Baby Back Ribs - Spicy and Sticky

Barbecues and picnics are a given for either Memorial Day, 4th of July or Labor Day. And while favorites include chicken, steak, burgers or kabobs, I always like to do ribs. They go so well with my favorite classic side dishes, potato salad and slaw, both of which can be made well in advance of the picnic.

Last year, I shared a recipe for ribs that so tender the meat literally falls off the bone. This one takes a slightly different approach. While it uses the same rub and a similar process, this one uses a spicier sauce and the grill instead of the oven. The meat stays on the bone.

These ribs are sticky, which I love. The more sauce, the better. They are what one would call “bone-suckin’ good.” But to do this takes some time. 

Making the rub and the sauce take only a few minutes, but it requires patience because the ribs undergo dry brining — from one hour to overnight and then the slow cooking process. For moist ribs, they should cook at a low temperature of 225°F to 250°F for four to six hours, depending on the style of rib. Baby back ribs, which I prefer, require four hours on the grill.

Just as a warning: When serving these ribs, don’t use your good cloth napkins. Have some wipes, such as Wet Ones, available. They are messy, but delicious.

Enjoy and have a happy and safe holiday weekend!

Ingredients: Serves 6-8

For the Rub:
Rubs can be made of almost any combination of spices. Many call for garlic and onion powders. Not having either of them on hand, I came up with this, using cumin, one of my favorite spices. It worked very well.

2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground rosemary


For the Ribs:
5 ½ to 6 pounds of pork baby back ribs (typically, two packages)
Rub to cover
Sauce to cover

For the Spicy Barbecue Sauce:
½ cup ketchup
½ cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika


For the rub, grind the rosemary, along with all of the other ingredients in a mini food processor and mince until all ingredients were well blended. Cover the ribs evenly with the rub and then wrap the in aluminum foil two times. Depending on how much time you have, place the ribs in the refrigerator anywhere from 1 to 4 hours or more. 

While the ribs are in the refrigerator, for the sauce place all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool until ready to use.

When all is ready, light your grill and bring it to 225° to 250°F. To attain this temperature on a gas grill, light only one burner, either to the far right or far left. Once the grill is ready place, the ribs (still wrapped) on the side without the flame and let roast for 3 hours.

At the end of 3 hours make a slit down the center of the foil and pull it back, exposing the ribs. Cover the ribs with a heavy coating of sauce, close the grill and let cook for one more hour or so. 

When done, place the ribs on a cutting board and slice into single rib servings and place on serving platter. Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro.

Make it ahead

Both the rub and sauce can be made days ahead. The ribs can be rubbed and refrigerated overnight. Prepping the day before allows more time for your guests.