5 Ingredients or Fewer

Salt & Pepper Babyback Ribs

May  6, 2013
1 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 2 hours
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

I didn't realize that barbecue sauce on ribs was a thing until I was in my teens. Growing up, my dad grilled these simply seasoned babybacks that were so delicious, they've always made sauce seem superfluous to me. What I love about these ribs is that they allow the pork be the superstar, rather than just the vehicle for a killer barbecue sauce. They cook up in no time, have a great meaty bite, and should you feel inspired to sauce 'em up, they're the perfect canvas. —lisina

Test Kitchen Notes

This is probably the easiest recipe I've made in a long time, but that is by no means a reflection of the flavor or the final results. I cut the recipe to 1 slab of baby back ribs and used 1/3 of the ingredients. The ribs were quite salty, but I found them strangely addictive; the meat was tender and moist. I would definitely make them again, but probably cut back a bit on the salt or let them marinate for less time (I let them sit for about 6 hours). The sugar can cause a bit of a flare up when grilling, so worth keeping an eye on them. —figgypudding

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Salt & Pepper Babyback Ribs
  • 3 racks of babyback ribs, silver skin removed
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  1. *Please note the salt in this recipe has already been reduced in response to community feedback. (The original called for 3 tbsp.)
  2. Cut each rack of ribs in half to make them easier to handle, and lay them on a baking sheet or tray.
  3. Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl and rub into the ribs, front and back. Really massaging it in, and use all the rub. Cover the sheet and place in the fridge for at least an hour, and up to 10 hours.
  4. Light your grill and set the heat to medium low, with evenly distributed heat. When the grill is heated, add the ribs bone-side down, and close the lid.
  5. Let them go for about 20 minutes, then flip them. Close the lid and reduce heat to low. Let the ribs cook another 15 minutes, then check them. Move them around a little, keeping them meat-side down, so that they get even color on the meat side. Close the lid again.
  6. On my grill, these need to cook for 10 minutes more, for a total of 45 minutes, but every grill is different. When the meat is receding from the bone and the meat is really dark and caramelized, pull them off.
  7. Let them rest for about 15 minutes before carving and serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cherry Moon
    Cherry Moon
  • Susan W
    Susan W
  • Aliwaks
  • Vandana Koelsch
    Vandana Koelsch
  • Wigie Williams
    Wigie Williams

47 Reviews

CMShaw3 August 28, 2020
My husband doesn't eat BBQ sauce, so my old go to recipe went out the window. I was so happy when I found this recipe. We were even happier after I made it. The only thing I did different was use less salt, but only because the picky Hubby doesn't like salt either. These ribs are fantastic!
dhaycock July 6, 2019
I've continued to make this over the years since my last review. I've been substituting cinnamon in place of the brown sugar to get added sugars out of my life and it really does a fantastic job.

