Table of Contents
  1. Are you ready for these sweet barbecue baby back ribs?
  2. What is the difference between baby back ribs and other types of ribs?
  3. Everything you’ll need to make this recipe.
  4. Here’s how to make this recipe.
  5. These tips will make this recipe a success:
  6. Frequently asked questions on this recipe
  7. Other summer cookout recipes you'll love.
  8. Watch how to make this recipe
  9. Have I convinced you to make ribs at home this summer?
  10. Sweet Barbecue Baby Back Ribs Recipe

Perfectly tender but still charbroiled, these baby back ribs are sticky sweet and fall right off the bone. The best part? They start in the oven and are finished on the grill. With this recipe in hand, these will be the best ribs you’ve ever had!

Are you ready for these sweet barbecue baby back ribs?

Ribs oftentimes seem to be the barbecue item we all crave but don’t like to make. And it’s a fact: good ribs are legendary. Those ones that are tender, fall off the bone, with a slightly smoky flavor, and sticky-sweet sauce.

This perfect rib can be made at home and better yet, it can be made without a smoker. A smoker is often the secret to adding flavor and making the meat tender. Instead, this recipe has a spice rub that’s baked in the oven low and slow until tender. While baking in the oven, a quick sauce is made on the stove. By adding in a few drops of liquid smoke, the sauce is transformed into a slow-smoked dish that will fool anyone. Once tender, the ribs are finished on the grill to add some necessary charbroiled flavor and caramelize the sauce into a perfect finish.

Slice of baby back rib with barbecue sauce slathered over the top sitting on baking pan with small bowl of barbecue sauce.

What is the difference between baby back ribs and other types of ribs?

While any type of ribs sounds like it should be interchangeable, there are a few main differences. There are three cuts of pork ribs:

  1. Spare ribs are bigger and not as tender as baby back ribs and come from the belly side of the pig. These are much more cumbersome to work with but have a lot of meat.
  2. Baby back ribs are much leaner and more tender than other ribs because they’re closer to the loin. They’re smaller in size, starting at about a max-width of six inches and tapering off from there. This size means they’re going to be a bit easier and more enjoyable to eat. Plus, they soak in the flavor really well but can be a bit more of an expensive cut of meat.
  3. St. Louis-style ribs are the same cut as spare ribs but have been trimmed of excess fat and meat. Think of these as nicer and cleaner-looking spare ribs that are easier to work with.

Everything you’ll need to make this recipe.

The ingredients for this recipe are pretty simple with much of the flavor coming from the spice rub. While it may seem like a lot of spices, each one is super important. When the barbecue sauce is smothered on top, the combination is what makes this recipe a showstopper. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

For the baby back ribs and barbecue sauce:

  • baby back ribs
  • onion
  • salt
  • garlic
  • spices
  • apple cider vinegar
  • molasses
  • yellow mustard
  • ketchup
  • liquid smoke
  • tomato paste
A slab of uncooked baby back ribs sitting on white dish surrounded by lots of ingredients for the cooked baby back ribs with labels and text describing each one.

For the spice mixture:

  • garlic powder
  • smoked paprika
  • onion powder
  • celery seed
  • cayenne pepper
  • ground mustard
  • brown sugar
  • salt
Wooden bowl filled with lots of different spices with words written on top to indicate which spice is which all on white surface.

Here’s how to make this recipe.

There are three main parts to how this recipe comes together: prepare the meat and place it in the oven, make a barbecue sauce, and finish the meat on the grill. But there are a few helpful tips at each step that will help make this recipe a success.

