Memphis-Style Baby Back Ribs

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 180 minutes
Servings: 8

In Memphis, barbecued ribs are dry rubbed with a flavorful spice mixture before grilling and then brushed with a mop sauce to finish. This recipe calls for a wood-pellet grill. If you don’t have one, you can start the ribs in a preheated 325ºF oven. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place the rib slabs on top, wrap the foil around them and seal tightly. Transfer to the oven and cook until the ribs are fork-tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Just before serving, place the ribs directly on a grill over high heat and baste with the mop sauce until the ribs are caramelized, 5 to 10 minutes.


  • 2 Tbs. sweet paprika
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. plus 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard powder
  • 2 Tbs. plus 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 racks pork baby back ribs, about 5 1/2 lb. total
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. hot sauce
  • 2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Barbecue sauce for serving


In a small bowl, stir together the paprika, chili powder, cayenne, garlic powder, the 1 1/2 Tbs. salt, the black pepper, white pepper, mustard powder and the 2 Tbs. brown sugar to make a dry rub. Place the ribs on a baking sheet and rub evenly on both sides with the mixture. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, the 1/2 cup brown sugar, the hot sauce, Worcestershire, water and the 1/2 tsp. salt to make a mop sauce. Reserve 1/2 cup of the sauce for serving.

Preheat a wood pellet grill on the “smoke” setting to 290°F according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Place the ribs on a rib rack on the grill. Cover the grill and cook until the ribs are tender, about 3 hours, basting with the mop sauce every 5 minutes during the last 20 minutes of cooking.

Transfer the ribs to a carving board and cut between the bones. Pass the reserved mop sauce and barbecue sauce alongside. Serves 6 to 8.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen

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