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Help! Want to grill Ribs Without BBQ Sauce

I want to grill up some Baby Back Ribs this weekend, but I am sick and tired of all red BBQ sauces.

I know that in Argentina they use Chimichurri sauce, and in Europe sauerkraut and a slow braise is common. After that, I am lost.

Anybody have any good recipes for ribs that do not include a red BBQ sauce? Any other favorite ways to serve ribs?


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  1. reportedly, james beard's favorite spare ribs were done with only salt and pepper.

    there is an active tradition of sauceless ribs. many such ribs are cooked with a spicey dry rub. if you're simply tired of red gooey sauce, consider a change-up to a thinner mustard/vinegar sauce.

    1 Reply
    1. re: silverhawk

      I frequently prepare ribs following that recipe. I sometimes modify it by using salt and toasted Sichuan pepper. Also, I have found that cooking the ribs for a long time in a slow oven enhances their flavor. The taste of pork is the highlight, not the taste of sauce.

    2. Whenever we grill ribs we use a spice rub and put wood chips on top of the charcoal and let cook on low heat for 4 hours. There are tons of different ways to make a rub depending on what you like, we like it spicy so use some combo of (depending on whats in the pantry) paprika, cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder, ground chili, ground mustard seed, salt, and pepper.

      2 Replies
      1. re: thegirlwholovestoeat

        It will be hard to improve on these two prior suggestions. I like both ideas very much, but preference is a dry rub myself........but you cannot go wrong with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.

        1. re: thegirlwholovestoeat

          I make a dry rub with five spice powder and slow smoke them with cherry or apple wood. Char siu mix works well also.

        2. This is my own recipe. They consistently come out so well, I had to name them -


          5 lbs. pork baby back ribs, about 4 racks

          Dry Rub:
          4 tbsp. spicy montreal steak seasoning
          2 tbsp coarse salt
          Fresh ground pepper
          ½ cup brown sugar

          1 cup apple juice
          ½ cup apple cider

          Cattlemen’s Authentic smokehouse BBQ sauce

          Rinse and pat dry ribs. Sprinkle dry rub on both sides of all racks. Refrigerate, covered for 1-24 hours.

          Put convection oven on 300 degrees. Mix together apple juice & cider. Put racks in deep roasting pan. Pour in the juice. Tightly cover with foil and cook for 1 ½ - 2 hours, or until ribs are tender.

          Preheat grill to medium high heat. Slather racks with bbq sauce and grill, covered, for 15-20 minutes, turning and basting frequently.

          Note: Do not have to have a convection oven. Just keep the temp low and the time slow. And skip the cattlemen's - that just happens to be my DH's favorite sauce. I also like to glaze with a mixture of olive oil, honey, fresh oj, garlic & minced jalapeno. Enjoy!

          1. Dry rub is the way to go. Many commercial rubs are quite good if you don't make your own. I like both Stubb's and Prudhomme's dry rubs. Rich taste and not too salty. If you have guests that want wet you can always paint theirs with a little sauce and throw them back on the grill for a few minutes.

            1. Thanks Guys! I think I am going to try James Beard's recipe, slow cooked on the grill.

              1. in a parallel thread, there was discussion of brining pork chops. i routinely brine ribs, dry them and rub them up. often i coat the dry-rubbed slabs with yellow prepared mustard and refrigerate the works over night.

                in recent years i've developed a preference for st. louis trimmed spare ribs over baby backs--but almost any well-cooked ribs are a treat--red sauce, mustard sauce, no sauce. it is the meat, the smoke, the spice and the time that make the difference between good ribs and not-so-good ribs. the sauce won't make bad ribs good--and unless there's a monumental mistake--the sauce won't make good ribs bad.

                1. Dry rubs will certainly give you good flavor. Not everyone slathers ribs with sauce during cooking. You can also try

                  Alabama White BBQ Sauce
                  or South Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce

                  neither of which is a tomato based sauce; both of which are delicious...

                  Alabama White is usually served as a condiment along side cooked ribs, but can also be used as a glaze.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: KiltedCook

                    Really? I have always associated white sauce with chicken aka BBG in Decatur.

                  2. Marinade in and finish with soy sauce and toasted sesame oil.

                    1. What about a honey garlic sauce??

                      Other than that, a good dry rub will be perfect. Ribs cooked in Memphis generally don't have sauce and are called "Dry" ribs.


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Davwud

                        Here is what Memphis Dry Ribs look like courtesy of Corky's.

                      2. A few other things you might want to consider. Pull the 'skin' off the ribs before you apply your rub(its the thin layer on the underside of the ribs). Also, if you have to room, add your rub the night before you plan on cooking them, and make certain you bring your meat to room temp before you start cooking em.

                        1. I modified Alton Brown's recipe (less sugar and salt, 1 with red wine, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, balsamic, chiles; the other with apple cider vinagre, paprika, garlic, cayenne, brown sugar), but it was based on the method he had, and they turned out beautifully.