  • Prepare the spice rub. Combine together the brown sugar, salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard, cayenne pepper, and celery seed. This mixture of spices is intended to mimic the idea that the resulting ribs were cooked in a smoker. While it may seem like quite a few spices, each one was handpicked for a specific reason. The brown sugar adds the necessary sweetness and depth of flavor, salt enhances and seasons the meat, and smoked paprika bolsters the desired smokiness.
  • Sprinkle the spice rub on the baby back ribs. Even though it may seem like a lot of spices, make sure to use it all because you want this to be very well-seasoned. Also, make sure to cover both sides of the ribs. The “silver” skin on the backside of the ribs can be removed, but it helps to keep the ribs together and makes cutting them later much easier. As the spice rub is sprinkled, the ribs may get tacky as it works into the meat, but that’s exactly what should happen.
  • Wrap the ribs in tin foil and place them in the oven. Make sure to wrap the tin foil tightly so that the steam is trapped with the meat, which will make these fall-apart tender. Once wrapped, place the ribs in the oven for two hours.
  • Prepare the barbecue sauce. Start with chopped onion and sauté this in a kettle on the stove. Add salt, which draws out some of the moisture from the onion and also seasons this layer of the sauce, which is super important. In the last 30 seconds of cooking the onions, add the garlic. This small amount of cooking time prevents the garlic from burning and turning bitter. When you can smell the garlic, you know that it’s cooked for long enough with the onion. Next, add the tomato paste. You want to add the tomato paste at this step so the “raw” flavor will cook off before the other final barbecue sauce ingredients are added. After a few minutes, the paste will be a bit drier and a bit darker. Next, add in the ketchup, molasses, apple cider vinegar, yellow mustard, and liquid smoke. The liquid smoke is optional, but will be the secret ingredient in this sauce that drives home the idea of a “barbecue.” Stir everything together and let it come to a simmer. Simmer for about ten minutes, then keep at a low temperature until the ribs are ready to come out of the oven.
  • Remove the ribs from the oven and place them on the grill. The ribs are ready to put on the grill when a knife inserted in between the bones meets no resistance. While the ribs are on the grill, brush about a third of the barbecue sauce on top, reserving the remaining two-thirds of the sauce for dipping while serving. At this point, the ribs are fully cooked. The grill is used to caramelize the sugars in the barbecue sauce and get the desired skin on the outside. When all of the barbecue sauce is on the ribs, close the grill and allow them to bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the heat of your specific grill.
  • Remove the ribs from the grill and slice between each bone. Serve with the remaining barbecue sauce and enjoy!

These tips will make this recipe a success:

  • When possible, make sure to buy ribs that are not brined. Often, grocery stores will sell brined meat to “enhance” the flavor. This simply means that the mean is pumped with salt water. While this enhanced flavor sounds great, the problem is that brined meat usually does not have as much meaty flavor and can have a soft texture. Avoid this when possible.
  • Liquid smoke is an ingredient you won’t use a lot but is worth having in the kitchen. One bottle will last for years. Liquid smoke is literally the condensation from smoker grills bottled up. The intense, smoky liquid adds an amazing flavor with just a few drops. Instantly, this liquid will make something taste like it has been smoked for hours.

Frequently asked questions on this recipe

What other meat recipes would work well with this spice rub?

This dry rub is great to use on chicken, pork loin, and even on white fish, such as cod. The spice mixture has the ability to add complexity and just a hint of spice to each of these meats.

Can the ribs be made entirely in the oven? If so, what needs to be changed in the recipe?

If you do not have the ability to use a grill, these will still be delicious! After they have baked in the tin foil, turn the broiler on low. Remove the ribs from the foil and brush with the sauce. Place the pan 8 inches from the broiler and watch closely. When the sauce begins to caramelize, they are ready to eat! You won’t have quite the char flavor, but it will be super delicious.

Can a prepared (or jarred) barbecue sauce be used instead of making one from scratch?

I will always ask that you follow a recipe and make the sauce at least once to taste the difference. That said, you can definitely use jarred sauce. Pick your favorite one and brush it on while grilling!

Why use both tomato paste and ketchup in the barbecue sauce as opposed to only ketchup?

The tomato paste has a deep sweetness to it that’s really the condensed essence of tomatoes. While ketchup has a sweetness, it doesn’t impart quite the same sense of “tomato” as tomato paste.

Why add molasses to the barbecue sauce rather than brown sugar?

Brown sugar provides a sweetness to the sauce, but not the depth of flavor that molasses does. Do you know what makes brown sugar brown? Molasses! You can substitute with brown sugar and the outcome will be good, just not as flavorful.

Does the liquid smoke have to be added to the barbecue sauce?

No, but if you want a smoky finish to the sauce, which will pair well with the grilled ribs, the liquid smoke marries it all together. It’s like a little secret that will boost the smokiness of the ribs.

Two hands holding one baby back rib with barbecue sauce slathered all over with remaining ribs in background.

Other summer cookout recipes you’ll love.

Watch how to make this recipe

Have I convinced you to make ribs at home this summer?

What do I hope you do with this recipe? I hope you make it and put some food on the table. Believe me, your summer will this so much better when you make these and enjoy them with family and friends. Also, when you leave a comment and share a star rating, you let others know how much you love this recipe. This helps show others that this is a recipe they too can make and enjoy!

Metal baking pan filled with cooked barbecue baby back ribs sliced into pieces with half rack full in background.

