Baby Back Ribs for Memorial Day: Buying tips and bbq recipes

BBQ Ribs are almost a right of passage from spring to summer. Before you buy, read how to buy, cook and bbq succulent ribs that will leave your guests raving.

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Babyback ribs | Image Chef Mary Moran

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2017 – BBQ ribs are finger licking good and most importantly they’re a perfect way to start the summer season at your Memorial Day BBQ.

At the grocery store, you will find ribs in the pork section, versus beef ribs which are significantly bigger. There is a debate whether the best rib for backyard barbecuing is the Baby Back or Spareribs, which are longer, have less meat but that many rib fans find more flavorful.  But here we discuss the baby back.

Ribs can be a specialty item that is only found during the summer months, so if you can’t find it on the shelf ask your butcher, a few days ahead of time, to prepare the cut for you, but first you need to know what you want to buy.

Baby back ribs are a preference for many.  They are smaller, have less connective tissue and the “rib tips” and cartilage has been removed. When shopping for baby back ribs they should smell slightly sweet without any heavy rancid smell. Look for slightly pink and clear juices on the bottom of the tray or in the plastic bag it’s purchased in.



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Also make sure the bones are an off white color (if you can see them). It is always worthwhile to splurge and buy organic or grass fed pork for a more flavorful meat. Be aware you’ll pay extra money for organic and grass fed meats but it’s worth it.

Baby back ribs are small and extremely delicious so when you are buying them figure four to five ribs per female and then six to seven ribs per male. Men typically eat a few more but not always.

The best way to create baby back ribs is the day before your party, bring them to room temperature, rub with olive oil and your favorite dry rub before wrapping in aluminum foil and placing them in a warm oven (200-225 degrees) and let them dry bake.

Dry Rub

1 tbsp garlic powder
½ tbsp paprika
½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tbsp salt
½ tbsp pepper

Do not open the foil. The goal here is not to cook, but to provide a dry sauna for the ribs that will allow the rub flavors to seep into the meet.

At an oven temp is 225°F, it takes about three to four hours to cook a slab of baby backs. My trick is to reduce the temperature to 190-200 and let them cook for 6-8 hours. With ribs there is a huge difference between “done cooking” and “ready to eat”.  At 145 degrees, the recommended ‘done’ temperature, your ribs will be chewy and taste undercooked.

They are safe to eat, but they are not done.


Spare Ribs for Memorial Day: Preparation tips and grilling recipes


Before you remove your ribs from the oven, check the temperature, which should be, as said, at least 145 degrees at the thickest part of the meat. But for the ribs to be done, or ready to eat, they must also be fork tender. By cooking the ribs in the oven to 190 to 203°F, the collagens and fats will melt and the meat will be fall off the bone tender and juicy.

Once you remove them from the oven, leave them wrapped and let them come to room temperature (which won’t take long) and put into the refrigerator overnight, an important step as if you go straight from the oven to the grill, the ribs may literally fall apart in the cooking process.  Placing them in the cold overnight makes them much easier to work with when it’s time for grilling.

An hour before your BBQ, take the ribs out of the refrigerator and unwrap them letting them come back to room temperature, brushing them with your wet bbq sauce. They are now ready for the grill.  Tips for the grill is have a nice mesquite grill chip (that has been soaking overnight to create a nice smoke) and keep the heat away from the meat as the BBQ sauce will quickly burn if too close.  Warm thoroughly on the grill, adding sauce as necessary.  Time on the grill should be under ten minutes, 5 minutes on each side depending on how hot your fire is.

Tips for the grill is have a nice mesquite grill chip (that has been soaking overnight to create a nice smoke) and keep the heat away from the meat as the BBQ sauce will quickly burn if too close.

Warm thoroughly on the grill, adding sauce as necessary.  Time on the grill will depend on how hot your fire is.

Prepare the ribs for your guests by cutting them into three’s (three bones per serving). The easiest way to cut them is by placing the ribs on a cutting board meat side down. Use a very sharp knife to cut in-between the ribs.

And don’t forget to add a basket of washcloths, presoaked in lemon and lavender water for after dinner cleanup!

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