mollys-dry-rubbed-ribs Recipes

molly’s dry-rubbed ribs

[My friend Molly made the most amazing ribs on Memorial Day. Prior to Monday, I thought I liked mopped, or barbecue sauced-up ribs. I am now officially a dry rub convert, and begged her to let us know how she did it. Thanks Molly!–Deb]

I started making these ribs last summer. I got inspired by an amazing BBQ I attended in Bed-Stuy at my friend Antoine’s friend Pete’s house. Pete has six jumbo grills with attached smokers or something ridiculous like that. At that BBQ, I think he smoked so much meat in his backyard that he probably violated some kind of zoning ordinance. The buffet table in the backyard groaned under the weight of at least half a dozen BBQ competition trophies. Pete is a serious BBQ chef. It was the first truly delicious BBQ pork I’d eaten since I had moved to NYC after living in North Carolina for two years.

hard-working tongs

Now I must provide the obligatory rant on my BBQ predilections/prejudices: I enjoy a tangy red sauce as much as anyone else. I especially love Ina Garten’s Barbecue Sauce that Deb introduced me to: brushed on a chicken thigh over a charcoal fire, it’s wonderful. But in my opinion, tomato-containing sauce of any kind does not belong on pork BBQ. It took just two years in Orange County, NC, home of the Tar Heels and the inimitable Allen & Sons Barbecue, to convince me of this.

the smoker

There is only one way to do right by pork: cover it with a simple, spicy-sweet dry rub. Let it sit for a while. Slowly cook it in smoky, indirect heat, using a wood fire or natural charcoal, until the meat is tender enough to melt in your mouth. Then go hawg wild. It’s best to enjoy the meat without any sauce, at least at first. Sometimes, if I am in the mood, I will add a hot pepper vinegar to my pulled pork, but only after I eat some of it unsauced. I never add any sauce to ribs.

molly's dry-rubbed ribs

So one day last summer, after having grilled Pete on his BBQ technique (pun intended), I decided to try my hand at some spareribs. My first attempt was an astounding success, thanks in great part to some excellent instructions in the latest edition of the Joy of Cooking (recipe adapted below), as well as the wisdom of Master Pete. I added my own special technique along the way: dousing the ribs with Magic Hat No. 9 several times during the cooking process. This mixes with the dry rub to form a delectable crust on the outside of the ribs. Magic Hat No. 9 is a medium-bodied beer with an apricot flavor and aroma, so it mixes perfectly with the pork and the flavors in the rub.

molly's ribs

When you get these ribs right, the thinner pieces of meat hanging off the small end of the rack may have a spicy, very smoky, firm (but not dry) quality, while the meat in between the biggest ribs will be milder and meltingly tender. Make sure everyone gets at least one nice big fat rib. I personally like the chewier end pieces–they are almost like high-end jerky. I like all of it. It makes me well up with emotion.


Southern Style Dry Rub
Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition

Molly’s notes: These ribs don’t need sauce. In fact, to sauce these ribs would be an abomination, so I don’t want to hear about it. Commenters who espouse gumming up these ribs with sauce will be scorned. By me. Deb will still be nice to them, but she’s nicer than I am.

You can make this less spicy by omitting the ground red (cayenne) pepper. You can make it more straightforward by omitting the cumin. I use nutmeg instead of mace, because who has mace sitting around their kitchen? Not me.

The ribs go really well with basic coleslaw–nothing too fancy. Deb made some scrumptious slaw for Memorial Day, and some tasty BBQ beans too. Hush puppies would have been great, too, but we don’t have a deep fat-fryer at Jocelyn’s place, unfortunately.

Makes about 2 cups of dry rub

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup paprika (sweet or hot)
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons ground red pepper
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup cracked black peppercorns

Make your spice rub and cover those ribs in it ASAP. The longer they sit in the spices, the better, but let them sit at least an hour. Let them sit up to 24 hours if you want. Wrap them in plastic and refrigerate them until it’s almost time to put them on the grill. You can let them sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes or so before starting the BBQ process.

These ribs take about 3 hours total cooking time, sometimes more and sometimes less, depending on how hot your fire is and how thick the slabs of ribs are. [More detailed instructions below.]

Everything You Need to Know to Buy, Prep and Cook the Ribs

Buying Ribs: I use St. Louis-style ribs, because you get more meat for your money. When you smoke these babies for as long as three hours, you end up with a completely tender result, though the meat on baby-back ribs is technically “more tender.” I am feeding a crowd of hungry, eager people when I do this, and I would have to spend twice as much money (read: over $100) on meat if I used baby-back instead of St. Louis-style ribs. Plus there wouldn’t be enough room on the grill to make dinner for everyone. You have to eat at least six baby-back ribs to be happy, as opposed to three St. Louis-style’s. For my first experiments with BBQ, I used the pre-packaged racks of ribs that are available in most supermarkets’ meat departments for about $12 apiece, but the fresher they are, the better. In fact, I would advise you to ask your butcher when (s)he gets deliveries of fresh ribs, and plan your BBQ-ing accordingly.

