Backyard BBQ'd Spareribs

Save Recipe
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 6 hr 30 min
  • Prep: 30 min
  • Inactive: 3 hr
  • Cook: 3 hr
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Share This Recipe


2 racks pork spareribs (about 3 pounds each)

1/2 cup Memphis Shake or Cajun Rub, recipes follow

3 cups wood chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes and drained

2 cups of one of the following: Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce or Chile-Coffee BBQ Sauce, recipes follow

Memphis Shake:

1/4 cup sweet paprika

3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons granulated garlic

1 tablespoon ancho chili powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon celery salt

Cajun Rub:

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons dried parsley

2 tablespoons granulated garlic

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 bay leaves, crumbled

Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce:

2 tablespoons neutral tasting oil, such as grapeseed or vegetable

6 cloves garlic, smashed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 slightly heaping tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Pinch ground cloves

2 cups ketchup

2 cups water

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup dark molasses

1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons English-style dried mustard

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 bay leaf

Chile-Coffee BBQ Sauce:

3 guajillo chiles

3 mulato chiles

1/2 medium onion, cut into wedges

6 cloves garlic, unpeeled

2 tablespoons corn oil

1 cup tomato puree

1 cup strong black coffee

1/4 cup turbinado sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning

1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican

Pinch ground cloves

Pinch ground cumin

2 teaspoons cider vinegar


  1. Trim the membrane off the back of the ribs and rub ribs all over with spice blend. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Soak wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling.
  2. Prepare an outdoor grill with a medium fire for indirect grilling. Place a drip pan, half-filled with water, under the cooler side of the grill grate. Open bottom vents of the grill.
  3. Set the ribs over the drip pan. (If you have a rib rack, use it.) Toss 1 cup of the drained wood chips onto the coals and cover the grill. Rotate the lid so that the vent holes are directly over the ribs. Add about 1 cup of hardwood charcoals to the fire about every hour during the cooking time to maintain a medium to medium-low fire (a temperature of about 250 degrees F to 275 degrees F is ideal). After 3 hours the meat should pull back from the bones and will have turned a reddish brown. Baste the ribs with some of the barbecue sauce of your choice and cook over direct heat until lightly glazed. Cut the racks into ribs and serve with extra sauce on the side.

Memphis Shake:

  1. Whisk paprika, brown sugar, oregano, garlic, ancho powder, salt, and celery salt in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 months.
  2. Makes about 3/4 cup

Cajun Rub:

  1. Mix brown sugar, oregano, parsley, garlic, onion powder, paprika, thyme, black pepper, salt, celery salt, white pepper, cayenne, and bay leaves in a bowl. Pulse in a spice grinder in two batches to a medium-fine grind. Seal in an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place for up to 2 months.
  2. Makes 1 cup

Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce:

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, paprika, red pepper, allspice, and cloves and cook, stirring, until paste is dark brick red, about 3 minutes. Add the ketchup, water, vinegar, molasses, brown sugar, salt, soy sauce, Worcestershire, mustard, black pepper, and bay leaf. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the flavors come together, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf before using.
  2. Makes about 1 quart

Chile-Coffee BBQ Sauce:

  1. Split, stem, and seed the chiles. Toast the chiles in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, turning and flattening with a spatula, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Put the chiles in a heatproof bowl, cover with very hot water, and set aside until soft, about 30 minutes. Drain, reserve soaking liquid, chop chiles roughly, and set aside.
  2. While the chiles soak, char the onion and garlic in the same dry skillet over medium heat until the onion blackens slightly and garlic softens in the skin, about 8 minutes. Cool, squeeze the garlic out of the skin, and put in a blender with chiles and onion. Puree to a paste, adding soaking liquid as needed (about 3/4 cup) to help the mixture break down.
  3. Heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chile mixture and cook, stirring, until thick and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato puree, coffee, sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, oregano, cloves, and cumin. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in vinegar and season with salt to taste.
  5. Makes 1 quart

Cook’s Note

For the ribs: Shop smart: Spareribs always mean pork from the belly. A rack of 11 rib bones ideally weighs between 2 and 3 pounds. Spareribs are often sold with a meaty section of the flank attached; when trimmed, they are known as "St. Louis style." If you like your ribs dry, skip the sauce or simply serve it on the side. For the Cajun rub: Shop smart: Ancho powder is simply finely ground dried ancho chiles. Anchos are the sweetest of the dried chiles and are not terribly hot, so don't be put off by the amount used in this recipe. If your spice grinder doubles as your coffee grinder, make sure you clean it well after making this rub. Place a handful of uncooked rice in the grinder, pulse to a powder, and wipe or brush the grinder clean. The rice will absorb the flavors from spices left in the grinder so your morning cup of coffee won't taste like the Bayou. For the Chile-Coffee BBQ sauce: We prefer Mexican oregano. It's stronger than Italian oregano, so it can hold its own with the other assertive flavors in this sauce.