When Ribs are on the (home-cooked) Menu ...
For rub I use "Willy's Number One-derful Rub" from cookbook Smoke ';n Spice, by Jamison & Jamison. First recipe in the book.
It's copyrighted, but to paraphrase it's about half paprika (sweet), smaller equal amounts of salt, pepper, and brown sugar, equal quantities garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder (half as much as the salt/pepper/sugar), and then a smaller amount of cayenne. If serving people who can't take heat I omit the cayenne.
Usually do sauceless, but if I do add some the last 20 minutes on the smoker I'll just use Stubb's.
Pic is almost done ribs on smoker. Hadn't learned about trimming yet...
I agree that the Willy's #1 is a terrific starting point for almost any meat. The choice of onion powder and garlic powder might be too plebeian for the spice guru's but I think they work well.
I do think that the choice of salt is surprisingly tricky -- I have found that the size/shape and purity of Dixie Crystal Kosher salt is superior to all others.
I also prefer the texture and high burning temp or Turbano sugar (sugar in the raw).
When it comes to variations I dump in cumin for beef ribs. Ground clove goes well with pork. As does grated orange rind. I have found that some spices drift too far away from American BBQ, but they are still interesting -- tumeric gives an Indian hint to the meat, and five-spice powder/ground star anise lends flavors of the orient.
I don't know if'd really say any one recipe for sauce is best, as different sauces are so identified with the various styles of BBQ -- mustard & vinegar in the Carolina, ketchupy in the great plains, fiery pepper splashes in Texas...
Just made some baby back ribs last night,
Dry rub - Kosher salt, brown sugar, ground pasilla pepper, ground arbol pepper, ground coriander, ground cumin, and five spice powder.
Sauce - Chopped red onion, cider vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, hoisin, ballpark yellow mustard, red pepper flakes, chipotle sauce, red pepper sauce and a little red wine.
Put the dry rub on and left it for about an hour, built a small fire on one side of the smokey joe, put the ribs on the other side and threw on a packet of applewood chips. Flipped them a few times over the next two hours and brushed on some sauce for the last twenty minutes.
I have two ribs left for lunch today.