Prepping the Ribs: I don’t cut out the connective tissue/membrane before cooking. I realize there is a massive, contentious debate about this in BBQ-ing circles, but I don’t really have an opinion on the matter, other than (1) it seems tricky and time-consuming; (2) I don’t know how; (3) I can’t imagine that the ribs could be any more tender. The membrane basically breaks down during the cooking process. Maybe it leaves a bit of a ultra-thin, crispy remnant on the bone side of the ribs. I don’t know. I don’t feel the need to perform this surgery. It seems like an unnecessary fuss if you ask me. Well, it looks like maybe I did have an opinion on the matter, doesn’t it? I like the membrane, OK? I like the crispy little membrane wafer you get when you’re done.

Cooking the Ribs:

  • Indirect heat is essential, and you don’t want the fire to be too hot. You cannot expect ecstasy if you rush ribs. I use my friend Jocelyn’s big charcoal grill with a smoker attachment. If stupid party-crashers want to throw things on the grill while you are tending to your precious pork, the smoker attachment is good because they can use that fire for direct heat, leaving the ribs to cook undisturbed in the bigger chamber of the grill. Just make sure they don’t leave the lid of the smoker attachment hanging open when they do this, or the ribs won’t get enough heat.
  • I build two fires: one in the smoker attachment, and another one on the opposite end of the larger chamber. The ribs go in between the two fires. There’s enough room for three racks of ribs. Recently my friend Darren, a seasoned grillmaster, advised me to get a rib rack so I could make more ribs at once. I think this is because he has not yet been able to truly pig out on ribs to his heart’s content. I did buy one of these devices at Home Depot the other day, but I haven’t tried it, so I can’t report on how it works. If any of you readers have experience with the rib rack, I would be very interested to hear about it. (I got the kind that holds your ribs up on their sides, vertically, kind of.)
  • Starting the fire: Darren usually starts the fire at Jocelyn’s, but I have been known to do this on occasion as well. We might start the fire with Match Light, just to get things going, but then we switch to natural hardwood charcoal. I get this at Whole Foods. You should have at least a couple bags of charcoal on hand whenever you make BBQ so you can continue to feed the fire. I also use mesquite or applewood chips (not charcoal) soaked with water to create smoke. These are available at Whole Foods as well, or at Williams-Sonoma, but if you buy them at Williams-Sonoma you might as well experiment with throwing dampened dollar bills on your fire. I add these (wood chips, not cash) three or four times along the way. I just throw a few handfuls on top of the fire in the smoker attachment, batten down the hatches and let the ribs bathe in smoky goodness. I honestly don’t know what the temperature inside the main grill chamber is. Darren speculated that it’s probably between 225 and 250 degrees, but this BBQ-ing business is an inexact science at best. If you are all wrapped around your thermometer, you’re not embracing the essential aspects of BBQ’s allure: the primal, the low-tech, the intuitive. Imagine yourself as Luke Skywalker, practicing the lightsaber blindfolded aboard the Millennium Falcon…
  • Grilling the ribs: Once you have two nice piles of glowing hardwood coals, you put your ribs on the grill, meat-side down to start. Turn them over every 30 minutes. Every time the meat side faces up after turning, I lightly pour Magic Hat over the ribs. (Reserve at least three bottles for this purpose, and label them so your drunkard friends don’t sabotage your project.) Don’t dump the beer all over the ribs all at once–you want to kind of sprinkle it so it doesn’t wash away all the spice rub. Also, when I turn the ribs over, I reposition them on the grill. Rack 1 goes where Rack 2 was, Rack 3 goes where Rack 2 was, Rack 2 goes where Rack 3 was. This corrects for any differences in temperature within the grill chamber. For the same reason, I also turn the ribs so the small and large ends of the rack are facing different ways during the cooking process. The smaller ends get done a little bit more quickly than the big fat parts of the racks.
  • Checking for doneness: The best way to tell if the ribs are done is to take a big pair of tongs and try to kind of twist the rack of ribs around a bit. If it holds firmly together and feels resilient, it’s either not done yet or you cooked it at too high a temperature and you completely screwed it up–better luck next time. If done right, the ribs should start to separate when you twist the rack. In other words, one should not need teeth to eat this meat.

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95 comments on molly’s dry-rubbed ribs

  1. When you say ground red pepper, do you mean pepper flakes? Or something else? This looks so good I jsut have to try it this week. Thanks!

  2. deb

    Hi Jens — Molly used cayenne. It’s a bit, so you can adjust it to your tastes. I didn’t find the ribs any more than mild-to-moderately spicy.

  3. Echoing the sentiments of Oatmeal Cookie Guy, you’re making me regret living in a condo. Too bad we don’t have a rooftop to make up for it. All that and it’s 2:30am. Nothing like craving BBQ at this hour, I always say. ;)

  4. i’m so glad to read that you prefer St. Louis Style ribs. They really are amazing and have great flavor. My 98 year old grandmother LOVES the tips and we always save them for her. Lucky for me I have a local pork guy here in St. Louis who has amazing hogs and his ribs are the best in town….after my husband gets done with them! Great rub recipe. Gonna pass it along to my dad.

