Backyard BBQ'd spareribs

Serve these soft and succulent spareribs with your choice of dry rub and sauce.

  • Preparation Time30 mins
  • Cooking Time180 mins
  • Serves4
  • DifficultyMedium

For the ribs

2 racks pork spareribs (about 1.3kg each)
60g Memphis Shake or Cajun Rub, recipes follow
450g wood chips, soaked in water for at least 30 mins and drained
475ml of one of the following: Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce or Chile-Coffee BBQ Sauce, recipes follow

For the Memphis Shake

4 tbsp sweet paprika
3 tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp granulated garlic
1 tbsp ancho chili powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp celery salt

For the Cajun Rub

4 tbsp firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried parsley
2 tbsp granulated garlic
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp freshly ground white pepper
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3 bay leaves, crumbled

For the Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce

2 tbsp neutral tasting oil, such as grapeseed or vegetable
6 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 slightly heaped tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground allspice
Pinch ground cloves
500ml ketchup
500ml water
120ml cider vinegar
60ml dark molasses
4 tbsp firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp English-style dried mustard
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf

For the Chilli-Coffee BBQ Sauce

3 guajillo chillies
3 mulato chillies
1/2 medium onion, cut into wedges
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 tbsp corn oil
240ml tomato puree
240ml strong black coffee
4 tbsp raw sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
1 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch ground cumin
2 tsp cider vinegar

Trim the membrane off the back of the ribs and rub ribs all over with spice blend. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hrs.

Soak wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes before barbecuing. Prepare an outdoor barbecue with a medium fire for indirect barbecuing. Place a drip pan, half-filled with water, under the cooler side of the barbecue grate. Open bottom vents of the barbecue.

Set the ribs over the drip pan. (If you have a rib rack, use it.) Toss 150g of the drained wood chips onto the coals and cover the barbecue. Rotate the lid so that the vent holes are directly over the ribs. Add about 150g of hardwood charcoals to the fire about every hour during the cooking time to maintain a medium to medium-low fire (a temperature of about 120 degrees C to 135 degrees C is ideal).

After three hours the meat should pull back from the bones and will have turned a reddish brown. Baste the ribs with some of the barbecue sauce of your choice and cook over direct heat until lightly glazed. Cut the racks into ribs and serve with extra sauce on the side.

Shopsmart: Spareribs always mean pork from the belly. A rack of 11 rib bones ideally weighs between 900g and 1 1/3-kg. Spareribs are often sold with a meaty section of the flank attached.

Cook's Note: If you like your ribs dry, skip the sauce or simply serve it on the side.

To make the Memphis Shake:

Whisk paprika, brown sugar, oregano, garlic, ancho powder, salt, and celery salt in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 months.

Shopsmart: Ancho powder is simply finely ground dried ancho chiles. Anchos are the sweetest of the dried chiles and are not terribly hot, so don't be put off by the amount used in this recipe.

To make the Cajun rub:

Mix brown sugar, oregano, parsley, garlic, onion powder, paprika, thyme, black pepper, salt, celery salt, white pepper, cayenne, and bay leaves in a bowl.

Pulse in a spice grinder in two batches to a medium-fine grind. Seal in an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place for up to 2 months.

Know-How: If your spice grinder doubles as your coffee grinder, make sure you clean it well after making this rub. Place a handful of uncooked rice in the grinder, pulse to a powder, and wipe or brush the grinder clean. The rice will absorb the flavours from spices left in the grinder so your morning cup of coffee won't taste like the Bayou.

To make the Kansas City-style BBQ sauce:

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, tomato puree, chili powder, paprika, red pepper, allspice, and cloves and cook, stirring, until paste is dark brick red, about three minutes.

Add the tomato ketchup, water, vinegar, treacle, brown sugar, salt, soy sauce, Worcestershire, mustard, black pepper, and bay leaf. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the flavours come together, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf before using.

For the chilli-coffee BBQ sauce:

Split, stem, and seed the chiles. Toast the chiles in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, turning and flattening with a spatula, until fragrant, about three minutes. Put the chiles in a heatproof bowl, cover with very hot water, and set aside until soft, about 30 minutes.

Drain, reserve soaking liquid, chop chiles roughly, and set aside.

While the chillies soak, char the onion and garlic in the same dry skillet over medium heat until the onion blackens slightly and garlic softens in the skin, about eight minutes.

Cool, squeeze the garlic out of the skin, and put in a blender with chiles and onion. Puree to a paste, adding soaking liquid as needed (about 175ml) to help the mixture break down.

Heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chile mixture and cook, stirring, until thick and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato puree, coffee, sugar, 18g salt, oregano, cloves, and cumin. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.

Stir in vinegar and season with salt to taste.

Cook's Note: For this recipe, we prefer Mexican oregano. It's stronger than Italian oregano, so it can hold its own with the other assertive flavours in this sauce.

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