Outdoor barbecue parties scream ribs to me – what better venue for food you eat with your hands – especially the sticky, drippy kind? Ribs are best eaten on the lawn, in flip flops, with a hose or sprinkler nearby to take care of sticky fingers. The secret to great ribs is precooking them – most people do this on the stovetop, in a large pot of boiling water, but I find it easier (and less messy) to do on a large rimmed baking sheet. Cover plain or spice-rubbed racks of ribs tightly with foil, then bake for 2 1/2 hours. This part can be done ahead; cool, then refrigerate your ribs for up to 2 days, until you need them.
The barbecue sauce is added just before they’re finished on the grill – this keeps the sweet sauce from burning. The meat is quickly reheated as the exterior caramelizes to a perfect sticky-sweet finish. Use any kind of bottled spice rub, or make your own (below).
Classic Grilled Barbecue Ribs
Dry Rub (enough for 2-3 racks of ribs)
2 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. oregano
2 racks spareribs, trimmed of excess fat
1-2 cups barbecue sauce
If you want to use the dry rub, combine all the ingredients for it and rub the ribs all over with the mixture, covering both sides. Let them stand at room temperature for an hour, or wrap them well in plastic and refrigerate them for up to 24 hours to intensify the flavors. If you aren’t using the rub, just sprinkle the ribs with salt and pepper. Keep any extra rub in an airtight container – it will last for about a year before it starts to lose its punch.
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the ribs meat side up on a rimmed baking sheet, and cover the pan completely with foil. Bake them for 2 1/2 hours. Remove the foil and slather the ribs generously with barbecue sauce. Roast for another hour, until the meat is very tender and starting to fall off the bone.
When you’re ready to finish them, preheat your grill to medium-high. Brush the ribs with sauce and grill for about 15 minutes, until heated through and the sauce is caramelized on the outside.
If you need more rib inspiration, check out these killer Maple Rosemary Ribs, Corky’s Memphis-Style Barbecued Back Ribs, Sticky Pineapple Pork Ribs, Memphis Style Pork Ribs – all worth taking a spin on the back lawn.