Shortcut BBQ Ribs

Sharing a recipe for pork ribs is risky business. First, there’s the matter of flavoring the meat. Is a rub, a marinade, or a sauce the superior flavoring method, or maybe some combination of the three? And forget about finding a rub that all rib lovers agree on. There are hundreds of rub blends, all slightly different from the others, with each cook claiming their spice rub is the best.

Once you finally commit to a seasoning method, then you’ve got to cook the ribs. This is the part that can be really intimidating. Ribs can be cooked on a regular grill, but serious rib lovers invest in a smoker. Cooking ribs can easily take half the day, most of it spent slowly grilling, flavoring and obsessively coaxing the ribs to tender, smoky perfection.

Ribs cooked long and slow in a smoker or charcoal grill are delicious. There is no debate about that. But let’s be honest. Not everyone has a smoker and very few people have five hours to devote solely to cooking dinner. If you’re someone who loves ribs but you want to bypass all the intricate cooking steps and just get the ribs on the table, this quick and dirty method is for you.

Serious rib aficionados, avert your eyes. The rest of you, keep reading because you’re going to love these tender, crispy, fatty, deeply flavorful and easy-to-make ribs.

The trick is steaming the ribs in the oven before they hit the grill. The ribs come out of the oven tender with their glorious meaty, fatty flavor still intact. From there, they need just a little bit of time on the grill to finish cooking, and for a crispy, lightly charred coating to form. Before throwing them on the grill, you can season the ribs anyway you like. The rub here is bold and mildly spicy, with smoked paprika and cumin leading the charge.

For very little time and effort, you’ll be rewarded with big flavor and tender juicy, crispy meat. What more could you want from a rib?


  • 2-3 racks pork ribs (either St. Louis (a little meatier) or baby back ribs)
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns (10 ml) (or 1 teaspoon ground pepper)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds (10 ml) (or 1 teaspoon ground cumin)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice (2.5 ml)
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika (30 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon regular paprika (15 ml)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder (10 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (more if the garlic powder contains no salt) (2.5 ml)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (30 ml)


Some ribs will still have the membrane attached, the thin white layer on the bone side of the rack. You can leave the membrane on, which can make the ribs slightly less tender, or you can remove it. Start at one end of the rack and use a knife to peel up the membrane along the last bone. Peel the entire membrane up slowly.

Preheat the oven to 300 °F (149 °C).

Wrap the ribs in a foil tent, either individually or side by side in a very large foil tent. Leave a little opening and pour 1/3 cup of water into the foil tent. Tightly close the foil so no steam can escape. You want the foil to be secure so the water doesn’t leak out, but leave the top of the foil tented up so steam can circulate.

Set the ribs in a rimmed baking pan. Bake 1 hour. Take the ribs out of the oven and let sit, without loosening the foil, for 45 minutes to further steam the meat.

If using whole peppercorns and cumin seeds to make the rub, toast the peppercorns and cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, 2-3 minutes. Let cool, then blend in a coffee grinder until smooth. Mix with the Chinese Five Spice, paprikas, garlic powder and salt.

Open the foil packet and rub the ribs with mustard then rub them down with 3 tablespoons of the spice rub. In another bowl, mix the remainder of the spice mix with about 1/3-1/2 cup of water to make a watery rub that you can mop the ribs with as they cook.

Heat either a charcoal (ideally) or gas grill to medium heat. Keep a section of the grill where you can cook the ribs with indirect heat, meaning the ribs are not directly over a flame.

Place the ribs on the grill, meaty side down.

At this point, the ribs are essentially cooked and you’re just finishing them off and getting them good and crispy on the outside. If the grill is too hot or the ribs are directly over a flame, the spice rub will burn and the meat won’t be as tender. Keep an eye on the ribs as they cook, turning and brushing them with the liquid spice rub occasionally.

Depending on how hot your grill is, total cooking time is likely to be between 20-40 minutes.

A good way to tell if the ribs are done is to take a fork or pair of tongs and twist one of the ribs on the end of the rack. It should separate from the rack fairly easily. The outside should be crispy and caramelized, but not burnt.

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21 thoughts on “Shortcut BBQ Ribs”

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  1. Season the ribs according to preference, add 3/4 cup of water, cover the pan with foil, put it in the oven at 325, and forget about it for 3-1/2 to 4 hours. You don’t even need to bother with the grill; just remove the foil and oven-brown the cooked ribs for 15 minutes at 375. My low-sided roaster pan has room for chunked up onion, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc., in addition to the ribs. Makes a great one-pot meal all on its own or with a side salad.

  2. I will have to look up an old recipe from the 1990s: coconut BBQ ribs. They are SOOOOOO good; ate them the entire time I was pregnant with my boys. Yum… ribs

  3. Instead of “steaming” the ribs, I braise them in a mixture of soy sauce, red wine, water, and garlic. I use enough liquid to maybe half-submerge the ribs. Cover the dish with foil and put in a 325 degree oven for about an hour. Let it rest for 30 minutes while I get the charcoal grill going, then finish them there to get a nice char.

    BBQ snobs call the result “meat pudding”, but they’re missing the point. This isn’t a form of barbecue; Braising is a well-established traditional technique for tenderizing tough cuts of meat. Besides being relatively quick and tasty, this technique also has the advantage of rendering the cartilage softer and more edible than slow smoking.

    I use the same approach for bony cuts of beef — ribs, neckbone, and shank are all part of my regular repertoire.

  4. Very good recipe for quick and easy. I smoke alot of meat, venison, pork, beef, turkey all of which I raise or hunt and prepare myself. I also use my own apple, cherry, oak and hickory wood. It is especially nice in a myriad of foods you would not think to use it such as curry. Yummy in the winter months! I do very little smoking in the winter but freeze alot for those occasions. Smoking, as you have described, is a long process which takes a lot of patience, time and proper environment such as air temp, humidity etc. As far as the time investment….I have found it to be very relaxing and something I most like to do at night. I have a teardrop trailer so I just sleep by the river and check my meat every hour. By mid-morning we are ready to break it down and enjoy a lunch. The rest is utilized throughout the week. Anyway, sorry for the long winded response, you touched on something that is dear to my heart.

  5. On the stove or side burner of your grill, pour apple cider into a pan to cover ribs. Simmer on low heat for an hour. Remove to grill and grill over medium heat until just browned and a little bit crispy…15 minutes tops. Brush with BBQ sauce and serve, or hold in a 200º oven until ready to eat. Yum!

  6. ribs…mmmm…that sounds quite mouthwatering right now! never knew what to do about the membrane. thanks for explaining!

  7. I use the slow cooker (crock pot) to cook the ribs, which have a spice rub on them, on low for 6-7 hours, then brush with a homemade BBQ sauce and grill on the barbie for a few minutes prior to serving.

  8. I’ve done my ribs braised and finish on the grill for a couple years now. When I’m out of key ingredients, I will use water, but muuuuch better is a white wine, apple cider vinegar and garlic mixture. (look at Alton Brown – food network for a base recipe. But use Mark’s cooking directions because Alton does spend all day cooking)

  9. Hmm, sounds yummy, out of all the rib choices I still love the Korean BBQ the most! And now I want some BBQ… Lol

  10. I just pressure cook them for 15 minutes and then let the pressure drop. then sauce them in a 220 degree oven for 20 minutes. Yeow! The liquid remaining in the pressure cooker makes an unreal soup base. Eat well.

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