indirect heat with careful attention to prevent the meat from drying out, this isn’t always practical for the average home-cook. I use an oven, a dry spice rub and a pan of water with liquid smoke to accomplish this task, finishing the ribs off on the grill for that true barbecue finish. The results are tender ribs with lots of flavor that are moist and delicious. The pan of water in the oven creates smokey steam to help prevent the ribs from drying out while they slow-cook in the oven.
Earlier, I shared this same basic recipe made with sugar rather than brown sugar, cooked entirely on the grill using both a direct and indirect fire method (Smoked Baby-Back Pork Ribs with a Spicy Dry-Rub). Today’s recipe is done in two stages, utilizing the over and thereby requiring less tending. As an added bonus, I’ve included the recipe for our family’s Golden Eagle Barbecue Sauce.
Spice Rub Baby Back Ribs with Golden Eagle Barbecue Sauce
Spice Rub Ribs
2 Teaspoons White Pepper
1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
2 Tablespoons Smoked Paprika
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Ancho Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Powder
2 Teaspoons Mustard Powder
2 Teaspoons Garlic Powder
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Full Racks Baby Back Ribs
Place all of the ingredients except the ribs in a medium bowl and stir to combine; set aside.
Cut 4 (24-by-12-inch) pieces of aluminum foil; set aside.
Pat the ribs dry with paper towels. Remove the thin membrane attached to the underside of the ribs by doing the following: Flip the ribs over so they’re bone-side up. Starting at the end of 1 rack, slide the tip of a paring knife between the membrane and the bone, then lift and cut through the membrane. Grasping the membrane with a paper towel, pull it toward the other end of the rack and completely remove it. Repeat with second rack of ribs.
Cut each rack of ribs in half. Lay halves side by side on two pieces of foil. Rub ribs well with spice rub. Seal each pouch tightly and place on a baking sheet.
Let ribs sit on counter for about 30-45 minutes.
2 cups water in a casserole dish
2 tablespoons liquid smoke
Adjust oven racks, one rack in the middle, second rack just below first rack. Place dish with water and liquid smoke on lower rack. Heat over to 325 degrees.
Place ribs in oven on middle rack. Let roast in over for about 2 hours. While ribs slow-cook in oven, make barbecue sauce.
GRILL FINISH: During last 30 minutes of cooking time, build a nice fire in grill. When grill is ready, remove the ribs from the oven, remove from foil pouches. Transfer ribs to grill, place them meaty-side up and brush them with some of the sauce. Close the grill and cook ribs for 5 minutes. Flip and brush the ribs and grill another 5 minutes. Continue to grill, flipping and brushing every 5 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the ribs are heated through, for a total grilling time of 20 minutes.
Transfer ribs to cutting board. Split each half in half again for ease in serving and eating. Stack ribs on a serving platter, with additional barbecue sauce.
Golden Eagle Barbecue Sauce
1 Bottle Hunt’s Ketchup (32 oz) – see footnote
3 Tablespoon Dry Mustard
2 Teaspoons Ground Pepper
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
½ Cup Cider Vinegar
½ Cup Water
1 Tablespoon Chili Sauce
1 Tablespoon Hickory Liquid Smoke
To make barbecue sauce, combine all ingredients in a heavy sauce pan. Stir and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat, let “steep” until ready to use – the longer the better. Refrigerate any unused sauce. (The empty Ketchup bottle works well, just be sure to label it “Barbecue Sauce” so no one gets a surprise on their burgers or French fries).
Note: For whatever reason, Hunt’s Ketchup is the only brand that works well with this sauce. Apparently “Ketchup is Ketchup” isn’t an accurate statement when it comes to this recipe because when other brands have been used, the results were less than desirable. There’s something about the base in Hunt’s Ketchup that works well with the other ingredients to create the famous Golden Eagle sauce. (For more details; see Golden Eagle Barbecue Sauce, for full story behind this old family recipe see Country Ribs with Golden Eagle Barbecue Sauce).