To the rub recipe I've added 2 tsps of cinnamon and approx. 3/4 tsp of cayenne for a subtle kick. These continue to deliver!
jep July 4, 2018
its my go to every time I make ribs!! Thank you!
Cherry M. July 28, 2016
My recipe is even shorter.
Ribs and any good garlic pepper. Season ribs with the garlic pepper then rub in the garlic pepper. Season once more and then grill to your individual taste.
Jan June 4, 2016
I just tried these and they are easy and wonderful! Everyone was surprised to love them without the usual bbq sauce. 45 minutes was just right on my gas grill and using the 2 TBL of kosher salt was also perfect.
dhaycock July 5, 2015
I made these yesterday for the Fourth of July and they were a huge hit! The rub was perfect and won over a number of people who were concerned that I did not bring any bbq sauce. The ease of making these is awesome as well, this will certainly be a recipe I come back to frequently and begin to tweak the rub. I thought the 2 tbsp of salt was just the right amount. Fantastic dish!
Susan W. September 19, 2014
I've had these on my "try soon" list for a while now. I finally made them last night. Your Dad is right. This rub is perfect. 45 minutes on my Weber Q was just right. I ended up with perfectly seasoned ribs that had that just right amount of chew. I am not a fan of fall off the bone meat. Delish!!
LHinton July 20, 2014
Please take my following comments as my being passionate, and not a condescending tone. No No No No No! You do not have to par boil your ribs to get them tender! Whether you start them on the grill, smoker, or searing on the stove top, finishing them in the oven in a covered dish IS the way to get your meat to fall off of the bone. In my humble, but passionate opinion, par boiling is blasphemy!
Robert A. March 15, 2015
I could not agree with you more. Some peoples palates are nonexistent or dead. Look at the majority of fast food joints [calling them restaurants is a stretch] crawling with people. I only use an oven. BTW, I do not bother removing the silver skin. I use a little Red food coloring for eye appeal.
Aliwaks June 14, 2014
I made these last night in the oven... added about a tablespoon of szechwan peppercorns.. I though they were terrific!
Vandana K. September 24, 2013
If you make them in the oven, would you put them in a dutch oven. I made these last night for the family, but the meat was not falling off the bone, although everybody agreed that they were good (I don't eat ribs, and have to test the recipe on the family!)
lisina September 27, 2013
to be honest, i probably wouldn't make them in the oven. i know that's not helpful, but i think these ribs really get a lot of their flavor from the the grill. but if you are going to do them in the oven, I would sear them really well in a pan first so they get a nice crust. these are not cooked to fall off the bone, rather have some bit to them. if you want them fall off the bone tender, try leaving them in the oven for an extra 30 minutes, covered, with the heat reduced to 220. i hope this helps!
Chef B. May 27, 2014
Falling off the bone is not a sign of a great rib but if you are looking for that, go with the boiling route. I can't get excited about a rib that hasn't been smoked but boiling will yield very tender meat..
lisina May 27, 2014
but i find that when you simmer/boil the meat first, you lose so much of the flavor to the cooking liquid, no?
Chef B. May 27, 2014
Oh I totally agree which is why I don't boil but there are ways to makeup for that flavor and I see more people using it to get that "fall of the bone affect." I also prefer that my meat not fall off the bone too much, I think a little bite and chew is a nice texture. Mushy pork is not something I look for.
lisina May 27, 2014
yeah, i like a little bit of bite as well!
SuzanneS July 4, 2013
I am wondering if the salty comments were because regular table salt was used and not kosher salt. Ill try the recipe and update.
lisina July 4, 2013
Suzanne, I find that the fattiness/meatiness of the ribs also makes a difference. Not all racks are created equal. But you're right, I would definitely steer clear of table salt for this. Let me know how they work out!
Judith R. June 23, 2013
Betty, to the left, under the picture is a little printer icon. Just click on it. I'm going to try this rub next weekend, but use a Big Green Egg at 225ºF for about 4 hours, just until the bone begins to show on the ends of each rib. Gonna toss a chunk of apple wood on the coals in the beginning. I think simple is good! Thanks!
lisina June 24, 2013
thanks for the smoking tips judith! i like simple too ;)
Wigie W. June 23, 2013
sounds to me you don't know how to cook ribs very well...alright this is how I do it.................1st, garlic powder onion powder little paprika brown sugar crushed red pepper flakes if you like a little heat. 1st remove the silver lining. Rub the mix all over the ribs. if you are using a smoker....I prefer indirect heat. I usually mix some fruit wood or oak with the charcoal and some maskeet wood if I have it. if you are using a weber just make your fire to one side of the grill and put meat on other {indirect heat} you will have a nice smoke ring and great smoke flavor to your meat. I cook them at a low temp usually 2 hours to 2 1/2. I do not cook ribs on a gas grill, gas grills are for grilling NOT barbeque or smoking meats. start to put your sauce on after about an hour and a half, if you want sauce, sorry, won't tell sauce it a secret recipe. only know to 2 people in the world, if incomplete, this 1st time sharing this recipe with anyone. enjoy