  5. Oatmeal Cookie Guy: I’m going to a BBQ in a backyard in NYC tonight. Also, don’t you have a roof on your building? Come on! There are no drawback to living in Manhattan or anywhere in NYC (except maybe the UES, hee hee). It’s perfect in every possible way. Ha!

  6. Oh my goodness, THANK YOU! I just invited about 60 people over, promising them ribs and have been scouring the web and all my cookbooks ever since. I had marked the Joy of Cooking recipe in my copy but it’s so great to see it “validated” here! Thank you thank you thank you!! I can’t wait to try these out.

  7. Molly

    I just clicked on the Allen & Sons link Deb put in here and was horrified to see that some idiot panned the restaurant because:

    1. “The pork was dry.” (NOT TRUE! The pork there is silky and smoky and like nothing you’ve ever tasted! I’ve eaten there at least a dozen time and it has never been less than perfect, even without any sauce!

    2. “The sauce was, well, just vinegar. Vinegar with a few spices thrown in is not barbecue Sauce. At best it’s salad dressing, but not barbecue sauce.” Dude! Have you ever heard of CAROLINA STYLE BBQ?! Go to some fake cue joint if you insist on having tomato syrup on your pulled pork.

    3. “The staff was clearly hell bent on closing by 8:00 P.M. They were even vacuuming in the dining room while we were eating. In good restaurants, 7:00 to 8:00 P.M. is usually the busiest time of evening dining. ” Listen here, dummkopf. This place is on a country road outside of Hillsborough, NC, and is run and frequented by country folk who go to bed at 9. And any fool knows that you go there for LUNCH. The people who run it don’t serve alcohol, and they’ve been closing at 8 PM for the last 50 years, probably. In fact, the phrase “evening dining” probably sounds completely silly and phony to them, since they are not pretentious middlebrow yuppies.

    What is he going to do next, complain that they don’t have a freaking sommelier?
    And he says he has lived in Chapel Hill for 6 years! I shudder to think. I propose forming an investigative committee to identify this jerk-o and RUUUHN HEEEEim outta TOWWWWuhn!

    I guess there are always going to be some ignorami out there who act like total know-it-alls but are, in fact, obviously clueless…and I guess there are always going to be some dunderheads out there who don’t like Carolina-style BBQ. Well. They should keep their wrong opinions about their poor taste to themselves. BBQ wars: war without end! Amen, amen.

  8. Molly, do you have a blog? You’re hysterical.

    I’m with you on eating ribs dry. If they were done RIGHT, you don’t need sauce. This made me sooooo hungry and sadly there’s no way I can give it a try in my current apartment/grill set-up. Drool.

  9. She doesn’t (have a blog) but I’ve been meaning to ask her if she would guest blog for me while I am in Italy in about a week. I would let her write about WHATEVER she wanted.
    Whadadya think???

  10. Katy

    Is there a comparable method to cooking ribs on a gas grill instead of a charcoal grill?

    Those look very tasty — I’ve been fond of dry-rub ribs since a trip to NC about a decade ago. They are hard to find locally unless you make them yourself.

  11. iamnotafanofgravel

    You can cook on a gas grill with some extra planning. Low heat and either a smoker box or even some tinfoil will work. put the chips in the little smoker box on the fire side or in tin foil and they will smoke. I have done this in the past when all I had was a gas grill.

  12. Molly

    I kind of did have a blog, but it was kind of secret and now it’s kind of defunct.

    Joc, I am going to be in Highlands while you are in Italy. Do you want me to blog about digging huge rocks out of the soil? Planting hostas? Hiking trips? I could if you want me to. I promise not to write anything about knitting.

    Thanks, iamnotafanofgravel, for the gas grill instructions! I am going to try this when I am at the mountain house. We have a gas grill there, which is kind of annoying…

  13. Nicole M

    My husband grew up in Raleigh and considers pulled pork with the red pepper vinegar to be the only acceptable form of BBQ. We’re in Colorado now where nobody even knows what NC BBQ is and it’s all Memphis and Texas style (one joint even calls their spicy mustard stuff “Carolina style” sauce!). I can’t wait to show my husband this and watch him drool he he.

  14. Juliet

    I’ve been smokin’ ribs for about 3-4 years now. I don’t like to repeat meals/dishes, but they have become a request among friends and family. I have been using the Cook’s Illustrated Rub recipe and techniques with great success.

    I have a Weber charcoal grill (gas for cooking is reserved for the stove top only in my house). So laying 4 racks of baby backs, let along spareribs (St. Louis-style) is not an option on the Weber, so I did spend the few buck on my version of a rib rack. I purchased mine at Home Depot, it was actually a baked potato/rib-rack combo. To be honest, I haven’t tried potatoes with this rack, but I did fashion it into a rack that accomdates 4 racks. It works great for me.

