What’s Cooking?: Dry-rubbed barbecue ribs

By Jan D’Atri

I have no idea if it’s Kansas City, Carolina, Texas, Memphis or St. Louis style. 

All I know is that this dry rub is magic dust on a rib. Just in time for your summer menus, this dry-rubbed barbecue ribs recipe is the perfect seasoning for a meaty slab of pork or beef ribs, finished off with just a light brushing of barbecue sauce. 

So, let’s tackle cooking first. Slow and low. It’s the only way to keep those juices moistening the meat. For the rub, don’t overpower. Generally, whatever sticks to the slab should give you just the right amount of flavor. And because barbecue sauce is loaded with sugar or honey, which can burn, save it for the last 10 to 15 minutes, and then just lightly coat it on the slab at the end of the cooking process. You want the flavor of the rub to come through. 

Now for the rub. It’s an incredibly simple formula I found in an old paperback cookbook called “Tasty Vittles.” This rub is the perfect combination of sweet, spicy, hot and salty. You can add a slightly citrusy kick if you’re using something like a chili lime sea salt, or burn it up big time with various chili powders. 

I’ve been on a quest for a good basic rub that I can make ahead, keep it in a jar in the pantry, and shake out onto a slab whenever I’m craving ribs, and this is it! Start with the basic rub and then add your own special touches using some of your favorite herbs and spices, a little at a time, until you make it your own. Rub some ribs and reap the rewards this summer!

Dry-rubbed barbecue ribs

Ingredients FOR RUB: 

• 1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

• 1/8 cup sweet paprika (not regular paprika)

• 1/8 cup smoked paprika (not regular paprika)

• 2 teaspoons onion powder

• 2 teaspoons garlic powder (not garlic salt)

• 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

• 1/4 teaspoon cumin

• 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

• 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

• 1 tablespoon sea salt

• 1 tablespoon black pepper

Directions for rub:

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix with your hands or a fork, breaking up any lumps. Store in an airtight jar in the pantry or cupboard.

Ingredients FOR barbecue ribs: 

• 3 1/2 pound slab of meaty ribs

  (I used pork back ribs)

• 2 tablespoons grape seed or vegetable oil

• 2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce, divided

• Homemade dry rub

Instructions for barbecue ribs:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with several sheets of tin foil. Brush oil lightly over top of ribs (meat side up). Sprinkle dry rub liberally over ribs and lightly pat. Bake for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until thermometer reaches 180 degrees. Brush with one cup of barbecue sauce during last 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with remaining cup of barbecue sauce, warmed.