Marna June 23, 2013
Wigie, I also usually smoke my baby backs, but you should still try this. It is just a different way to cook the ribs, not the wrong way. You do want to keep the heat really low on the grill and cook til the meat starts to pull away from the bone, but these cook up really well--tender and flavorful. They don't need sauce, but you could use your secret sauce on them after they are cooked so that it doesn't burn. We like them without sauce and have applesauce on the side. Try it this way at least once.
lisina June 24, 2013
widgie, you are right, this is definitely a grilling recipe. smoked, slow-cooked ribs are certainly wonderful, this is just and alternative way to prepare them.
Chef B. May 27, 2014
you can certainly smoke meats on a propane grill as an alternative, though. Until I finally bought a good smoker, I had to do ribs on the grill and still had decent results. I love the simplicity of this recipe for the grill but once you have smoke kissed ribs, it's hard to go back!
Robert A. March 15, 2015
A few drops of Liquid Smoke in a little water and NO ONE will know the difference.
Kevin F. March 15, 2015
I beg to differ.
Robert A. March 15, 2015
Okay, what's your point?????
Kevin F. March 16, 2015
Robert,I just don't see how "only use an oven, do not bother removing the silver skin, and use a little Red food coloring for eye appeal" can positively replace any of steps in this recipe.
Robert A. March 16, 2015
I'm replacing any steps in this recipe. The recipe is fine with me, but I chose to make ribs MY WAY. I do Chinese, BBQ, Kansas City, Tenn. ribs depending on my mood and yes I do them in the oven. I haven't had a complaint in 50 years. Different Strokes for Different Folks.
Betty H. June 23, 2013
How do i print this on my computor? you said save and print. I gave permission to see my profile ect: so i want to print this recipe.
Jason H. June 23, 2013
I am assuming that these are being cooked on a gas grill. What would you suggest for a charcoal grill or if I wanted to smoke them?
lisina June 24, 2013
yes, i cook mine on a gas grill. if you're working with charcoal they'll be even more flavorful! just build your fire on one half of the grill. sear the ribs on the hot side, then move them to the cooler side for the rest of the cooking. i don't have much experience with smoking, so if i were you, i'd just experiment! i'd love to hear what you come up with!
Chef B. May 27, 2014
Jason, this would work on the smoker just like any recipe...225, 3-5 hours until they are done. You will not get the same bark on the outside of the ribs as the meat will not caramelize like it would with a rub that included sugar. If you use this recipe you'd be well served to brine the ribs prior and omit the salt from the rub.
LEllis June 20, 2013
This recipe calls for 2 tablespoons (6 teaspoons) salt. Are you suggesting cutting that to 4 teaspoons, or is this the already-reduced salt recipe?
lisina June 20, 2013
this is the reduced-salt recipe. (the original called for 3 tbsp for 3 racks).
Terence M. June 19, 2013
When you say slab do you mean a full rack? So this recipe is for 3 full racks cut into 6?
lisina June 19, 2013
that's right!
What if I want to bake the ribs in the oven. What would be the corresponding temperatures and times?
lisina June 3, 2013
i'm making a batch on wednesday, so I will check and see what temperature the grill registers at medium-low and low and let you know! the times should be the same. but, if you're going to do them this way, you're going to need to really sear them on the stovetop before putting them in the oven. i'll get you those temps and please do let me know how they turn out--I'll be very curious to know!
that's so nice of you!
lisina June 5, 2013
no problem! so medium low and low registered at 350 and 300 respectively on my grill. i really think the direct fire is an important part of the recipe but as someone who lived without a grill for years, i totally get it. don't forget to sear like crazy and let me know how they come out!!
Marna May 27, 2013
Soooooooo simple and sooooooo good. The only thing that we didn't like was that I only cooked 1 rack. You are right lisina, they are a bit salty, and EXTREMELY addictive. Next time I will cut the salt by 1/3. I just wish that it could be tommorow.
lisina May 28, 2013
thanks marna!! when i have a minute i will amend the recipe so they're not so salty :)
so so SOOOOO happy you enjoyed them!
lisina May 26, 2013
thanks for the review figgypudding! i can totally see these going salty, especially on a leaner rack of ribs. when i'm working with smaller or leaner racks, i'll sometimes reduce the salt to 2 tbsp rather than 3. thanks for that note!
figgypudding October 15, 2013
Great tip! Like I said, we were totally addicted so I think that reducing the salt even a little will make these ribs out-of-this-world. Thanks for sharing such a fantastic recipe.