    I think that in the smokey, enclosed environment, it serves it’s purpose, as long as the ribs aren’t touching each other. So, if you are needing the extra space, it’s worth it.

  15. God this thread is making me so hungry. The sad thing about St. Louis is that we have shit-tastic BBQ here. Seriously…you would think it would be the opposite considering that we are about equidistant between KC and Memphis. But, alas…it’s usually covered in the sickeningly sweet gloppy sauce. But, there is a bright spot on the horizon. Pappy’s Smokehouse just opened and they do AMAZING Memphis style smoked meats. It’s the talk of the town. I eat there weekly.

  16. Shilpa

    Wow!! Have to try this when I find really really nice friends who own a grill!!
    I have a little tabletop kind, but not really meant for this purpose.

    Weird, today when I was starving at 3pm with three good hours of work ahead of me, I somehow craved ribs, without knowing at all what was going to be on smittenkitchen tonight – just figured I would check it out before I head home, but now where am I going to find a grill at this hour?

  17. Alexis

    Jocelyn: Deep fryer for the BDL!! Fried food will be absolutely PERFECT for the wicker sofa I ordered for the skybar. It’s being delivered tomorow. Debs can make deep-fried smores cake for the 4th.

  18. I am a recent convert to dry ribs, having been a sauce lover for most of my life. I’m very keen to try your blend. Also, what are hush puppies?!

  19. this is such an amazing post! i love all the details. we’ve been getting really into bbq, especially now that we are into grill season. We did pulled pork sandwiches over Memorial Day but these ribs will be our next adventure. i appreciate all the details about buying and prepping the ribs. thanks!

  20. Deb
    God Bless You! Only you could have me craving BBQ at 8:00 A.M., when I normally need my caffeine just to get the engine kick started. Absolutely beautiful, concise and informative presentation. And those vertical racks do work well, especially if space is an issue. I’m wondering if a little dry rub in my Diet Coke (cold man’s caffeine) will help to speed up the revival process! NOW I’m in the mood for BBQ!


  21. Patty

    Ohhhh Ribs…I love them so much. I live in NC, born and raised but Ive eaten ribs all over. Wet sauce or dry rub….I don’t care , cooked right, YUMMY!!!!

    Bring on the bibs….Im ready to eat now lol thanks for making me want ribs…..

  22. Pam

    I always look for ways to improve the rubs I make for ribs. This sounds so yummy! I have to that a few days before you posted this recipe my hubby used his favorite rub and I ended up using your haricort and scallion dish cold as a salad to go with the ribs. I substituted olive oil for the butter since I knew I was going to try it cold. It is so much better then most of the heavy things that people want to pair up with ribs. It was a finger licking festival! p

  23. Sooz

    Okay..I’ve gotta ask why there isn’t some granulated garlic in this rub? Did your Que-ru talk about that at all? Is isn’t heresy, so please don’t persecute me who loves all things ‘que!

  24. jeannie

    Helen? OMG, what are hushpuppies? You are sitting in front of a computer, right? Look ’em up, and btw, they aren’t the shoes. They are the worst unhealthiest most delicious little things ever. Don’t eat too many of ’em. And they go great with barbecue.
    Okay, just to open the door, imagine balling up your cornbread and deepfrying it, and there ya go.

  25. BigA

    Writing from the land of pulled-every-sorta-meat. BBQ is next to godliness here in the Sooner State! The BF keeps threatening to by a grill and this entry just might get him to finally bite the brick and do it. Happy smokin’…

  26. ms ellie

    Molly, living right here in Memphis, I have certainly heard my share of debating over the wet/dry issues. I prefer dry. I MIGHT add some sauce, maybe. But usually, they are just right and need nothing at all.
    I can’t imagine living where there are no BBQ restaurants. That’s just sad.
    I’ll just eat a rack for all of you out there licking your lips for some Q!

    and Helen who has never had a hush puppy? I’m cryin’ real tears for you, sista.

  27. AJ

    OK, OK, what if you only have a (don’t hate me) gas grill? Can this be modified via some sort of … I don’t know, miracle gas-grill-to-wood-smoker contraption? Will pay. Will travel. Help. Must.Have.These.

  28. Ooh Katy, thanks so much for the link on how to do ribs on a gas grill! I’ve recently replaced my itty bitty charcoal grill with a gorgeous, shiny new gas grill and I really want ribs after reading through Molly’s post here.

    Deb – The pictures are gorgeous!

  29. joanne

    Oh lordy, I’m gonna try this out tomorrow. I might have to make a trip to Home Depot and pick up a rib stand. I’ve got a Weber kettle, so no smoker box. I think I’ll leave the fire starting to the husband. We just came back from Columbia, SC, and next month, we’ll head up to Charlotte, NC. I’ve been gorging myself on Carolina bbq!

