First-Timer’s Ribs

Kitchen Tested
  • Yield 4 servings

Steven Raichlen's perfect ribs, fragrant with spice and smoke and tender enough to pull apart with your fingers.

First-Timer's Ribs
Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn


3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup apple cider
3 tablespoons bourbon, or 3 more tablespoons apple cider
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
2 racks baby back pork ribs (4 to 5 pounds total)
Barbecue sauce, choose your favorite
1 1/2 cups wood chips, soaked 1 hour in water to cover


  1. To prepare the mop sauce, melt butter in a saucepan; stir in remaining ingredients and keep warm.
  2. Combine all rub ingredients, except ribs and barbecue sauce, in a bowl. Remove papery membrane from back of ribs. Set aside 1 tablespoon rub mixture; rub remaining mixture over ribs. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. Set up grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium (325F to 350F). Brush and oil grill grate. Place ribs, bone sides down, in center of grate away from heat. If using charcoal, toss chips on coals. Cover and cook 45 minutes. Mop with mop sauce; cover and cook 45 minutes to 1 hour, mopping every 15 minutes, or until meat shrinks from ends of bones about 1/4-inch. Brush ribs with barbecue sauce, place directly over fire and grill until sauce is browned and bubbling, 1 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from grill, let rest a few minutes, and cut in half or individual ribs. Serve with barbecue sauce and remaining rub.

Adapted, with permission, from Raichlen on Ribs, Outrageous Ribs (Workman, 2006).




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 278 other followers