Who doesn't love eating tender, succulent meat right off the bone? Pork spare ribs are a classic, and arguably among the best options for satisfying this primal desire. They are surprisingly easy to cook and only need an appropriate amount of time to hit the bulls... no, pigs-eye.
This recipe is fully interchangeable for flavor purposes. You can use spice rub you like and/or apply barbecue sauce at the end for an extra glaze. I kept things more simple to demonstrate the technique, using only salt, pepper, and garlic powder for the rub. The only addition to this was a little butter, water, and apple cider vinegar once the ribs were wrapped to finish cooking.
A smoker is going to be the best option here, but an oven will also do the trick. Or even a weber grill with a hot/cold cooking zone setup and a handful of wood chips. Either way, just apply slow consistent heat and let the ribs melt into something you'll get excited about.
*Note about pork spare ribs: it is fairly common for spare ribs not to have a substantial amount of meat underneath the bones. This cut comes from the belly of the pig, which is where bacon comes from. Most folks tend to keep as much meat as possible on the belly when removing these ribs. But don't worry, there is still a good amount of meat and they will be every bit as delicious.
Pork spare ribs (1 full rack)
- Optional: cut in half
Salt, black pepper, and garlic powder for the spice rub
- Butter (1 - 2 tablespoons)
- Apple cider vin (2 tablespoons)
- Water (2 tablespoons)
TIME AND DIFFICULTY
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 hours
- Difficulty: Easy
May We Suggest:
- Foil for wrapping
- Smoke of choice (I used an oak/hickory blend on my pellet smoker, but you can also use an oven for this recipe)
Step 1: Pre-heat the smoker and peel the ribs. Set your smoker (or oven) to 225 degrees F. While it pre-heats, start from one corner of the rib bone and peel back the thin membrane which sits on top of the ribs. Using a paper towel can help you get enough traction to peel. This membrane covers all of the bones and stops at the meat below the bones. Peel this membrane from both sections (if your spare ribs are cut in half like mine) and discard.
Step 2: Season the ribs. With high quality meat, I enjoy using simple rubs. Season with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. I did not measure this, but I first seasoned liberally front and back with salt, followed by about half as much pepper, and finally with a similar amount of garlic powder. Once seasoned, place your ribs on the smoker. If using an oven, use a sheet tray with a rack if possible. While the recipe here only calls for one rack of spare ribs, I always make at least two or three racks at a time because... they go quickly. This first part of the cooking process will go about 3 hours.
Step 3: Wrap ribs for remaining two hours. Once the ribs have been cooking at 225 F for about 3 hours, remove from the smoker or oven and prepare them for wrapping. Using two sheets of overlapping foil, create a kind of tray for the ribs. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter (a piece on top of each section), followed by 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons water. This will help keep the ribs nice and moist during the remaining cooking time. Stack the pieces as seen in the second photo and wrap tightly with foil. If part of the bone pokes through the foil, just wrap that area with another piece of foil to try and trap as much moisture as possible. Put back on the smoker for an additional 2 hours.
Step 4: Test for doneness, add sauce if you like. After about two hours more cooking time, check the doneness of the ribs (5 hours total cooking time at this point). You should see the meat pulling away from the bone, exposing the bone tips. Using a fork, you can also poke the meat to test tenderness. If the you can remove the fork easily without the meat holding onto it, they are done. If the meat holds onto the fork, they may need some more cooking time. At this point you can also add sauce to the ribs and place them back on the smoker with the foil open for an additional 15 or so minutes. It will add an extra bit of crust and flavor. If the ribs don't seem done yet, let them finish cooking wrapped in foil.
When done, slice and enjoy! Take any of the delicious buttery juices left in the foil pouch and drizzle them over the finished ribs right before serving. Welcome to flavor town!!