  30. Kathleen

    Alright, you’ve got a pregnant woman who has been the verge of “morning sickness” the whole day craving BBQ! I’m from the mountains of NC and when I got married almost 7 years ago I kind of planned my outdoor wedding around having eastern Carolina style BBQ! I really wanted the works with paper tablecloths and all but was vetoed. We specially requested that immediately following the ceremony we could slip up to our room in the inn where it was held and have a quick dinner of BBQ before signing the papers and joining our guests. Imagine my devastation when we got to the room and I found my BBQ slathered in sweet red tomato sauce. I rushed down to confront the staff and found that they had been worried that not everyone would like the eastern style and made half and half as far as the sauce went. Can you believe the TRANSGRESSION?! Thank you for such a wonderful post and recipe!

  31. Angela

    I fondly remember many many meals at Allen and Son and they did not involve “evening dining” (wonder if the “critic” found the banana pudding too soft with too many vanilla wafters). My beloved and I ate lunch there the day we went to a JP (same building as the jail) in Hillsborough to git murried. I have to admit, though, I grew up in vinegar-sauced BBQ land, I am sort of a barbeque slut. I’ll eat just about any of it, even the supersauced stuff.
    The beloved and I will have to try these ribs. Thanks!

  32. Molly

    Kathleen, I love you! I am sorry those evildoers tried to ruin your special day with their stupid sauce screw-up. **da-da-da-DAHHH* BBQ WARS CONTINUE!!! I am going to western NC (Macon County) on Thursday, by the way, can’t wait. I just wish we could have an Allen & Sons in Highlands, but I guess what my Dad told me is true: “Now, you can’t have everything you want…uh, all at once.” (Jeez, Dad, you’re bumming me out!)

    Sooz: I thought about granulated garlic in the rub, too. I definitely agree, it’s not heresy. I just followed this one particular dry rub recipe once and I’ve followed it ever since, I liked it so much. Isn’t there some granulated garlic in chili powder though? There is a quarter cup of chili powder in there, so that may impart some garlic flavor. Maybe next time I will experiment with just a touch more garlic.

  33. Molly

    Angela: I LOVE the desserts at Allen & Sons. The last time I was there I had coconut chess pie. If I remember correctly, it made me cry a little bit.

  34. Sooz

    Molly, my rub recipe (for a single rack of ribs) has everything yours has with the exception of the garlic (and a smidge of ground cloves). Mine uses some garlic salt in the place of some of the regular salt. The chili powder I use doesn’t have garlic in it. BTW..I have a TDF pineapple coconut chess pie recipe that’s a snap to make, if you’re interested. Goes well with pork.

  35. Ooh, I didn’t know you used to live in NC! I’m in Carrboro now and eat the Carolina style BBQ all the time! I like Allen & Son’s but I prefer to eat at the BBQ Joint on Weaver Dairy in Chapel Hill, although mostly because the owner is a good ol New Orleans boy, another place I’ve been fortunate enough to call home. I’ll have to try out your recipe!

  36. C-Line

    Is there any way to email you directly, Deb? I have an amazing summer desert (and who can say no to desert?) recipe that I’d love to share with you…!

  37. Julia

    I live Allen & Son’s! I now live in Chicago and miss it very much. Per Jessie – yes, the one on Weaver Dairy is good, because it’s a little closer to chapel hill, but Allen & Son’s is so authentic! Oh and to Susan – we want a Big Green Egg. We are so jealous!

  38. Oh my, those are some tasty looking ribs. I don’t have a good grill around here, but I’ll be trying that rub on a roast soon. They look incredible, and the pictures you take are always outstanding. How do you get fire to look so amazing in pictures? Fax me a rib and I will be forever indebted =)

  39. I just need to try those. Living in the city means there’s no possibility of a BBQ near. I’ll try these in the oven, though it won’t be the same!

    Ever try some oreganum in the dry rub? I think I’ve tried them that way, and it sure adds flavor! :-)

  40. hannah

    i’d like to consider myself a northern, city-dwelling rib enthusiast (if such a thing is truly possible!). i have had great success cooking spice-rubbed ribs in the oven. prepare the ribs as directed above and cook on a baking sheet in a 300 degree oven for 2-3 hours rotating the pan every 30 minutes. you do miss out on some of the smoky flavor imparted by the grill, but i’ve used this method many times with great success.

  41. Molly

    Sooz, hit me up with that chess pie recipe!
    The BBQ Joint on Weaver Dairy Road in Carrboro was just on the Food Network for their BBQ catfish. They use a spice rub on it, then they grill it over charcoal, then they smoke it in a ragtag homespun device. Looked pretty tasty. They showed a bunch of Tarheels fans eating it in their Carolina blue jerseys, and it made me homesick…

    Jessie, in case you’re confused, Deb didn’t used to live in NC–I wrote this blog entry. (Carrboro was my home for a while, actually!) Deb thought she was “in the South” when we lived in DC. teehee

  42. joanne

    Okay, I made these ribs for dinner tonight. It was fantastic, but we found the rub very heat intensive. I think I need to change the ratios. Also it probably doesn’t help that I used Cayenne pepper. I didn’t have Cumin, and I did add a 1/4 c of granulated garlic. All in all these were very good.