Sweet Barbecue Baby Back Ribs

5 from 3 votes
Author: Kaleb
Perfectly tender but still charbroiled, these baby back ribs are sticky sweet and fall right off the bone. The best part? They start in the oven and are finished on the grill. With this recipe in hand, these will be the best ribs you’ve ever had!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Grilling Time 20 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients

For the ribs

  • 1 rack baby back ribs (about 1 ½ to 2 lbs)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp celery seed

For the barbecue sauce

  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 oz tomato paste
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard
  • ½ tsp liquid smoke

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground mustard, cayenne pepper, and celery seed. Mix and sprinkle over the rack of ribs. Rub into the meat to ensure everything is covered. Wrap the rack of ribs in tin foil and place them on a large baking sheet. Place in the preheated oven and bake until tender, 2 hours.
    2 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp ground mustard, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, ¼ tsp celery seed, 1 rack baby back ribs (about 1 ½ to 2 lbs)
  • While the ribs are baking, heat the oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and salt. Sauté until the onion is softened and beginning to brown, 6-8 minutes. Once the onion is soft, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until the paste is darkened, 3-4 minutes. Add the ketchup, molasses, apple cider vinegar, yellow mustard, and liquid smoke. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce has thickened, 10-15 minutes. Once thickened, remove the sauce from the heat and set it aside.
    1 tbsp neutral oil, 1 cup diced onion, ½ tsp salt, 2 cloves garlic, 4 oz tomato paste, 1 cup ketchup, ¼ cup molasses, 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp yellow mustard, ½ tsp liquid smoke
  • Preheat the grill on high for 15 minutes. Once preheated, turn the heat to medium-high. When the ribs are tender, remove them from the oven and discard the tin foil. Brush the ribs with ⅓ cup of the sauce and place on the preheated grill. Grill until the sauce is beginning to caramelize and cling to the ribs, 15-20 minutes. More sauce can be brushed on for a thicker layer. Serve immediately with the remaining sauce.

Notes

  • When possible, make sure to buy ribs that are not brined. Often, grocery stores will sell brined meat to “enhance” the flavor. This simply means that the mean is pumped with salt water. While this enhanced flavor sounds great, the problem is that brined meat usually does not have as much meaty flavor and can have a soft texture. Avoid this when possible.
  • Liquid smoke is an ingredient you won’t use a lot but is worth having in the kitchen. One bottle will last for years. Liquid smoke is literally the condensation from smoker grills bottled up. The intense, smoky liquid adds an amazing flavor with just a few drops. Instantly, this liquid will make something taste like it has been smoked for hours.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 392kcalCarbohydrates: 52.1gProtein: 16.1gFat: 14.2gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 7.1gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 47.6mgSodium: 2223mgPotassium: 870.6mgFiber: 2.7gSugar: 41.7gVitamin A: 174.7IUVitamin C: 14.8mgCalcium: 107.3mgIron: 3mg
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Difficulty Intermediate
Method Grilling

You May Also Like

Never miss a post by signing up for my newsletter.

Kaleb

I’m Kaleb! I'm not a chef, professional baker, landscaper, or designer, but I like to play each on Knollgate Farm. Come join me on my journey and let's learn together!

Learn more about me

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating:




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

3 Comments

  1. getting ready to rub ribs and put in oven for Father’s Day!
    Sent a message… we will see results.
    Question was you said slow cook to get tender ribs, etc.
    Personally, I don’t consider 350 for 2 hours slow tender.
    My bake beans are 45 mins at 350.
    I do appreciate your input on the various topics you cover on video/website.
    You are my daily walking YouTube.
    Keep cool 😎 and thank you!

    1. Hi Micki! So glad you’re making the ribs. I can see why low and slow doesn’t seem like 350°, once the ribs are wrapped in foil and 350° heats like a steam oven inside the foil packet and is the perfect temperature for the two hours! I think you’ll find out why this is so good!

  2. 5 stars
    Have my ribs In the oven, they smell delicious!! I subbed brown coconut sugar, and still seemed to work. I will finish off in broiler. My hubby is in the Blacksburg Virginia area working because we are moving out of Cali. The kids and I have never touched the Rec Teq smoker grill. I’m a little scared to attempt it. So broiler it is!!
    Also Kaleb, my daughter and I were looking at James Madison university last week when we were visiting. She graduates 2023. We were looking at schools for her. It’s a beautiful area, and I know you mentioned you went to college in that area.
    Thank you for your awesome videos and cheerful disposition. I look forward to each and every new one. I’m already planning my peony garden, which is my favorite flower, at my new home in Virginia. No peonies in California, or much green in the summer.
    Kind Regards,
    Dana