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Dec 22, 2007 02:48 PM

Brining baby back ribs?

We're grilling baby back ribs on Christmas Eve. I've decided to try brining them, since that has worked so successfully for turkey and pork chops. However, in researching recipes, I find brining times ranging from 1 hour to overnight. I don't want to screw this up, so does anyone have any suggestions? My family is already annoyed with me for restricting the number of presents we exchange, so I thought that I should at least cook them a great dinner!

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  1. I've made excellent baby back ribs that have a dry rub overnight and then slow cooked in oven and finally finished on the grill with barbeque sauce. Do you think that would work for you? The amount of bone in those baby backs makes me think that brining is maybe not the best way to go, if you'll forgive me. What good is brining when there is so much bone? You know? Just throwing out an idea here, that's all.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Val

      I was sort of thinking the same thing myself. I did find a recipe that says to brine them for 30 minutes (probably good for the amount of meat), and then let them sit overnight in the refrigerator with a dry rub. That seems logical to me, so I may try that one. Thanks so much for the good thoughts!

    2. If you absolutely insist on brining the baby backs, an hour or two will be sufficient -- the meat is rather thin and has a lot of surface area. But I agree that it is overkill. A pork loin benefits greatly from brining, maybe even more so that a turkey, because the meat is so dense and brining loosens the protein structures to allow moisture to gather and not be forced out. Ribs, baby back or St. Louis-style, have fat and connective tissue running through the narrow strips of meat and have the bones to further protect them. The goal is to infuse them with flavor with a rub, cook low and slow to maintain tenderness while breaking down the connective tissue, and then to hit with more flavor and texture with a glaze or sauce grilled or broiled on the last few minutes.

      1. I would not recommend brining ribs.

        Here's what I do: After trimming the ribs and removing the membrane, I apply a light mustard slather before I put the dry rub on. After that, I let them sit for about two hours before I put them in the smoker. This is a pretty common practice among BBQ champs, and it works great every time.

        What kind of grill will you be using? I can offer some additional tips if I know's a pic of what they look like fully dressed before cooking. and a pic of the finished product after 4 hours of slow cooking.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Moose

          Wow - those look great! We have a gas grill, so if you have any tips, I'd really appreciate them!

          1. re: The Librarian

            The challenge with gas grills is it is very difficult to cook ribs fully without them becoming dry or burnt. This is due to the fact that gas grills at their lowest heat only go down to about 350 degrees. Therefore, it is best to precook them in the oven and finish them on the grill.

            Here's how:

            After using the mustard slather/dry rub(go easy on the dry rub for this method) technique I shared in an earlier post, let ribs sit in fridge for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 325. Place ribs in a deep large pan. Cover with foil securely. Cook ribs for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven, and unseal foil on each corner to allow the steam to vent.

            Meanwhile, preheat gas grill on lowest setting. If you have a smoker box, prepare using one of the following wood chips: hickory, oak, apple, cherry, pecan, walnut. (Do NOT use mesquite - too bitter.) Place smoker box directly on gas burner.

            Now, take your favorite BBQ sauce (I am partial to Stubbs or Gates) and dilute with water by 50%. This is to help avoid burning due to the sugar content in the sauce.

            When smoker box begins to produce smoke, place ribs on grill and cover. Baste every 5 minutes, turning frequently. Cook ribs for 20-40 minutes - they are done when the meat begins to pull back from the bone, but is still slightly firm.

            If your grill has a decent sized upper shelf grate, I would put them there for the duration of the cook as your chances of burning are much lower.

            I used this method for many years before I went charcoal/wood, and they turned out quite good.

            Let us know how they turn out!

            BTW, after I got this, I took my ribs to championship quality, as it functions equally well as a smoker and a grill:


            Using this there's never any need to use sauce, as the dry rub forms a perfect crust or bark that stands alone just fine without any sauce. The pic of the cooked ribs I posted earlier was a product of this wonderful contraption!

            1. re: Moose

              I'm going to do the mustard/dry rub thing, and your oven and then grill method sounds great. I think I'll give it a try, and report back.Thanks all for your suggestions!

              1. re: The Librarian

                Super! Can't wait to hear how they turn out.

                1. re: Moose

                  The ribs turned out great! I passed on the barbeque sauce since I'm not a sauce fan, but did the mustard and the dry rub and the oven followed by the grill. Served them with a cheese grits souffle and collards to many compliments. (I'm not Southern, but I sure like the food.) Thanks so much for your inspired method!

                  1. re: The Librarian

                    I am absolutely delighted to hear this! I'm not a big sauce fan either, but it works well for this particular method of cooking. Give it a try next time.

                    Today I have been "volunteered" to grill a boneless leg of lamb for X-mas.

                    Drop me your e-mail, and I'll send you the recipe for my rib dry rub or I can post it here. It took months to get it just right, and fortunately I wrote it down...

                    1. re: Moose

                      How about posting it here as a holiday present to all the Hounds? Also, best of luck on your lamb. I used to do a great grilled butterflied leg of lamb with a ton of garlic slivers inserted into it and rubbed with olive oil. Very yummy!

                      1. re: Moose

                        i would love to see the recipe for the dry rub also

                2. re: Moose

                  I'm surprised to hear you say that a gas grill can't hold a temp lower than 350 - I use my three-burner Weber for ribs all the time, with just the front burner on and the ribs placed well back, and they cook perfectly at a steady 230 - 250 degrees for four or five hours. And that's not even turning the front burner down all the way.

                  I place trays of soaked wood chips over the active burner to do the smoking, and use a rib rack (rack rack?) to hold as many as three or four racks of baby backs.

            2. Don't knock it til ya try it. I soak St Louis style or baby backs in apple cider vinegar and brown sugar mix. Add some liquid smoke and some salt and let em sit for a day. Then smoke em at 200 for about 4hrs over apple wood. They are to die for.

              1. My best baby backs ever:

                Remove ribs from fridge an hour before cook time and drench them with Texas Pete or Frank's hot sauce -- don't worry about them being too spicy as most of the heat is going to boil off. When I say drench, I mean those ribs should be drowning.

                Place the ribs on a rack in a roaster and cover tightly with foil.

                Put the roaster in a 225-degree oven and leave them alone for 4 hours. If you don't trust your oven to keep an even temperature, you may want to check them at 3 hours.

                Pull them out of the oven, remove the foil (stand back because there may be a lot of steam), brush on your favorite barbecue sauce, grill them for 10 minutes, done.

                Falling-off-the-bone-finger-licking-good-should-have-cooked-more ribs.