The Dads RT Way to Perfect Ribs

To barbecue is not to grill. True ‘cue requires food to cook low and slow over embers or smoke.

pounds of ambrosial porky goodness

pounds of ambrosial porky goodness

The grill is reserved for already tender pieces of meat: burgers, dogs, steaks, chicken. Ribs, because of their intrinsic toughness, should not be cooked quickly over the grill. They’ll be tough, tasteless, and your status as a Master of the Grill will be greatly diminished.

Many of us have neither the time nor the inclination to turn out true smoke-cooked goodness. Ribs require slow cooking in order for the fats and collagen and heat to do their thing and turn the connective tissues into mouthwatering gleaming-with-unctuous fat toothsome-ness. Inspired by (i.e. stolen from) several great cooks, in this recipe, I give you, step by step, the cheater’s guide to barbecue ribs. While the process is long, it is nothing but a series of simple tasks: prepped, seasoned, aged, braised in foil, and finished on the grill.

For this recipe, I’ve boosted techniques and products from two great cooks. Paul Kirk is known as the Baron of BBQ. From him, I’ve stolen the ‘mustard slather.’ Kudos is also due Alton Brown of Food Network for his foil-wrapped oven-braise method. For the rub, I’ve stolen from everyone, and the finishing technique is the result of my mistakes.

If I have seen further than other men, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants. 

Sir Isaac Newton.

As you might remember from high school chemistry lab, always read the entire activity from start to finish before you begin.


Grill; gas or charcoal, plus the usual outdoor cooking accoutrements.


Aluminum foil.

Jelly roll pan. Pan needs to have a rim-do not use a flat cookie sheet.

Cooling rack.

Soup spoon.

Clean basting, paint, or pastry brush.

Needle nose pliers and paring knife.


For the rub. Montreal Steak seasoning.

Brown sugar.

White sugar.


Chili powder.

Freshly ground coffee

For the slather. Yellow mustard.

Sweet pickle juice.

Liquid smoke.

Hot sauce.

White sugar.

Pork products.

Full rack of baby backs. Recipe also works for spare ribs, but meat prep is slightly different.

BBQ sauceI like Sweet Baby Ray’s, but there are plenty of good ones.

Chef attitude-maintenance products. Beer, gin and tonic, or iced tea.

RULE #1Mise en place is important.

Mise en place is French chef-talk for having your crap together before you start. You’re working with fresh pork. If you are not organized, the chances for cross-contamination skyrocket. You want people to remember tasty goodness, not projectile vomiting. I organize steps 1 & 2 on their own plate.

Step 1Make the rub.

rib rub and slather

rub and slather, at your service

Combine ¼ cup Montreal Steak Seasoning, ¼ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup white sugar, 2 TB paprika, 1 TB ground coffee, and 1 TB chili powder in small bowl. Mix well. Place soup spoon on plate next to rub. This recipe makes plenty. You can store left-overs in a closed container. It’s great on burgers, pork chops, and killer on French fries.

Step 2 Make the slather.

Combine 1/3 cup yellow mustard, 1 TB sweet pickle juice, 1 TB white sugar, ½ tsp liquid smoke in a small bowl. Add hot sauce as desired. Place brush on plate near rub.

Step 3Prep the ribs.

  1. Line the jelly roll pan with foil. Place cooling rack in pan. Set aside for the moment.

    clean pliers, please

    clean pliers, please

  2. Remove ribs from wrapping and place on cutting board, non-meaty concave side up. Let’s call this the ‘inside’ of the rack.
  3. Use your paring knife and peel back the membrane that covers the ‘inside’ of the rib rack. Grab a hold of the membrane tab with your pliers and slowly peel off the membrane. If you can’t get the membrane off, no worries. Take your paring knife and slice through the membrane between each rib bone. WARNING: Be gentle. You don’t want to cut through the meat.
  4. Cut the rib rack into two equal sized slabs. Place ribs, ‘inside’ facing up, on your cooling rack. Wash your hands.
  5. Take your brush and paint on the mustard slather. You want full coverage but don’t be
    ready for a good night's rest

    ready for a good night’s rest

    sloppy. This is your ‘skim coat.’  It adds flavor and helps the rub adhere to the meat.

  6. Use your soup spoon to dust the ribs with your rub. You want good coverage. Don’t touch the ribs with the spoon. Wash your hands.
  7. WALK AWAY. Just walk away. Open a beer, mix a G&T, grab some iced tea- let the slather and rub set up for 15 minutes.
  8. Gently turn the ribs and repeat process; first the slather followed by rub, on the meaty, convex, “outside’ of the slabs. Use more rub on this side.
  9. Place ribs in prepared pan, on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. Remember, this is raw meat, so avoid contact with other foods. Wash hands.
  10. Wash brush thoroughly. You’ll need it tomorrow at the grill. Consider mixing 1 tsp bleach into 1 quart water and soaking the brush in the solution for 30 minutes. Rinse it well to remove any bleach flavor.

