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Cooking with Fire

Cooking with Fire: Pork Ribs


Pork ribs. Just saying this phrase can cause debate among barbecue pros and novices alike. It seems that everyone has their opinion on which cut is best, what is the right way to cook them, and whether or not they should be glazed with barbecue sauce.

Well, we’re here to try and set the record straight, not by telling you what to think, but by giving you a little background on pork ribs to help you better understand them.

There are essentially two different cuts of pork ribs, those are the back ribs and the spare ribs. The back ribs come from the upper portion of the ribs along the loin. In fact, if you were to leave these intact with the larger cut, you’d have bone in pork chops. This is why they’re so lean and meaty.

The spare ribs come from the belly portion of the pig, and the meat that sits on top of them is typically removed to make bacon. These ribs lay relatively flat and have a lot of intramuscular marbling, making them tender and fatty.

Now, no cut is technically better than the other, that’s all left up to the palate of the consumer, but understanding these cuts and how to best prepare them will set you up so that no matter what you’re cooking, they’ll be the best ribs you’ve ever eaten.

In this episode of Cooking With Fire, Chef Tom and I take on pork ribs in our teaching kitchen and give you a recipe that is sure to win you praise.


Pork Ribs


  • Rack of Pork Ribs (Baby Back Ribs or Spare Ribs)
  • Oil for Binder
  • BBQ Rub (Ingredients Below)
  • Brown Sugar
  • Honey
  • BBQ Sauce (Ingredients Below)


  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine in a bowl and whisk well.

Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce

  • 2 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke 
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and whisk. Bring to a simmer. Cook to desired consistency.

  1. Trim any unnecessary fat off of the top of the ribs, and remove the papery membrane from the bone side using a paper towel. You can use a sharp knife to scrape at the membrane to loosen it to make it easier to pull back.
  2. Once the ribs are trimmed to your liking, put a small layer of oil on all sides, and rub it so that it coats the meat evenly. Then season the ribs with the barbecue rub in an even layer, but be careful to not go to heavy. Let the ribs sit for at least five minutes before putting them on the smoker.
  3. Set you smoker cook between 225 to 275ºF and place the ribs bone side down. Close up the smoker and only check to make sure your temperature is holding steady, don’t open the lid to peak at the ribs.
  4. After four hours check the ribs to make sure a nice bark has formed. If the bark is set and isn’t still lose and wet, it’s time to wrap.
  5. Lay down two pieces of foil and put a small layer of brown sugar and honey down, and then place the ribs meat side down into the foil. Put some brown sugar and honey on the bone side of the ribs and wrap them tightly to make sure they don’t steam. Place them back on the smoker for another hour or until they are nice and tender.
  6. To check for tenderness, pick the ribs up with tongs and if they bend and break at the bone they are done. You can also take a bone in your fingers and turn it clockwise, if the bone moves independent of the meat, the ribs are done.
  7. Glaze the ribs with your barbecue sauce and then lightly tent the foil to allow the sauce to set up. This should only take fifteen minutes. Once the sauce is set up, place the ribs meat side down on a cutting board and slice them for serving. Slicing from this side will make seeing any curves or odd areas of the bones easier and make presentation cleaner.