  43. Molly

    Yep, these are pretty spicy. But that’s how I like it, personally. If I were making it for my mom or someone else who is heat-averse, I’d leave out the cayenne.

  44. Jo

    Do you have any suggestions for the gas BBQ’s that everyone I know uses? I don’t even know anyone with a charcole or wood one.

  45. Molly

    Jo, look in the comments–there are suggestions there, plus a link to another site with extensive gas grill instructions. Basically, three things keep coming up:

    1. Use low heat
    2. Use indirect heat if possible: if there are three places where you can ignite the flame, put ribs in center and ignite flame on either side of ribs only.
    3. Use a smoker box with wet wood chips (soaked a couple hours in water or beer) in it to create smoke. Or if you don’t have a smoker box, make one out of aluminum foil and punch holes in it.

    Good luck! I am going to try this myself next week…and also make a more garlicky and less hot n’ spicy rub for my garlic-loving, tender-stomached parents. I will report back on my success/failure.

  46. Angela

    Thanks a lot people, after all of this talk about Allen and Son’s I would almost kill for some hush puppies right now. That’s a barbeque joint specialty that MUST be eaten immediately and thus I have them maybe once a year.

  47. Jim

    With regards to gas grills, I know I have heard all the talk but the convenience is what sells, I have been doing ribs with a similar dry brub for years and I do them on a gas grill. I start by preheating the grill on high, it is one that has only two burners, and put a foil pouch filled with hickory chips. Once it is hot and the chips start to smoke I turn one side off and the other down to low. I put the ribs in a rib rack and let them sit for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. I will turn the rack occasionally. When they are done the meat is falling off the bone and still moist.

  48. Molly

    Yargh, so I tried these on a gas grill this past weekend and did not get my usual perfect results. I never let the heat in the grill get above 250, and I followed everyone’s pointers here (wood chip box, low and indirect heat) so I don’t know what the hell the problem was. But anyway, I did two racks of ribs, one St. Louis and one “country style” (it’s almost like part of a pork chop plus some other part of the pig–I never knew they existed until I went to the grocery here in the NC mountains), and the country ribs turned out WAY better than the spareribs. So I suspect the spareribs I got may have been defective. They had this thick layer of fat in between the layers of meat, and it would NOT GO AWAY–we even tried putting some of them back into the grill, but that fat would not render out. It was gross. The meat itself was weirdly tough and grisly. Oh well. It was the only rack of spareribs left at the store. The country ribs were FANTASTIC though. We were all freaking out with glee while we were eating them. I was so proud of myself, given that I had never even encountered this cut of meat before. I am definitely making them again the next time I am here.

  49. Wow. These ribs were just…wow. I’m always on the lookout for rib recipes – here in western Canada, we’re not really picky about sauce vs. dry as far as I can tell. We’re pretty egalitarian when it comes to ribs – we love them all! And while my favourite time to make ribs is when it’s warm out, I was determined to make these last weekend despite the miserable, rainy weather we’ve been having (hey, at least it’s not snow) because I’ve never tried a dry rub recipe for ribs. I KNOW! Crazy, right?

    WELL. I’m a convert – these were SPECTACULAR. And my houseguests totally agreed. I have a gas bbq and I did exactly what Jim mentioned above – heat grill at max with wood chips, turn off one side, other side down low, rib rack on upper grill, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. I even found an apricot flavoured ‘beer cooler’ to sprinkle them with, since I’ve never heard of Magic Hat. The smoke, the spice, the heat – man, the ribs were unreal. I don’t usually toot my own horn this much, but I’ve been bragging about how good they were for 4 days now.

    Thanks so much for such a great recipe and informative post, Molly!

    Deb, I also totally love your site and have made several of your recipes as well with tremendous success.


  50. Renee

    I have to echo what Karla just wrote. I haven’t had much preference about the cooking style of ribs, as long as they are tender and easy to eat, i’m happy. And being from the West Coast of the US., I guess I really haven’t developed a preference. I’ve lately been doing a brine technique, cooking the ribs, and then putting a bit of home made sauce on them- made up with molasses, chili sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, onion, w. sauce, and other ingredients after the ribs are cooked.
    I’ve been salivating over this recipe since I first saw it, about 2 weeks ago. I bought some ribs at Costco. I don’t know what cut they were, I’ve never heard of St. Louis style. I can say they were under $2.30 per lb. I had two racks, each about 4.5 lbs each. I made up the rub, except I didn’t have mace and wasn’t too keen on nutmeg. I guess i was traumatized as a young child by my brother’s attempt to make hamburger gravy (like they made in the school kitchen), but he included cinnamon & nutmeg – blech!.
    I put the ribs on a middle rack of the oven, set at 250 for 1.5 hours, turning them and repositioning them every 30 mins. Then I put them outside on the gas grill, on the upper rack, i put foil over the main grilling rack, which was covered in hickory chips I had soaked in water. Just for the heck of it, I put an oven thermometer in the grill, and it did measure slightly over 250 degrees.
    Total cook time was a bit over 3 hours, and they are wonderful!
    Thanks Deb & Molly, I love your blog – the pictures are wonderful and the humor is great. I don’t know how you find time to cook all this stuff up, and take pictures of it, and write about it.

