Ian Knauer's Sticky Balsamic Ribs

August 18, 2011
10 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 8
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

What You'll Need
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Victoria Eide Cordero
    Victoria Eide Cordero
  • Rhonda35
  • SarahInMinneapolis
  • karin.anderson.52
  • LittleKi
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

45 Reviews

John August 9, 2020
First attempt went very well. I added a TBSP ACV to the 1/2 cup water on the first cook. I bet this would go well with chicken wings.
Marc L. July 17, 2019
This may be a dumb question. This recipe is for baby back pork ribs. I assume I can make this same recipe with beef ribs?
Victoria E. September 19, 2018
Years ago we learned a similar method here in Texas. Instead of water in the pan and covering with foil, we use put a couple(or few) ice cubes under the ribs and wrap the rack in foil. The ribs get steamed and the water doesn't evaporate. Same temp, same cooking time. Next time we do this I can't wait to try this balsamic glaze. 😋
Gigi August 30, 2018
These were surprisingly good. Definitely add a little more water than suggested, as it will burn when the water evaporates. Be sure the foil is on very tight, which will slow that process. Also, be sure to skim the fat before reducing the glaze. It took me a good 30 min to reduce the glaze. I added some chopped rosemary, which was good. Make plenty as they really disappear!
Rhonda35 June 1, 2017
I used the rub and glaze from this recipe, but cooked the ribs on our smoker. WOW! So delicious - we especially liked the wonderful and perfectly sticky glaze. Will definitely make these again.
Barbara J. September 15, 2019
I have a Trager grill and wanted to cook them on that. Did you cook them in the smoker with just the rub and glaze them when they were done?
tracy R. May 25, 2020
I also smoked on my Treager, low and slow, with the rub and then finished them on the grill with the glaze. Was having trouble getting the glaze thick, so I remember a trick for a Port Sauce i often make and added two tablespoons of a Beurre Marie (equal parts butter and flour). Not only did it thicken beautifully, the richness of the butter was just what was needed to tame the balsamic. I was eating the sauce from the pot with a spoon!. Will make these again!
Matthew June 28, 2021
You're Buerre Marie trick saved my ribs tonight!!! I whisked 2tbsp flour into 2tbsp simmered butter, and added it to the thin glaze. It thickened right up and tasted great.
tracy R. June 29, 2021
yeah! With the 4th looming, looking to make again!
Cameron May 30, 2017
These are SUPER delicious!! I doubled the amounts of rub and glaze for the 8 lbs. of ribs and it was perfect.
Jeanie P. May 27, 2017
Made these for my husband's birthday and they were delicious! This was my first time making ribs and this recipe was so easy and the resulting ribs were tender, well seasoned, and sticky! Everyone loved them!
andi February 12, 2017
Sorry for the dumb question...water in the roasting pan, are the ribs sitting in the water? I must be missing a step as I read the directions!
Kristen M. February 12, 2017
Not a dumb question! That step could be confusing because it's assuming that your ribs are already positioned in the roasting racks as they're marinating (meaty side up) in step 1. So in step 3 you're just adding water to the pans to help them steam (and keep the drippings from burning) as they cook.
Alison M. February 7, 2018
This response remains confusing to me. A roasting rack is different than a roasting pan. A rack raises the food off the bottom of the pan, right? In the steps you state roasting pans for marinating and say put the pans in the upper top and lower thirds of the oven racks and transfer during cooking. But there is nothing about a roasting rack. So... is there a rack inside the pan to lift the ribs out of the liquid?
Alison M. February 7, 2018
I ask because I have done ribs sitting in beer, cider, and various other liquids wrapped in foil during the roasting process but they've always been sitting in the liquid. Is this different? Are they on a rack in a pan above the liquid? No lid?
Kristen M. February 8, 2018
Hi Alison, I see why it's confusing—I meant to say roasting pans, not racks. The ribs are sitting directly in the pans, but meaty side up, so the meat isn't actually resting in the small amount of liquid, but steaming above it.
Karinhall November 13, 2020
Good question. I wondered the same. I just assumed the ribs were in the pan and somebody hit print before they read it🤪
SarahInMinneapolis October 22, 2016
Truly a genius recipe. No more need for complicated, "he man" rib recipes. This is is simple and a winner.
nutcakes August 6, 2016
This is a great method, especially if you want to do ahead. I made 1/2 recipe with 2 babyback racks, in one large roasting pan with 3/4 c water. Leaves the perfect amount of browned fond in the bottom. Tasted a piece without any glaze and it is flavorful. I might cut the salt back a tad next time. With Morton kosher it was too salty, it might be fine with Diamond Crystal as it is less salty per volume. Also I halved the cayenne but it was not particularly spicy so I will up it a tad next time. Now the glaze seems genius-- useing those meat juices and I bet it would have been great but I scorched mine so I couldn't use it --keep an eye on it. I used a prepared balsamic glaze. Nice but I missed the tang of BBQ sauce so I ate some with that as well. I will try this method with traditional BBQ rub and sauce some time too. A keeper!
nutcakes September 27, 2016
I made these again, and I didn't burn the glaze, although I over-reduced it. Wow is that porky goodness. I don't recommend brushing on the glaze before grilling because it just burns onto the rack. The glaze is fine drizzled or brushed on after. I haven't tried it with regular BBQ style seasoning because the rub is just so good. If you use dried rosemary be sure to cut the amount to less than half, half is too strong.
karin.anderson.52 July 6, 2016
Grilling is usually my husband’s bailiwick, but this recipe tempted me to convince him to leave the preparation to me (instead of just slathering BBQ sauce on the ribs). I followed the advice of some reviewers to add more liquid to the pan (3/4 cup) The ribs were fantastic!
LittleKi May 24, 2015
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.
Ashley May 6, 2015
I made these last night without the glaze and they were delicious!!!!
CailinH July 30, 2014
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!
Rachael June 29, 2014
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!
Lianne June 22, 2014
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.
helena June 4, 2014
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!
Andrea A. December 28, 2013
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!
za'atar July 4, 2013
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.
wbsherk May 27, 2013
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.