                          I agree with peeling off the skin first.


                          1. We have a rib and kraut crock-pot recipe - This is from memory, but I can dig up the real one in a few days if you want more details.

                            1 rack Ribs, cut into singles
                            1 package kraut - Not canned, jarred if need be - find it in the refrigerated section
                            1 10oz can tomato sauce
                            pinch of caraway seeds
                            2 apples, cored and coarsly chopped

                            Cook until tender!

                            I don't know if I forgot anything, but I know the basics are there...

                            1. I smoke lots of ribs, enjoy them the most with just rub on them. My two favorites are Smoking Guns by Texas Rib Rangers and rubs from the Dizzy Pig Spice Company.

                              1. I made the whiskey-marinated honey glazed ribs recipe from the June issue of Food and Wine and they turned out really well. It's a Thai BBQ recipe, so no goopy sauce, just a tangy spicy dipping sauce to accompany.


                                1. The secret is to cook them in the oven for a while, covered, with lots of liquid (broth, beer, whatever you choose). Season to your liking and then grill them to get some colour.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: kweenshaker

                                    this one of those endless debates, but i am seriously convinced that cooking ribs before smoking/grilling them is a bad idea--well, a less than optimal idea, whether the cooking method is roasting, braising, steaming or boiling. i want more from the fire than color. i want smokey taste. pre-cooked meat just doesn't pick up smoke the way raw meat does.

                                    i don't think cooking ribs in foil--or even in the oven--is heresy as long as it comes after exposure of raw meat to smoke and low heat. in such cases, the wrapped or ovened meat should be returned to open heat to finish.

                                    1. re: silverhawk

                                      Hi, my two cents worth....for side or back ribs go 2-1-1...two hours uncovered one covered in foil sprayed with apple/grape juice so you get that braising and connective tissue breakdown happening...then last hour add more rub and cook uncovered. Braising in the oven is ok for oven ribs but not true for BBQ....if you are adding smoke the meat accepts the smoke better when raw then mostly cooked according to the experts...I like 225-250 degrees, get a proper thermometer you can place at grill level not the one in the lid a foot (and about fifty degrees) higher than the food...stick the thermometer in a raw potato or I use a cork from bottle of wine..I use my smoker but you can use gas or charcoal Q using indirect heat and wood chips on the heat side...one pouch per hour...two parts unsoaked one part soaked in foil. Stick a toothpick in the ribs during the last hour for tenderness level..i dont like the fall off the bone style but not resistive when chewing off the bone neither. Hope this helps.

                                    2. re: kweenshaker

                                      A problem with oven cooking ribs before you put them on a smoker is that the ribs will come to temperature too early. Ribs accept smoke until they reach about 130 degrees inside. if you preheat them, they will not obtain the deep smokey flavor that you could have had. I do like oven cooked ribs and have dozens of recipes for them, but If I plan to Smoke them Slow and slow like real Bar-B-Que, then I never start in the over. I have brined ribs before applying a rub and had good results. I never sauce until about 15 mins left on the cook. Usually I don't bother to sauce and my fans don't even notice as the meat is so darn good!

                                      1. re: Swordansar

                                        Ribs will continue to take on smoke flavor after 130 degrees. You may be referring to the formation of the smoke ring. If ribs didn't take on any smoke after 130 degrees, then there would be such a thing as over-smoked ribs (or other meat), which their most certainly is.

                                        1. re: tommy

                                          It's easy to over smoke Ribs...Just use too much wood. The absorbtion reduces rapidly at about 130 degrees. The smoke ring (The Brick) happens at about that temp as well. Cooks Illustrated did a huge article on this about 2 years ago. It's in their archives. What I'm saying is that if he wants to use oven techniques, it's better to Smoke for about 2 hours and THEN to go to the oven, instead of the other way around. Personally, I don't mix these techniques unless the weather turns foul.

                                          1. re: Swordansar

                                            I completely agree (although I'm not yet convinced on the rapid decline in ability to accept smoke, but very sure they don't lose their ability to accept smoke). Smoking and finishing in the oven (rather than the other way around) is pretty standard stuff, and for good reason: it works well.

                                    3. Don't you mean BBQ ribs? Low and slow with a dry rub is the way to go with baby backs...or any ribs. My husband makes em often. He offers some sauce on the side but never slathers it on while they are on the grill.

                                      1. Look up any Memphis Dry Rib recipes online...Rendezvous apparently invented them, however I much preferred Corky's to RV when I was in Memphis...the thing I don't like that some do is adding the rub at the very end just before serving...apply some mustard slather and rub, let cook for a few hours, use apple juice to keep them moist on the smoker after the rub has set in...wrap or don't wrap, your preference...Baby Back Ribs should take 2.5 3 hrs at 225, Side Ribs much longer 4-6 hours. I dislike the parboiling and finishing on the Q but to each their own.