Ian Knauer's Sticky Balsamic Ribs

By • August 18, 2011 23 Comments

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Author Notes: Ribs that ditch the low-and-slow doctrine and make you popular anyway, first published in July 2009 in Gourmet Magazine. Knauer's bake-then-grill tactic isn't new for home-cooked ribs -- but we're usually told to keep it low and slow. Instead, Knauer goes for fast and reckless. But the ribs are well-marinated and steamed, so they come out inexplicably tender, yet sturdy enough to hold up to flipping on the grill.

- This recipe halves well. You'll only need one roasting pan, placed on the middle rack of your oven.
- If you can only get larger ribs (4 racks), you will need more glaze; use 12 large garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary, 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper.
- Ribs can be roasted and glaze can be made 1 day ahead and chilled separately (covered once cool). Bring to room temperature, about 30 minutes, before glazing and grilling.
- Ribs can be broiled 3 to 4 inches from heat (instead of grilled) about 8 minutes.
Genius Recipes

Serves 8

For the ribs

  • 8 large garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon kosher salt (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 pounds baby back pork ribs
  • 1 cup water

For the glaze

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  1. Mince and mash garlic to a paste with 1 teaspoon salt. Stir together with rosemary, brown sugar, vinegar, cayenne, remaining tablespoon salt, and pepper. Rub evenly all over ribs and transfer to roasting pans, meaty side up. Marinate, chilled, 8 to 24 hours. Alternately, marinate in a zippered bag or bowl covered with plastic wrap.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.
  3. Pour 1/2 cup water into each roasting pan and tightly cover pans with foil. Roast ribs, switching position of pans halfway through, until meat is very tender, about 1 3/4 hours. Remove pans from oven and transfer ribs to a platter.
  4. Add 1 cup hot water to each roasting pan and scrape up brown bits. Skim off and discard fat, then transfer liquid to a 10-inch skillet. Add vinegar and brown sugar and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil until thick and syrupy and reduced to about 1 cup, about 15 minutes.
  5. Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium heat for gas).
  6. Brush some of glaze onto both sides of racks of ribs. Grill, turning occasionally, until ribs are hot and grill marks appear, about 6 minutes.
  7. Brush ribs with more glaze and serve remaining glaze on the side.

More Great Recipes: Ribs|Pork|Entrees

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Comments (23) Questions (2)


3 months ago LittleKi

These are everything. Made them with spare ribs and dialed the temperature down. Probably added 3-4 cups water over the course of two hours to prevent scorching. Fantastic.


4 months ago Ashley

I made these last night without the glaze and they were delicious!!!!


about 1 year ago CailinH

Just made these last night and they were fabulous! Easy, too! I wish I had made double the amount of glaze, it was so good. Didn't have to add water to the glaze, and the meat fell right off the bone. Mmmm!


about 1 year ago Rachael

I made these last night and they were a hit! They are a nice change from your typical BBQ ribs. I used a baking pan to bake the ribs and didn't have any problems with that method. I also did not need to add water to the bottom once the ribs were done. Everything came up really easily. I did chill the ribs for a hour or so between the oven and the grill to keep them from falling apart on the grill. I also put the glaze on the meaty side only so you could still really taste the spice rub. These are definitely a repeat!


about 1 year ago Lianne

Made this today and they turned out fabulous. After reading the reviews I made sure the foil was really tight on the pan so when they were done I had enough juice to make the glaze without adding water.


about 1 year ago helena

Just made these this afternoon. Delicious! Made quite a bit of changes to the recipe though. First off, I made them in the oven as I don't have a grill. Low and slow. I also added a lot of cumin and smoked paprika to the rub and marinaded overnight. I made the glaze on a whim. Realized i ran out of balsamic vinegar and so then I improvised: salty mashed garlic, a bit of a l'ancienne mustard, honey, molasses, lots of cumin (I've been on a cumin kick lately), smoked paprika, cracked pepper, and some water. In the end, the meat was falling off the bone, my mouth was filled with sweet, smokey, and a good kick of spice flavours, and my fingers were very sticky. Served these with roasted asparagus and potatoes coated in a lot of garlic and rosemary. Soooo yummy!


over 1 year ago Andrea Aaron Fuller

These are our new favorite ribs! They are absolutely amazing! Reading the other comments about the scorching reminded me how I remedied the same thing in my favorite chicken recipe...parchment paper. Works every time and makes cleanup a breeze!


