So you want to discover how to transform ribs like these ⇓ into tasty, tender ribs like these ⇑?
Follow these four easy steps and you too will make tender ribs that have great flavour. You can choose back ribs or side ribs, depending on what you prefer.
A: Flavour Part 1, The Rub
The first step in giving your ribs great flavour is to coat them in a great tasting rub. I use a brown sugar rub (you can find the recipe here) which my family loves, but if you have a favorite rub for pork, you can use that.
When coating the ribs with rub, start with the underside, then do the ends, and finish with the top side. You want a thick, even coating on the entire slab.
B: The Cooking Technique, in this case, Braising
Ribs have a lot of connective tissue, and to make them tender it is best to cook them at a low heat for a long time, often called low and slow cook.
Braising means cooking in a covered pot in a shallow layer of liquid. To braise it, the meat isn’t completely covered with liquid, which would boil or stew it. Instead, the meat is only partially submerged, and then simmered at low temperature until it becomes tender.
One of the great things about braising is that it’s a hands-off cooking technique. The oven does all the work for you. It just requires patience to transform potentially tough cuts of meat into tender goodness.
C: Flavour Part 2, Enhance the Braising Liquid
While plain water, broth or even apple juice can be used as the braising liquid, I like to take the opportunity to add even more flavour to my ribs. To make my braising liquid, I add garlic, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and Dijon mustard to the water.
After the ribs are cooked, you can use the braising liquid as the base for a sauce for the ribs if you want. You cook the liquid on the stove-top until it thickens.
D: Finger Licking Good, The BBQ Sauce
We prefer saucy ribs, so once the ribs are cooked and tender, the final step is to add our favorite bbq sauce and place ribs in the oven on broil for 3 minutes. What comes out of the oven are tender ribs with lots of flavour and dripping in sauce. Just the way we like them.
So it’s as simple as that:
A + B + C + D = flavourful, tender ribs that will have your family asking for more.
I used back ribs for my recipe. Side ribs (also called spare ribs) can also be cooked using the same technique. You would simply increase the cooking time for side ribs. For two pounds of side ribs, increase the cook time given in the recipe below (which is for back ribs) by about 30 minutes.
Recipe: Tender Pork Ribs
- 2 lbs (1 kg) pork back ribs
- 4 to 5 tablespoons dry rub (recipe here)
- ¾ cup (185 mL) water
- 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup (60 mL) your favorite bbq sauce (we like Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory & Brown Sugar)
- Place ribs on a plate. Coat all sides of pork ribs evenly with dry rub. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.
- Take ribs out of fridge. Pre-heat oven to 250 F.
- Make your braising liquid. In medium bowl, add water, garlic, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and Dijon mustard and whisk until well blended.
- Place a large piece of heavy duty aluminium foil (one large enough to make a sealed packet for the ribs) on a cookie sheet. Fold the large piece of foil in half. Place the ribs in between the top and bottom layer of foil. Tightly fold up one of the short sides of the foil as well as the long side. Leave one of the short sides open.
- Pour braising liquid into the foil packet, and tightly fold up the last side, creating a sealed packet.
- Place ribs in oven and cook for 2 to 2.5 hours. When they are cooked, you will be able to use a fork to cut through the meat.
- Take ribs out of oven and turn oven to broil.
- Remove ribs from foil packet (be careful when opening, as the steam will be very hot) and transfer them to a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
- Brush bbq sauce generously over the ribs. Place ribs in oven and broil for 3 minutes, letting the bbq caramelize just a bit.
- Remove from oven and serve.
Recipe Notes: I use pasture raised pork, which tends to have somewhat shorter cooking times than conventionally raised pork. My pasture raised pork back ribs cook in 2 hours. If using conventionally raised pork, your cook time will likely be closer to 2.5 hours.