Backyard St. Louis-Style Pork Ribs with Spicy Cola Barbecue Sauce

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 180 minutes
Servings: 6

There is nothing like great grilled ribs that you make yourself. The key is buying ribs that have enough meat on their bones to stand up to 2 to 3 hours of cooking time. For that reason, the St. Louis cut, which is a trimmed sparerib, is preferable to the more popular baby backs. Ask your butcher for 3 and down—meat lingo for racks that weigh about 3 lb. apiece. The hot and sticky BBQ rub and the spicy cola barbecue sauce will make these backyard beauties burst with flavor!

The hot and sticky BBQ rub is also good for seasoning pork tenderloin, beef, chicken, smashed grilled potatoes and pineapple.


For the hot and sticky BBQ rub:

  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbs. molasses powder (optional)
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt, preferably Morton's
  • 1/2 Tbs. hot smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

For the spicy cola barbecue sauce:

  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 tsp. ancho or New Mexico chili powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. finely ground black pepper
  • 1 can (12 fl. oz.) spicy cola

  • Hickory or apple wood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes
  • 4 slabs St. Louis-style pork ribs, each about 3 lb.


To make the hot and sticky BBQ rub, in a bowl, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, molasses powder, salt, paprika, black pepper, chili powder and cayenne and mix well. You will have about 3/4 cup rub. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.

To make the spicy cola barbecue sauce, in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire, tomato paste, chili powder, salt, black pepper and cola and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 15 minutes. Stir and continue cooking until the sauce begins to thicken, 20 to 30 minutes more, and then taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and black pepper, if desired. Remember, the ribs will have plenty of spice rub on them, so don’t overseason the sauce.

Let the sauce cool until it is warm but no longer boiling hot, about 10 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender or a stand blender (this will make the sauce thicker). Continue to let cool. You will have about 5 cups of sauce. Use immediately, or store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Build a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill. Set up the grill for indirect heat (300°F). If using wood chips, place the soaked chips directly on the charcoal or in the smoking box of the gas grill.

Remove the silver skin from the back of the ribs, if desired, and rub liberally with the hot and sticky BBQ rub. Cover and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes.

Place the ribs, bone side down, in the center of the grill grate or in a rib holder or rack, making sure they are not over a direct flame. Close the grill lid and cook until the meat is tender and has pulled back from the ends of the rib bones, 2 to 3 hours. Leave the ribs untended for the first 30 minutes—this means no peeking (especially important if using wood chips). If the ribs start to burn on the edges, stack them on top of one another in the very center of the grill and lower your fire slightly.

Brush the ribs with the spicy cola barbecue sauce 20 minutes before the end of cooking, unstacking the ribs if necessary. Remove the ribs from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes, and then cut into individual portions. Warm the remaining barbecue sauce in a saucepan and serve on the side. Serves 6.

Recipe courtesy of Chef Elizabeth Karmel.

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