Looking for a baby back ribs recipe that produces juicy, tender and fully seasoned meat, with an intense smokiness; in short, ribs that would be well worth the time, money and effort. For ribs that were so flavorful they wouldn’t even need barbecue sauce, the pros at America’s Test Kitchen, first brined them in a salt, sugar and water solution, then rubbed them with a spice and sugar mix before barbecuing. A “low and slow” cooking method ensured that these baby back ribs would be moist.  Here’s the recipe:

Serves: 4  |  Time: 4½ hours, plus 1 hour brining, 1 hour soaking, and 30 minutes chilling

Gather Your Ingredients


  • ½ cup table salt or 1 cup kosher salt, for brining
  • ½ cup granulated sugar, for brining
  • 4 pounds baby back ribs, (about 2 racks) or loin back ribs

Spice rub

  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika additionally
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon table salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
barbecued baby back ribs
Source: America’s Test Kitchen


Before you begin:

For a potent spice flavor, brine and dry the ribs as directed below, then coat them with the spice rub, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate overnight before grilling. You will need two wood chunks, each about the size of a lemon, for this recipe.

To brine the ribs:

  1. Dissolve salt and sugar in 4 quarts cold water in stockpot or large plastic container. Submerge ribs in brine and refrigerate 1 hour until fully seasoned. Remove ribs from brine and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels.
  2. While ribs are brining, cover two 3-inch wood chunks with water in medium bowl; soak wood chunks for 1 hour, then drain and set aside. Combine spice rub ingredients in small bowl. When ribs are out of brine and dried, rub each side of racks with 1 tablespoon spice rub; refrigerate racks 30 minutes.

To barbecue the ribs:

  1. Open bottom vents on grill. Ignite about 4 1/2 quarts charcoal briquettes (3/4-full for a large chimney, or about 65 briquettes) and burn until covered with thin coating of light gray ash, about 20 minutes. Empty coals onto one half of grill bottom, piling them 2 to 3 briquettes high; place soaked wood chunks on top of coals. Position cooking grate over coals, cover grill, open lid vents two-thirds of the way; heat grate 5 minutes, then scrape clean with wire brush.
  2. Arrange ribs on cool side of grill parallel to fire; cover, positioning lid so that vents are opposite wood chunks to draw smoke through grill (grill temperature should register about 350 degrees on grill thermometer, but will soon start dropping). Cook for 2 hours, until grill temperature drops to about 250 degrees, flipping rib racks, switching their position so that rack that was nearest fire is on outside, and turning racks 180 degrees every 30 minutes; add 10 fresh briquettes to pile of coals.
  3. Continue to cook (grill temperature should register 275 to 300 degrees on grill thermometer), flipping, switching and rotating ribs every 30 minutes, until meat easily pulls away from bone, 1 1/2 to 2 hours longer. Transfer ribs to cutting board, then cut between bones to separate ribs; serve.

Top image by Dar1930 from Getty Images Pro, via Canva.com

More recipes you may like: