Barbecue fans will endlessly debate the merits of rubs, marinades and sauces when it comes to ribs.
That’s not surprising, because serious barbecue fans will debate just about every aspect of the craft. Anyone who has travelled in the southern US knows that barbecue is taken very seriously there.
There are regional variations – ribs cooked with a Memphis-style dry rub are very different from those cooked in a Kansas City-style dark molasses sauce. But you can even divide it up within a single state. In South Carolina you may get a tomato-based sauce or a mustard-based sauce, depending on where in the state you are; east Texas favours hot, saucy pulled meats while central Texas steers toward meat that is drier and smokier.
One of the fun things about this recipe is that it draws on several traditions, giving ribs the deeply-infused flavor and meat tenderizing that comes from braising in a marinade, the surface crispiness that a spice rub conveys, and the pass-the-napkins sticky sweetness of a good Kansas City-style sauce.
Bridget Oland, who developed the recipe, describes it as being a bit like a day at the spa: a nice hot soak, then an all-over scrub followed by a soothing massage.
Steps two and three (rub and slather) can be done on the barbecue, or you can just do step three on the barbecue if you prefer.
Spice rubbed ribs with molasses slather
2 racks of back ribs (4-5 pounds)
1 cup of beer (or 1 cup broth or stock)
1 Tbsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
½ cup Fancy Molasses
½ cup ketchup
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
Braise: Remove membrane covering the bony side of the ribs. In a large roasting pan lay ribs in a single layer, meaty side down. Pour over the beer, cover well and braise at 325 F for an hour.
Rub: Remove ribs from pan and rub with the spice mixture. Cut into single ribs. Line a large roasting pan with foil or parchment paper. Place the ribs in a single layer, meaty side up. Bake uncovered at 300 for 15 minutes (Can flip half way through). Drain fat from pan. (If cooking on the barbecue, line the grill with foil or use a pan to prevent the ribs from burning).
Slather: Combine slather ingredients and coat meaty side with a third of the sauce. Bake ribs uncovered another five minutes. Baste again and bake another five minutes.
Serve sprinkled with cilantro.