Smoked Baby Back Ribs

There are two cuts of pork ribs common in the US: spareribs and baby back ribs. The back, or loin, ribs are taken from either side of the hog’s spine while spare ribs come from either side of the sternum. Both are tasty indeed but the back ribs are leaner and more tender. Of course they are also more expensive. If you watch for specials at your local warehouse store you can often get them for about half the price they are at most supermarkets. They freeze well, so when they are at a good price, load up your freezer!

This recipe is an amalgamation of tips from sources too numerous to cite. There is no one way to prepare ribs, of course, but there are a few fundamentals you should follow. First, you need a dry rub, a mop for basting, and a barbeque sauce for serving. A mop, by the way, is a basting sauce. Second, you need a smoker or smoker-style grill. Third, you need well-soaked chunks of smoking wood, preferably hickory. The rest is simplicity itself. Cover the ribs with the rub and refrigerate overnight, heat up the smoker to about 225°, add the hickory, and smoke the ribs. After an hour or so, baste with the mop and cook slowly for about 4 hours. After the hour’s smoking you can finish the ribs in the oven if you wish.

The Rub

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

1 Tbsp. paprika

2 tsp. granulated garlic

2 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. black pepper

½ tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. dry mustard

Mix together in a small bowl.

The Ribs

Allow ½ to 1 rack per person. Rinse the ribs, dry, and remove the membrane from the back of them.  Cut each rack in half, if necessary, so that they will fit into your smoker. Season the ribs with the rub, shaking off any excess, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

About 5 hours before service remove the ribs from the refrigerator. Let warm to room temperature for an hour then put into the smoker. After one hour baste with the mop. Continue smoking until done.

The Sauce

There are many styles of barbeque in the American South: Carolina, Memphis, Kansas, Texas, etc. To my palate many are cloyingly sweet.  The recipe is represents a very basic East Carolina style sauce: vinegary and hot with a touch of sweetness. It is equally good on smoked ribs or pulled pork.


1 cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup Jack Daniels or bourbon

1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper

1 Tbsp. molasses

Grind black pepper


Combine the ingredients in a small, bring to a boil, and cook out the alcohol for a few minutes (Be careful the vapor don’t catch fire. If they do, don’t panic; just cover with a lid.) Set aside to cool.

The Mop

Mix some of the barbeque sauce with an equal amount of melted, unsalted butter.


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