Rock 'n' Rollin' BBQ Baby Back Ribs

  • Active Time 35m
  • Total Time 5h 40m

Serves 10 to 12

There are two kinds of barbecue eaters in the world (actually, a world of sub-genres exists within these two groups. but that's a different book): those who eat their ribs wet and those who like 'em dry. This recipe satisfies both camps, thereby preventing family feuds and fistfights. The ribs are marinated for a minimum of 5 hours in a coffee-fueled, chili-blasted barbecue paste. Slow-cooked over a low fire, they're all the smokier when soaked hickory chips are scattered among the coals. Chicago native and renowned ribs innovator David Estes serves them dry—these bones were meant for gnawing. Or, for wet-rib fans, baste the ribs with your favorite barbecue sauce during the last 5 minutes of cooking; serve additional sauce on the side. California and pasilla chili powders can be found in the Mexican food section of supermarkets or in Latino markets. If unavailable, substitute your favorite chili powder.


  • For Barbecue Paste:
  • 3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons California chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon pasilla chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground thyme
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups very strong coffee
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons black molasses
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons liquid smoke
  • 4 beef bouillon cubes

  • 8 racks pork baby back ribs (about 12 pounds}
  • 1 cup hickory wood chips (optional)
  • Barbecue sauce for serving


FOR BARBECUE PASTE: Combine all the spices and the brown sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine the remaining paste ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the bouillon cubes dissolve, 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly add the spice mixture, stirring constantly, until thoroughly combined. Remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes to cool.

Thoroughly rub the ribs with the paste. Place the ribs in a deep, wide pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or overnight. If you have any barbecue paste left over, cover and refrigerate it.

Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. If using the hickory chips, soak them in water to cover. When the coals are at medium-low heat, drain the chips (if using) and sprinkle half of them over the coals. Place the ribs on the cooking rack, cover the grill, partially open the vents, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, turning frequently. Sprinkle the remaining hickory chips over the coals after 20 minutes.

Remove the ribs from the grill and serve dry or with a favorite barbecue sauce on the side.

By Gideon Bosker, Karen Brooks, and Leland and Crystal Payton

Recipe reprinted by permission of Chronicle. All rights reserved.

RecID 1512

nutrition information per serving

1327 calories; 109g total fat; 368mg cholesterol; 752mg sodium; 9g carbohydrates; 1g fiber; 74g protein

These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.

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