Best BBQ Baby Back Ribs Recipe

BBQ baby back ribs on a plate with french fries


Go Classic With Your Rib Recipe for a Meal to Be Enjoyed by All

There has been many an argument over what constitutes the "best" barbecue ribs recipe; everyone seems to have an opinion. However, you can't go wrong with a classic recipe for ribs made on a charcoal grill, complete with a spice rub and homemade barbecue sauce. When combined with corn on the cob and a potato or pasta salad, barbecue baby back ribs are a meal the whole family will love.

Classic ribs require a lengthy cooking time, but you can make it into a fun culinary activity on the weekend with your family. Show your kids how to season the meat and mix the sauce, and include them in checking the ribs every hour or so to see how they're coming along.

Total Time: 4 to 5 hours | Prep Time: 30 minutes | Serves: 10 to 12


  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder, divided
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons chili powder, divided
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 8 pounds baby back ribs (approximately four racks) 
  • 1 3/4 cups apple juice, divided
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 6 tablespoons cider vinegar, divided in half
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the grill:

  • 4 hickory wood chunks


  1. In a small bowl, mix the salt, pepper, smoked paprika, 4 teaspoons garlic powder, 4 teaspoons chili powder and 1 teaspoon cumin. 
  2. Prepare the ribs by using a small paring knife to loosen the membrane on the bottom of the ribs. When you can grasp it, use your hands to pull the membrane off. 
  3. Rub the spice mix into the meat, dividing it equally among the racks. Focus on rubbing the mix into the meaty side, rather than the bony side. Let the ribs sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. 
  4. Prepare the grill by removing one side of the charcoal grate. Fill the chimney starter with charcoal. Burn it until the starter is lightly covered with ash. Spread the charcoal in a single layer across one-third of the grate, and place a drip pan, filled halfway with warm water, on the empty side of the charcoal grate. Keeping all the vents open, let the coals burn down until the temperature is 250F to 300F. 
  5. Add two hickory wood chunks to the charcoal, and put the cooking grate back on over the drip pan. Add the rib racks as far from the coals as possible, so they're over indirect low heat. Close the lid of the grill and the top vent halfway. Allow the ribs to cook for 1 hour. 
  6. Make the barbecue sauce. In a small bowl, combine 3/4 cup apple juice, ketchup, 3 tablespoons cider vinegar, soy sauce, molasses, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. 
  7. Make the mop. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup apple juice with 3 tablespoons cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Add 2 tablespoons of the sauce you made in the previous step. 
  8. Return to the grill, adding eight to 10 charcoal briquettes and two wood chunks. Baste the ribs with the mop. Close the lid, and cook for another hour. 
  9. After the hour is up, add another eight to 10 charcoal briquettes. Baste the ribs again with some mop. Rearrange the ribs so the ends of the meat that were facing down before are now facing up. If there appears to be any areas of meat cooking faster than others, rearrange so those areas are farther away from the heat. Close the lid, and cook for one more hour. 
  10. Check to see if the ribs are ready to come off the grill, indicated by the meat shrinking back from the bones by at least 1/4 inch. 
  11. Brush the ribs with the homemade barbecue sauce. Transfer them to a sheet pan and cover them with aluminum foil. Let the meat rest for 10 to 15 minutes, and then serve with the barbecue sauce on the side.