My Favorite Baby Back Ribs

Baby Back Ribs

Baby Back Ribs with Filipino Seasoning

A couple of weekends ago I decided to take a break from working on ChefTap and do some serious cooking. I was in the mood do some pit grilling so I decided to make my favorite baby back rib recipe. The recipes for the marinade, the rub and the BBQ sauce are involved, but I promise it’s worth it.

The recipe comes from The Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen who is the grilling god as far as I’m concerned. I’ve adjusted the original recipe a bit to make it work on a pit grill which doesn’t have a cover and generally cooks food more slowly than a typical grill.

These ribs smell incredible while they’re cooking so I decided to make Walnut Pesto Crostini by Smitten Kitchen to tide us over. For dessert I made Mango Champagne Sorbet by PDX Food Love.

The timing of all of these recipes are wildly different, so I used the Make list in ChefTap to switch between recipes as I was interleaving the steps so that everything would come out on time.

Here’s the recipe for the ribs…

Romy’s Ribs with Filipino Seasonings

For the pork marinade

  • 4 baby back rib racks (3-4 lbs.)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 orange, juice of
  • 1 orange, zest of
  • 1 lemon, juice of
  • 1 lemon, zest of
  • 1 lime, juice of
  • 1 lime, zest of
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

For the rub:

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons szechuan peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 dried hot red chile (or 1/2 t. cayenne pepper)
  • 2 teaspoons firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt


  • 2 cups wood chips, soaked for 1 hour in cold water to cover and drained


  1. Remove the thin paper skin from the back of each rack of ribs.
  2. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a blender; process to a smooth puree.
  3. Pour the marinade over the ribs, turning to coat both sides.
  4. Cover and let marinate 8 hours, in the refrigerator, turning once or twice.
  5. Combine all the ingredients for the rub in a spice mill or blender and grind to a fine powder (for extra flavor, you can toast the spices in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes, before grinding).
  6. Set up grill for indirect cooking by raking the coals around the outside of the grate
  7. When ready to cook, remove the ribs from the marinade and blot dry with paper towels.
  8. Rub the spice mix over the ribs on both sides.
  9. Arrange the ribs on the hot grate over the pit grill and smoke-cook the ribs until the meat is very tender and it has shrunk back from the ends of the bones, 1 ½ to 2 hours; replenish wood chips as necessary.


The first thing that you need to do is marinate the ribs. The original recipe calls for eight hours in the marinade, but left them in for as little as three hours and they came out fine. The lemon grass does make a big difference but if you can’t find it the recipe still works.

Zesting citrus







The recipe says to remove the paper-thin skin from the back of the ribs, but for the last few years that I’ve been making this recipe, that membrane has already been removed. I still look for it, but it’s usually not there so don’t worry if you don’t find it.

One thing that I do think is important that the recipe doesn’t mention is that the ribs should be rinsed and dried before marinating so that the marinade can penetrate the ribs. I also cut the racks of ribs in half to make it easier.

I flip and rotate the ribs about every half hour to make sure they get coated evenly.

The ribs should be rinsed and dried before marinating





Next up was the first step of the Mango Champagne Sorbet. I used prosecco instead of Champagne and it came out great. Process the mangos for a while and then some. Mangos are a little fibrous and they really need some time to become a puree. Make sure you put the ice cream maker work bowl in the freezer the night before so it’s good and cold when you need it.

The mango champagne puree needs to drop to 40º F before you put it in the ice cream maker so be sure you leave enough time.

Mango Champagne Puree







Once the mango puree was in the fridge, I switched back to the ribs and made the rub. The recipe says that dry toasting the spices is optional, but the rub comes out so much better if you do. Put the szechuan peppercorns,coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and fennel seed in a small skillet and watch it carefully. After a couple of minutes they’ll start to smell really good, but hang on for a bit. A little later, the coriander seeds will start to hop in the pan followed by the mustard seeds. When the first hint of smoke appears, take the pan off of the heat and immediately dump the spices into a mortar and pestle and grind them while they’re still hot.

Dry toasting the rib rub spicesGrinding the toasted spices






Once the toasted spices are ground, add the paprika, hot red chile, brown sugar and salt to the mix and grind it up some more making sure everything is evenly mixed. Set the rub aside until you’re ready to put the ribs on the grill.

Add the rest of the spices

The finished rub






While I was doing all of this, Kate was out of the house, but I knew she’d be home soon so I started the crostini. This recipe also says that toasting the walnuts is optional, but I already had the pan out so I did it. They came out great. Blend the walnuts and cheese in a food processor and put it in a mixing bowl.

Toasting walnutsWalnut Parmesan Puree






Then stir in the oil and tomatoes and you’ve got your pesto. I made this a little ahead of time so that the flavors in the pesto would have time to blend together. After this, I sliced a baguette diagonally so it would dry out a little before I toasted the slices on the pit grill.

Walnut Parmesan Pesto







Next, it was time to make the BBQ sauce. This sauce has an apricot-horseradish-scotch bonnet base and is incredible with any kind of pork, but especially with this rib recipe. This recipe is from Barbecue! Bible – Sauces, Rubs and Marinades by Steven Raichlen <- Again BBQ god

Cal’s Apricot-Horseradish Barbeque Sauce


  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh shallot
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 to 1 scotch bonnet chili or other hot chili, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons prepared white horseradish, or to taste


  1. Place all of the ingredients for the sauce, except for the horseradish, in a heavy non-reactive saucepan. Simmer the sauce, uncovered, over medium heat until slightly thickened and richly flavored, about 10 minutes. Correct the seasoning, adding salt and/or pepper if needed. the sauce should be of pourable consistency; if too thick, add a little water. Let the sauce cool to room temperature.
  2. Stir in the horseradish to taste. Use right away or transfer to a large jar, cover and refrigerate. The sauce will keep for several weeks.

Cal's BBQ sauce






The prep for this sauce takes a little while. Just be careful with the scotch bonnets and wash your hands really well after you mince them. The recipe says it takes about 10 minutes, but in my experience it takes closer to twenty to get it right. Go with it. When the sauce cools, stir in the horseradish and you’re good.

2014-06-08 20.04.01





Now the ribs were marinated, the rub was made, the mango puree is in the fridge, the pit grill is hot, the crostini is toasting and Kate just got home. The pesto has been made and the bread has been toasted on the grill so the crostini is on. They were walnutty, buttery heaven.

Baby Back Ribs

Baby Back Ribs with Filipino Seasoning







We had the crostini while the ribs were gilling. The ribs needed time on the grill. I kept the pot of BBQ sauce near the heat so that I could baste the ribs with it as they cooked. After about three hours, they were ready. I also threw on some corn cobs in the husk so they could steam themselves on the grill but that’s hardly a recipe.


Mango Champagne Sorbet






While the ribs were grilling, I put the Mango Champagne Sorbet in the ice cream maker and let it run. Before I served the ribs I put the finished sorbet into the freezer to let it harden up. In spite of having absolutely no dairy in it, this sorbet really tastes like ice cream. So yeah, all of this took all day to make, but it was soooo worth it.

If you’re going to spend a whole day cooking, you might as well make it epic. 🙂