Step 4 – Enjoy family activities throughout the evening while osmosis, time and spice do their molecular magic.

Step 5 – The braise. Ribs can be braised a day ahead of time.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 275 F/135 C

    ribs-folded foil

    Three folds for leak protection. Apple added for scale.

  2. Remove rib pan from fridge.
  3. Prepare four sheets of aluminum foil, 8 inches longer than your rib slabs. Over-fold 2 the sheets together to create a piece of double-wide foil. Your first fold-down is 1 inch. Fold again ½ inch. Fold again ¼ inch. You’re looking for leak-proof.
  4. Place each rib slab on its own double wide foil.
  5. Tightly seal the rib packs long-ways and endways. Leave as much air space as possible between the foil and the ribs.  Leakage in these packs, much as in diapers, is a bad thing.
  6. Carefully, to avoid bone ends poking through the foil, place the packs back on the
    These ribs are secure for braising. Supervisory dog not required.

    These ribs are secure for braising. Supervisory dog not required.

    cooling rack. Place pan in pre-heated oven. Wash hands. Set timer for 120 minutes. That’s about 50 minutes Celsius. I kid – 2 hours, please.

  7. Indulge in beverage.
  8. Ping! (That’s your oven timer going off.) Very carefully remove pan from oven. The foil packs are now filled with pork fat and juices at dangerously warm temperatures. Place pan on surface, out of way of small kid hands, for cooling.
  9. Walk away for 30 minutes. If you are serving the ribs tonight, go build your fire or pre-heat your grill. Build two-stage fire w/hot zone and cool zone. Please make sure your grill is clean. Burned-on old food on the grill imparts a nasty flavor to your ribs.
  10. Place now-cool pan beside sink. Carefully (because the ribs now have the structural integrity of a Cirque du Soleil dancer) slide a pack into the sink. Gently open one end of pack and allow the juices to drain. Once drained, tear open foil pack, remove ribs rack intact, and place back on cooling rack. Your ribs are now fully cooked. Your patient braising made them tender. It is now time cook with fire, as our people have done since we were Homo erectus.

Step 6 – Finish ribs on grill.

  1. While grill heats, pour about 1 cup BBQ sauce into small bowl. Room temp sauce is easier to spread on ribs. Ribs, bowl o’sauce, brush, and beverage must be next to grill. Point to Ponder. Memphis-style dry ribs are AwesomeWithoutTheSauce. For dry ribs, bring the ribs up to temp on the cool zone, about 5 minutes per side, give them a quick crisp–up (1-3 minutes) over the hot zone, sprinkle well with more rub, slice and serve. Why not do 1 rack dry and 1 rack wet (with sauce), and discover what the family prefers?
  2. Place ribs on cool zone, inside up. Close lid. Stand there, looking concerned with beverage in hand, for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Open grill, and flip ribs with tongs, spatula, or similar instrument of grillmanship. They are now inside towards the fire. Paint the outside of the ribs with sauce. Close lid. Gaze knowingly off into distance. Wait 3-5 minutes. Sip on beverage. Pro-tip: The sugars in the sauce burn easily. You really do need to sniff the air frequently. If you smell burning at any time, open lid and move ribs to cooler spot, turn down flame, or remove from grill for a few moments.
  4. Open grill. Flip ribs so they are inside up. Paint with sauce. Close grill. Wait for 3-5 minutes. Enjoy beverage whilst consulting watch with air of intense concentration.
  5. Open lid. MISSION CRITICAL STEP.  If you screw up here, all your work will result in take-out pizza.  Set beverage aside. Paint more sauce on the inside of ribs. Place ribs, inside down, over hot side of grill for 60-90 seconds. Lid stays open. When you hear sizzling and smell caramelized sauce, move ribs over to cool zone.
  6. Paint the outside of the ribs with sauce. Place ribs, inside up, on the hot zone. Grill for 60-90 seconds, until the sizzling and aroma tell you they are perfect.
  7. Repeat steps 5 & 6. Cook for 60 seconds.
  8. Remove from heat and place on platter, clean cutting board, or the jelly roll pan you used for the braise.
  9. Take ribs into kitchen. Show them to everyone. Smile shyly.  Take photos and post to Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Make sure you include the link to this recipe.
  10. Let set on cutting board until cool to the touch. Enjoy beverage, kisses, and general huzzahs.
  11. Slice into individual bones. Place on platter.
ribs and beverages

Serving suggestion.

Step 7 – Indulge in more beverages. Zinfandels go well, if you prefer a non-malted beverage.  Eat ribs. Burp. Eat and drink more stuff.

Step 8 – Eat some pie or ice cream. Or eat some pie and ice cream. Let others clean up. Bask in your reflected glow from the pork fat glistening on your fingers.

Show some pig-love and leave a comment! Thanks.



The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at

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  1. Anthony Coggins says:

    I shall be using your method, hopefully, in the near future 🙂

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