  51. Nice ribs and for the record, I do like peeling off the rubbery skin on the underside. I find the rub doesn’t stick well to it and it’s still chewy when eating it.

    I simply use a boning knife, scrape loose some of the “skin” and then just tear it off the meat.

  52. AJ

    OK, I had to repost and say that we made this work on the gas grill (apple something wood chips, then followed the instructions to the letter). Oh.My.God — so good. I made these for a BBQ and then the No-Knead bread from your site, and my husband just kept walking around the house, alternating between the ribs we saved for ourselves and the bread and muttering, I am so glad I married you. I am so glad I married you. Making them again tomorrow — baby backs this time. Yum.

  53. I just wanted to add that these do indeed look Yummy as heck and I shall be trying them asap! But to those of you who do not have grills (as I did not for a few years) I’ve learned from Emeril Lagasse that ribs can be done in the oven and done quite nicely, it just takes time. I generally will cook mine, depending on how much meat one is cooking, lets say 3-5 pounds, then it will take roughly 3-6 hours in the oven at around150 to 200 degrees F. Since I am in Oz, I’ll cook mine at around 100C for around 4 hours for the roughly 1 1/2 kilos that we cook just for me and the DH.

    Works a treat! Also good to cook any roast nice and slow as well to get the meat falling off the bone tender.

  54. King

    I wanted to chime i on this whole sauce vs no sauce debate. I’m from Philly and live in Fayetteville NC now. I’ve been here for 5 years and still can’t get into NC style BBQ. I hate the way they make them. I hate the way they throw “slaw” on everything from burgers to hot dogs. I DO like dry rubbed ribs, but nc style bbq overall sucks. I don’t think you NEED sauce to make great ribs, so I eat mine half and half. Half sauce, half dry.
    Blah @ NC and their vinegar loving southern butts. lol


    P.S. Love your site!

  55. I tried this last night but unfortunately, this recipe was way too hot for my liking and even for my boyfriend’s! Which, was surprising considering he likes all of his meals to be spicy – but even this was too much for him and we were both running back into the kitchen refilling our glass with water after water. He even reached for ranch dressing to sooth the spiciness which, was disappointing, because… ranch dressing?!

    Anyway, even without the cayenne pepper, I would say go EASY on the hot chili powder – 1/4 cup for what the recipe calls above is too much for me. I’m not sure how much I would put the next time, but I’d definitely go with tablespoons instead of cups.

  56. I’m making these today. The excitement between my two friends and I cannot be contained. The spice rub has been on for about 12 hours already. A flank steak will be getting the chimmichurri treatment. And dessert is homemade peach crisp ice cream (cinnamon base with peach chunks). Is it dinner time yet?

  57. Ok…I just made the best meal I’ve made in my life (so far). Followed this recipe on some baby back ribs, using a beer with orange zest and coriander notes instead of apricot. It was the first time I had ribs without sauce, and they were mighty fine. My friend cooked the chili-encrusted steak to perfection and served it with chimmichurri and fresh mango, cilantro, jalapeno salsa. Plus a grilled vegetable salad with a simple garlic and fresh basil vinaigrette, which followed the spiced and melted provolone cheese and toasty baguette. The meal was topped off, as I mentioned before, with homemade cinnamon peach ice cream and crispy oat topping.

    My friends and I completely outdid ourselves tonight. Thank you for the rib recipe and lots of inspiration.

  58. don

    I’ve never used a smoker – always just an open fire in scouts or a gas grill. I’ve gotten good results for smoke on the grill by cutting afew sticks (1-2 yr old growth -as big as my thumb) off the closest Manitoba maple (box elder in US)and chucking the green sticks under the grill. had success with beef, pork and chicken.

    Love your blog – just found it four days ago and have read about half of the archive so far.

  59. pfrisch

    “But in my opinion, tomato-containing sauce of any kind does not belong on pork BBQ.”

    It doesn’t, Molly. Why mess up perfectly good meat?

    Nicole M, that “Carolina style” mustard sauce is from South Carolina. I’ve never had it, but there is a whole state who finds it tasty.

  60. Mark

    I do enjoy your work, really. But…

    To worry about babybacks vs spare rib costs, but buy smoking wood at Williams Sonoma–you’re kidding right? Buy smoke wood at a major retail chain? Lord. And yes, its always good to go cheap on friends. Spares are fine, dont get me wrong–they are used in competition–but the cost rationalization seems a bit much.

