Baby Back Ribs on the Grill

published Aug 4, 2021
4th of july
Baby Back Ribs on the Grill

These baby back ribs are meaty and lean while still being delightfully tender.

Serves4 to 6

Prep15 minutes

Cook1 hour 45 minutes

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A rack of baby back ribs on a wooden platter, with bbq sauce and a brush also on the platter and a plate with ribs nearby
Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Stylist: Kristina Vanni
Baby Back Ribs on Grill

A succulent rack of perfectly grilled baby back ribs is primed to be the star of any summertime BBQ. It’s so easy to turn to hot dogs and hamburgers when planning a backyard menu, but with a little bit of planning ahead, you can serve up a gorgeous rack of ribs without the need to hover over the grill for hours on end and miss out on the fun.

I’ve always loved this recipe because the bulk of the work takes place in advance. The majority of the cooking time for the ribs can be done in the oven the night before and the sauce can be prepared and stored up to a week earlier. In fact, the homemade BBQ sauce is the real workhorse here. It’s used as a marinade for the pork, as well as a basting sauce while they finish on the grill. Of course, any leftover sauce can be passed at the table and enjoyed to the last drop. The sauce has a sweetness that will entice you to lick your fingers and it comes with a unique twist: There’s a bit of dark rum in there for additional depth of flavor. Plus, if you have already dipped into a bottle of rum for the sauce, it can be fun to make a summery rum-based cocktail pairing for the party.

How to Choose and Prepare Ribs for Grilling

Baby back ribs are my favorite for grilling because they are meaty and lean while still being delightfully tender. Once you bring home a rack from the store, be sure to remove the membrane over the underside of the ribs if your butcher hasn’t already done this for you. This is known as the silverskin and is easy to detach. Simply slip a knife between the membrane and the meat at one end of the ribs. Then work your fingers under the skin to loosen it and begin to firmly pull it away from the meat. If it feels a bit slippery, using a paper towel can help secure the grip.

Once the ribs are ready to finish over the grill, use caution when basting with the remaining sauce. The sugars can caramelize quickly and sometimes just a few minutes can be the difference between deliciously charred grill marks and unpleasantly burnt ribs. You will know the ribs are done when the meat begins to peel away from the ends of the bones. The meat should move easily from the bone, but not “fall off the bone,” as this is an indicator that the ribs are overcooked. If using an instant-read thermometer, the ribs should reach an internal temperature of about 190°F.

Should Ribs Be Wrapped in Foil for Grilling?

For this recipe, the ribs are wrapped in a double thickness of foil and cooked in the oven before they are finished on the grill. Once the ribs are placed on the grill, there’s no need to wrap them in foil. At this point, they will simply be heated through while being basted with a homemade BBQ sauce.

Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Stylist: Kristina Vanni
Baby Back Ribs on Grill

What’s the Best Temperature for Grilling Ribs?

These ribs are finished on a grill over medium-high heat. This would be about 375°F on a gas grill. Medium-high heat on a charcoal grill can be tested by hovering your hand over the coals. If you can hold your hand an inch from the grill for four seconds, the fire is typically between 350°F and 400°F.

How Often Should You Flip Ribs on the Grill?

These ribs only need to be flipped once on the grill. I like to start them meat-side down, then watch carefully to achieve a nice char and grill marks. That way, once they are flipped and the bone side is down, there is a little more leeway to allow the ribs to finish heating through without the worry of burning the meat.

Baby Back Ribs on the Grill

These baby back ribs are meaty and lean while still being delightfully tender.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 1 hour 45 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 slabs

    baby back ribs (5 to 6 pounds total)

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 1 cup

    packed dark brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    chili sauce, such as Homade

  • 1/4 cup

    ketchup

  • 1/4 cup

    dark rum

  • 1/4 cup

    soy sauce or tamari

  • 1/4 cup

    Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 teaspoon

    dry mustard

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in in the middle of oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Prepare 2 slabs baby rack ribs: Remove the membrane attached to the bones on the backside, if there is one, by sliding a butter knife or rounded tip of a spoon under the connective tissue without tearing it. Lift the membrane and grip with a dry paper towel, then pull the membrane slowly but firmly. The entire piece of membrane should come cleanly off. Wrap each rack in a double layer of aluminum foil and place side-by-side on a large rimmed baking sheet.

  3. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, mince 2 garlic cloves and place in a medium bowl. Add 1 cup packed dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup chili sauce, 1/4 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup dark rum, 1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari, 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Whisk to combine. (You should have about 2 cups of sauce — it will be a bit loose.)

  4. Unwrap the ribs and pour off the drippings. Return the ribs to the baking sheet. Brush half of the sauce all over the ribs, coating each rib well; reserving any remaining sauce for basting. Marinate at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours, or cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap, and marinate overnight in the refrigerator (refrigerate any remaining sauce). (Alternatively, the slabs can also each be cut into two pieces and placed in zip-top plastic bags with the marinade instead.)

  5. When ready to serve, heat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat (375°F). Place the ribs on the grill and cook uncovered, turning and basting them with the remaining sauce every few minutes, until heated through and slightly charred with grill marks, 10 to 15 minutes total. Serve with any remaining sauce.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The ribs can be cooked in the oven up to 1 day in advance, marinated in the sauce overnight, then grilled the next day. The sauce can also be prepared up to 1 week in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.

Storage: Leftover ribs can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave in 30-second intervals until warmed through.