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Barbecued Pork Ribs


These pork ribs are rubbed with a blend of earthy spices and brushed with a slowly simmered sauce that has a slight kick. They come off the grill tender yet pleasingly chewy, with just the right hit of smoky goodness.

  • Servings: 6

Source: Martha Stewart Living, June 2008


For the Ribs

  • 2 racks (2 to 2 1/2 pounds each) Saint Louis-style pork ribs
  • Vegetable oil, for grill rack

For the Rub

  • 2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • 2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed

For the Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup strained tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Prepare the ribs: Place 1 rib rack, meat side down, on a work surface. With a knife, cut a small slit through the silvery membrane at 1 end of the rack. Using a paper towel, grip the cut portion of the membrane, gently peel it from the rack, and discard. Repeat with remaining rack.

  2. Make the rub: Combine sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, mustard powder, and celery seed in a bowl. (If mixture is clumpy, pass through a medium sieve.) Rub mixture on both sides of each rack. Place ribs on a rimmed baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or overnight). Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.

  3. Make the sauce: Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook until onion is tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add red-pepper flakes and tomato paste, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in bourbon, scraping the pan. Stir in tomatoes, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, water, and sugar, and cook, continuing to stir, until sugar dissolves.

  4. Simmer the sauce: Bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by 1/3, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly. Puree in a blender until smooth. (You should have about 2 cups.) Use immediately, or let cool completely, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

  5. Set up the grill: Place a 9-by-13-inch disposable aluminum pan in the center of bottom grill rack. If using a charcoal grill, place a chimney starter on top grill rack, and fill with about 60 charcoal briquettes (about 4 pounds). Stuff newspaper under chimney, and ignite. Heat briquettes until just covered in ash. Wearing oven mitts, carefully lift chimney, remove top rack, and pour coals onto bottom rack along both sides of pan. Top coals with 1 to 2 chunks hardwood or 1 cup wood chips that have been soaked in water for 1 hour and drained. Fill pan halfway with hot water. Replace top rack. If using a gas grill, heat to medium-low.

  6. Grill the ribs: Let ribs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. Fold a paper towel into a thick rectangle, and dip it in oil. Hold towel with tongs, and brush oil on top grill rack. Place both rib racks, bone side down, on top grill rack, directly over pan. Cover, keeping top grill vents halfway open and bottom vents completely open to maintain grill temperature of 275 degrees to 325 degrees. Cook ribs, without turning, until the meat is tender but not falling off bones, and has shrunk 1/2 inch from ends, 3 to 3 1/2 hours, adding 8 briquettes to each charcoal pile every hour.

  7. Baste the ribs: Transfer 1 cup sauce to a small serving bowl. Brush both sides of ribs with remaining 1 cup sauce. Cover, and grill until ribs are glistening and deep mahogany, about 15 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Serve with reserved sauce.

Cook's Notes

To achieve great ribs indoors, preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in the middle position. Fit a rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack. Place ribs, bone side down, on rack. Roast, rotating halfway through, until meat is tender, but not falling off bones, and has shrunk 1/4 inch from ends, about 2 hours. Transfer 1 cup barbecue sauce to a bowl. Brush both sides of ribs with remaining 1 cup sauce. Return ribs to oven until glistening and deep mahogany, about 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve with reserved sauce.

Reviews Add a comment

  • adrastos8
    24 JUN, 2017
    Horrible! Temp with that time is WAY too hot/long, way overcooked. Up to 315 for up to 3.5 hrs HA. Thanks for a ruined dinner.
  • AYR-1
    18 JUN, 2013
    I am new at using our gas grill. If I am making these on a gas grill, where does the pan of water go? I only have one main cooking rack, plus a smaller rack that follows the grill lid. I'm making these in the oven for now, but would like to use the grill. Can someone please advise so I can grill next time?
  • igazic
    27 MAY, 2012
    Dear Martha, this is such a wonderful recipee. I was looking for typical pork ribs recipee, and it was very surprised how easy and special this tastes.
  • Samanthaknox
    10 AUG, 2011
    This is THE BEST hands down ribs recipe i have ever had! So good my vegetarian friend ate almost all of them! The bbq sauce is absolutely perfect and there is absolutely nothing i will change! I make this sauce for all my meats and its soo good
  • kmtompkins71
    6 SEP, 2010
    Ribs were absolutely wonderful!
  • Kel09
    7 MAR, 2009
    Did not see the today show and made the ribs in the oven according to the recipe and they were fabulous!!!! One thing I wll do when I make them again is add a drop of liquid smoke to the sauce as well as make sure i really puree the bbq sauce. Highly recommended!!
  • Sillys
    22 JUN, 2008
    Finally ! One I can follow !! Thank you Martha !!
  • Regan
    30 MAY, 2008
    Hello, readers! You're absolutely right, we inadvertently omitted the instruction for setting up your grill (step 5). Please find the now-complete directions above. Enjoy, and Happy Grilling!
  • SierraGold
    27 MAY, 2008
    In step 5 she says, "Place both rib racks, bone side down, on top grill rack, directly over pan." I would assume (which is something I rarely do), that would be the pan of water you're referring to. Without your comment, I would have been completely in the dark, so thank you for mentioning the Today Show segment.
  • lalagreen
    21 MAY, 2008
    When Martha prepared these ribs on the Today show she placed an aluminum pan (disposal type) filled with water on the lower grill rack, directly under the ribs, so that they would stay moist. The charcoal was placed around the pan. I think that step is missing from the recipe.