(While we’re catching up on some site administration behind the scenes – and recovering from exhausting winter colds – we decided this bourbon honey ribs recipe from a few years back would be a great fit for any upcoming sporty-type television events. This was originally posted as a summer recipe, but since these ribs get cooked in your oven, you can make them every damn month of the year, rain or shine.)
Back when I was just a wee little sprout gazing through my window at New York City, I often wondered what life would be like if I lived in a house instead of an apartment. What it would be like to stand outside on a patch of earth and say “mine!” and know it was true.
Well, it took me a very (very) long time to get there but I finally got my little patch. The fact that it’s a dusty, hilly, weedy little patch covered with poison ivy and crab grass doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm one bit. Okay, maybe a little bit, but just you wait, in twenty or thirty years this yard will be… a tiny bit nicer (we work slowly).
One thing I’ve discovered since living in a house; standing on a deck with a cocktail in hand whilst some form of meat sizzles on a grill is one of life’s simple pleasures. Another thing I’ve discovered; it is nearly impossible to make meltingly tender ribs on a grill unless you are a grill master. (We are not Grill Masters. We are not even Grill Journeymen.)
Our secret tip
Luckily it turns out that you don’t have to be a grill master to make perfect ribs because there is an easy, no-fuss technique that works every single time. The secret? Cook them in the oven. Yup. It’s true. Ribs need to be cooked low and slow, preferably with some moisture involved and the oven is a perfect place to make that happen. Seriously, it’s like magic!
And speaking of magic. Oh em gee, this sauce. These might be the four most mouth-watering words in the English language; Spicy Bourbon-Honey Glaze. It’s like everything good in the world had a party, got on really well and decided to live together in peace and harmony in your mouth.
While not the quickest process in the world, the bourbon honey ribs are so worth it. My suggestion is to make more than you think you’ll need because these go fast. They also make great leftovers (just heated up or use the pulled meat in sandwiches).
- Myth-busters! Properly cooked ribs will not fall off the bone! That texture is usually the result of ribs that have been boiled or steamed (which robs them of flavor and results in mushy meat because water is a solvent). You don’t want your meat to be mushy, do you? I can see from your horrified face that you don’t. Well-cooked rib meat will pull cleanly off the bone when you bite it, but will still have a little bit of chew, like tender steak.
- We made our own rub but you could use your favorite store-bought kind. Keep the rub free from meaty hands so you can store the leftovers and use it on chicken, pork shoulder or your next batch of ribs. The rub will last for about 6 months or so.
- If you don’t have apple juice, you could use pineapple. Even water or stock would be okay.
- We’ve had mixed results in removing the membrane from the back of the ribs. Sometimes it comes right off, sometimes not. Don’t stress if you can’t get it cleanly off. This video might help some.
- If you want to make the ribs in advance, do the low and slow oven cooking, then refrigerate them. On the day you want to serve them, put them in a low oven (225ºF / 107ºC) for 20-30 minutes until they are warmed through and then follow the recipe for glazing.
- You can glaze them in the oven or on a grill.
Melt-in-your-mouth Bourbon-Honey Glazed Ribs
- 4 lbs pork baby back or spare ribs about 2 racks.
- 8 oz apple juice
- For the Dry Rub or use a good store-bought rub:
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- About 1/2 tablespoon ground mustard powder
- 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
- A tablespoon paprika
- A tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
- 1/2 tablespoon cracked black pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon cumin
- For the Bourbon-Honey Glaze BBQ Sauce
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 cup bourbon + 1 tablespoon at the end
- 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon gochujang optional, though if omitting, you might want more hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark molasses
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 4 teaspoons soy sauce
- 3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons Chili garlic sauce like sambal or Sriracha*
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- For the Sauce: Combine all the ingredients (except for 1 tablespoon of the bourbon) in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until reduced by 1/3, stirring often. Sauce should be dark and slightly thickened (about 20 minutes). Turn of the heat and stir in the last tablespoon of bourbon. Sauce can be made up to 4 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator.
- For the Ribs: Preheat the oven to 225º F. Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. Slide a sharp knife under the white membrane on the back of the ribs and cut a hole into the membrane. Use your fingers to slide under the membrane and pull it away from the meat. Usually it helps to use a paper towel for extra grip. Remove all of the outer membrane and discard.
- Pat ribs very dry with paper towels and cut each rack in half (to make them easier to turn later). Sprinkle a good tablespoon of dry rub on each side of the ribs and press until it’s well-coated all over. (you should use about 4 tablespoons for 2 whole racks).
- Lay a large piece of foil on a baking tray and place one rack on it, meat-side up. Fold up 3 sides of the foil to create a rim: pour half the apple juice into this pocket and then fold over and crimp the packet closed. Wrap the packet in a 2nd layer of foil. Repeat with the second rack. Cook for 4 to 4 1/2 hours. The ribs are ready when you can pierce them easily with a fork. Remove the ribs from the oven and set aside. Unwrap the ribs carefully and place them on a baking tray, meat side up. (Ribs can be par-cooked the day ahead and refrigerated at this point. If making the day ahead, let the ribs cool for 20 minutes, then take them out of the foil and place in sealable bags and refrigerate overnight. Let them come to room temperature before the next step).
- Note: Ribs can be finished in the oven or on a grill. Turn the broiler on high (or prepare a grill with medium-high heat) and set an oven rack about 6 inches from heat. Coat the the ribs well with BBQ sauce. Place the ribs under the broiler or on grill and cook until the sauce just starts to bubble (4-5 minutes). Take them out and apply another coat of glaze and cook again until glaze bubbles and browns (Do not walk away while broiling! They can burn easily so watch carefully). Remove from the broiler or grill, cut the ribs and serve.