    Last, if your ribs are pulling away from the bone and you think they are done, you’re right–they are over cooked!!! Big time. You are approaching the Ham stage of pork, not properly smoked ribs, You have it nailed up to that point. Sure everyone has an opinion and preference, but sometimes that opin is wrong. Its careless to suggest that ribs are done when falling off the bone; thats like saying every pasta should be cooked until chewy. Thats bad advice and you’re not doing your readers (or friends) a service by serving overcooked food. And you have a big following. Shame on you ( i mean that kindly). You should note thats youre preference, and not how proper smoked ribs are done. Reference the Kansas City Barbeque Association for more information. At least recognize the gold standard.

    Try not over cooking your ribs next time for a more satisfying finish. Or at least don’t (unknowingly) mislead the public with bad information.

  61. Vikki

    Made these for dinner the other night. Decided to make the recipe as is the first time and adjust there after. I have to state for the record that we like spicy hot food. This recipe is very hot almost unable to eat them hot. Great flavor but very, very intense. We had six people eating and a few couldn’t take more then one bite.

  62. Bob

    Mark – she never said anything about meat “falling from the bone” – her instructions are dead-on correct. Properly cooked ribs should exhibit meat pulling from the bone when pressure is applied – as in twisting the bone or pulling the meat from the bone with one’s teeth. Yes, there are those who think that “falling from the bone” is proper – but those poor souls are usually the casualty of commercial establishments that hold product on steam tables prior to serving (and thus continuing to cook the meat). To sum it up, “falling off the bone” = bad; “pulling cleanly from the bone”= good. (at least that’s the way it was during my 7 years competing on the circuit – including 7 appearances in the Memphis Intl BBQ Contest)

  63. deb

    Mark — Totally missed your comment sooner but I believe Molly said that if one buys smoking wood at Williams-Sonoma they “might as well experiment with throwing dampened dollar bills” on their fire. You should try these ribs — they’re phenomenal.

  64. Stanley

    This is what I have been looking for…Thanks!! Not only have I been looking for a dry rub recipe, but you went the extra mile discussing cooking techniques and having pictures showing the end result…Loved it and can’t wait to try it!!

  65. Jesse

    Great recipe! I have a couple of thoughts, though. I missed the garlic – I will definitely add garlic powder next time. As another commenter mentioned, for the number of ribs I put it on (4 smallish racks) it was pretty salty. Not “can’t eat it” salty, at all, but more than I’d like. Finally, it seemed heavy on the cumin relative to other spices. Made my ribs remind me of shish kebabs. Whether this is reflection of the amount called for or the potency of my cumin remains to be seen, but next time I will tone it way way down.

  66. Brandon

    I have to say, your entire blog is just mesmerizing! I think I just spent the last 30 minutes reading recipes from apple-cider caramels to different sheet cakes! I just bought a new BBQ grill, so I definitely think this dry rub and ribs will be the first of your posts I try out personally! I cannot wait to try them, and I will let you know how it goes.

  67. Sally

    Yes, ribs can be properly cooked on a gas grill–IF it has two burners, so that one can be turned off. That’s the side the ribs go on. The box of soaked chips sits on the other side with the burner on low. The ribs won’t be quite as good, quite as smoky, but it’s a lot better than no ribs at all! I aim for a temperature of about 200°, opening the lid more or less as it seems to be needed. The low, slow cooking is magical for ribs.

  68. Dianne

    Here is the trick to cooking ribs on a gas grill, which I attribute to a Southern Living magazine years ago. I live in Charlotte NC so hope that qualifies me to comment!
    I use a large Weber with 3 burners, so I light the outside 2. Cook the ribs in the center for indirect heat. Use 3 racks stacked on top of each other. Every 30 minutes, instead of turning, rotate and flip the racks so that the bottom one goes on top. Each rack gets nicely charred but stays moist and fall off the bone tender. Our 2 sons who love ribs say they are fantastic.
    Of course smoking adds to the flavour, but if you are feeling lazy just use smoked paprika in your rub, which since this orginal post is now widely available.
    Am looking forward to trying your magic hat baste, sounds amazing.

  69. stu

    This rub reduces nicely and I was beyond impressed by it. Will use again for sure. We used a 50/50 split of water/cranberry juice as our spot spray through the cooking process, and loaded our drip pan with a stout beer.

  70. Mark

    I just came across this recipe a couple of weeks ago and had to try it. After apartment living for the past 5 years I finally moved into a house. Purchase number 2 was a combo grill (gas, charcoal, side fire box). Did a couple racks of ribs with this rub and a finishing mop of a vinegar based sauce using the side fire box as a smoker. Prepping the next batch now – awesome rub with a nice delayed spice heat to finish the eating experience. Thank you!!

  71. Mimi (another one)

    Yes, I know, I’m ALL OVER your website now :) just wanted to say I tried this rub on chicken wings (rubbed, covered, then left 1 day in fridge), grilled them on a gas grill – delicious!

    I went easy on the hot ingredients, but will follow the recipe more the next time.
    Deb knows best :)

  72. Whitney

    We don’t have a grill, so we cook our ribs in a 250 degree F oven, covered in foil. Melt in your mouth. I use a different rub, but will have to try this one as an alternative. Yum!