about 2 years ago za'atar

Yum! After reading about the scorching, I added a little more water to my roasting pans and didn't have any trouble. I don't have grill, so I just put them under the broiler for the final minutes. These were great, especially with the glaze.


over 2 years ago wbsherk

Oh, I had such high hopes for this one. Just two of us so only one rack of ribs. Adjusted for ribs but stayed with 1/2 cup water during oven period. Suffered scorching even in heavy-bottomed roasting pan. If I try again, which I doubt, I'll reduce oven temp and go lower and slower. Great idea, I just couldn't execute.


almost 3 years ago darksideofthespoon

I made these a while ago, san pan juices - they burnt in the pot, but just with the glaze they were amazing! Loved 'em!


about 3 years ago Katie

I made these last night and thoroughly enjoyed them! Unfortunately, I did not have a roasting pan so I used a baking pan which didn't allow for as much of the delicious "sticky" coating on the ribs but it still locked in the tasty flavor of the marinade inside each bite of meat. The balsamic reduction made for a perfect dipping sauce- overall, the ribs were a success! I would definitely make these again; my husband was a big fan!


over 3 years ago fearlessem

I wanted to love these but... Just didn't. The pan juices burned really badly, leaving burned garlic smell throughout the kitchen, and meaning I couldn't deglaze the pan to add that to the glaze... And I just didn't think the flavor got in there enough, even with the glaze. I prefer my dry-rub, low oven, then glaze with whiskey-infused BBQ sauce and broil method.


over 3 years ago AlohaHoya

Really glad I experimented with this...I didn't add the last 1 cup of water, used palm sugar/brown sugar instead of just brown sugar and used fresh grapefruit juice instead of the first cup of water. YUM. I think I would add chilpotle pepper too. Yummy and wonderful. Thanks!


over 3 years ago I Am The Eggman

Why is this recipe listed with recipes for the Slow Cooker?


almost 4 years ago felony

Here in Aussie-land, it's hard to track down American cut pork ribs, so when I saw them at a Vietnamese butchers, I had to grab them to try this recipe out.
As perusual, I couldn't help but tweak the recipe, adding in some smoked paprika, cumin, ancho and chipotle, as well as grated fresh ginger, and a bit of generic chilli powder for kick after I couldn't locate my baggie of cayenne in the spice pit I call a pantry :)
When it came to oven time there was a Negro Modelo on the bench so I tossed that in there for good measure, and crossed my fingers. . . the bf had invited over a client for dinner to help polish off the two sides of ribs, and he had been primed for a winning meal. . . eek
Pointless panicking my end, this is almost foolproof, gorgeous smells throughout the house, moist and sticky melting ribs and a dark and luxurious glaze to bind it all together. 2 kilo's of pork disappeared between 3 people, compliments flowed and my culinary reputation was maintained thanks to the food52 community!


about 4 years ago youngsuds

I did half the recipe last night and used 3/4 cup of lager in the pan during cooking instead of 1/2 cup water. Outstanding results!


about 4 years ago MBobinski

I enjoyed this recipe, but I think I had too much cayenne in my rub, since they turned out very spicy. Also, putting them in the upper third of the oven resulted in very delicious, but crispy, ends. This may be because the rack was from the small end, and quite dainty.


about 4 years ago nola_t

I've dutifully followed complicated, day-long rib recipes before, but the results never quite justified the efforts. These ribs, however, were absolutely perfect (and a heck of a lot easier)! Like everblessed, I did one rack and ended up with no pan juices. I think I'd bump up the liquid slightly (maybe by 1/4 cup) next time to compensate. I was using regular foil and a thin 9 x 13 pan, which may have led to the faster evaporation rate.

In any case, these were the best ribs I've ever made by a long shot. The flavors were really nicely balanced and lovely, but the cooking method is the real star of the show here. The perfect texture and moistness of the meat had me pondering using the same method with different flavors next time. Maybe something with soy, lemon & rosemary...


about 4 years ago dymnyno

I made this last night> It was easy and delicious. It's a nice alternative to the Asian flavors I usually BBQ.


about 4 years ago midnitechef

8 pounds is not enough for my family, let alone any guests who will be fighting to get a nibble!