How to Make Tender Flavourful Ribs

Recipe for Tender Tasty Ribs

So you want to discover how to transform ribs like these ⇓ into tasty, tender ribs like these ⇑?

Back Ribs

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.

pork rub coating all sides of the slab of ribs

 

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.

Braising ribs in the oven in a sealed foil packet makes them 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.

Tasty tender ribs dripping in bbq sauce

 

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

Braising ribs makes them tender

Ingredients:

  • 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)

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. Take ribs out of fridge. Pre-heat oven to 250 F.
  3. Make your braising liquid. In medium bowl, add water, garlic, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and Dijon mustard and whisk until well blended.
  4. 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.
  5. Pour braising liquid into the foil packet, and tightly fold up the last side, creating a sealed packet.
  6. 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.
  7. Take ribs out of oven and turn oven to broil.
  8. 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.
  9. Brush bbq sauce generously over the ribs. Place ribs in oven and broil for 3 minutes, letting the bbq caramelize just a bit.
  10. 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.

Brown Sugar Pork Rub Recipe

recipe for pork rub with brown sugar paprika and chili powder

Have you discovered rubs yet? Although I’ve been marinating meat for years, rubs are something I really discovered last year.  I started buying my pork and my beef directly from local farmers, and as a result I have been exposed to many new-to-me cuts of meat.  Some of those cuts require a slow cook at low temperatures and rubs are more effective than marinades for that.

A rub is a way to infuse a lot of flavour into your meat. By coating your meat in the rub and letting it sit in the refrigerator for several hours (anywhere from 2 to 24 hours), the flavour is able to penetrate beyond just the surface.

Ribs coated with brown sugar pork rub

One key ingredient in any rub is salt. The salt helps to draw the flavours into the meat.  I use coarse salt.  If you use table salt, reduce to about ¾ teaspoon.  The grains are smaller, so volume isn’t the same between different types of salt.

When using a rub, make sure that you coat every surface of your cut of meat, including any ends. I usually start with the bottom side of the meat, then any ends, and finally spread the rub on the top.  The moisture of the meat will help the rub stick to it and melt in a little as the meat sits in the fridge.

pork rub coating all sides of the slab of ribs

When I developed this pork rub recipe, I was looking for bold flavour, without too much heat, as my family doesn’t like very spicy food. This rub has some brown sugar to provide a bit of sweetness.  It also includes some chili powder, for just a bit of heat, but not very much.  It’s really a very family friendly pork rub recipe.

This brown sugar pork rub is very flavourful and is great on various cuts of pork, from ribs to chops to roasts. It’s been a big hit with my family.  They rave about it every time I make it.

I have ribs in the oven right now, coated in this rub to give them great flavour. Today I am sharing the recipe for the brown sugar pork rub.  Later this week I’ll share the technique for making these tender, oh so flavourful ribs.

Braised ribs brown sugar pork rub plus barbecue sauce

 

Recipe: Brown Sugar Pork Rub

This makes enough for about 2 pounds (1 kg) of ribs or chops, or a 3 pound (1.4 kg) roast.

recipe for brown sugar rub for pork

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon paprika
  • ¾ tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to small bowl and mix thoroughly.
  2. Place pork on a plate. Coat all sides of the pork with the rub, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.
  3. Cook pork according to your recipe.