Grilled Glazed Baby Back Ribs

From America's Test Kitchen Season 14: Quick and Easy Rib Dinner

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Why this recipe works:

Instead of spending up to 4 hours tending a grill, we make use of water’s ability to quickly cook food. Our ribs simmer in seasoned water until they reach 195 degrees, and then we apply a flavorful glaze and grill them up to get tender-chewy ribs in less than half the time.

Instead of spending up to 4 hours tending a grill, we make use of water’s ability to quickly cook food. Our ribs simmer in seasoned water until they reach 195 degrees, and then we apply a flavorful glaze and grill them up to get tender-chewy ribs in less than half the time.

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Grilled Glazed Baby Back Ribs

Boiling ribs before putting them on the grill is a surefire way to quickly tenderize their tough meat. If only that method didn’t also leach away flavor.

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Serves 4 to 6

Try one of the glaze recipes (see related content), or use 1 cup of your favorite glaze or barbecue sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 (2-pound) racks baby back or loin back ribs, trimmed, membrane removed, and each rack cut in half
  • 1 recipe glaze (see related content)

Instructions

  1. 1. Dissolve salt in 2½ quarts water in Dutch oven; place ribs in pot so they are fully submerged. Bring to simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook at bare simmer until thickest part of ribs registers 195 degrees, 15 to 25 minutes. While ribs are simmering, set up grill. (If ribs come to temperature before grill is ready, leave in pot, covered, until ready to use.)

    2A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

    2B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn all burners to medium-high.

    3. Clean and oil cooking grate. Remove ribs from pot and pat dry with paper towels. Brush both sides of ribs with 1/3 cup glaze. Grill ribs, uncovered, flipping and rotating as needed, until glaze is caramelized and charred in spots, 15 to 20 minutes, brushing with another 1/3 cup glaze halfway through cooking. Transfer ribs to cutting board, brush both sides with remaining glaze, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut ribs between bones to separate, and serve.

Technique

Speeding Up the Process with Water—Without Watering Down Flavor

For their tough collagen to break down and the meat to turn tender, ribs must reach about 195 degrees—a process that takes several hours on the grill. The most effective shortcut is to boil the ribs before they go on the fire. Boiling brings the meat up to 195 degrees in a matter of minutes, at which point the ribs need only a quick stint over the coals to char. But boiling also dulls flavor (and risks overcooking the thinner end of the rib). Here’s how we got water to speed up the process—without washing away meaty taste.

SIMMER IN A BRINE: Cooking the ribs in a concentrated saltwater solution allows the salt to penetrate the meat, seasoning it throughout and making up for the loss of pork flavor. Because food can never rise above the temperature of its environment, simmering the meat (at about 200 degrees) instead of boiling it (at 212 degrees) means that the thinner end of the rib won’t overcook as the thicker end more slowly comes up to 195 degrees. The upshot: moister meat from end to end.

 

FINISH ON THE GRILL: After simmering, the now-tender ribs need only 15 to 20 minutes over the fire (and a few coats of glaze) to develop a nice lacquer and char flavor.

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