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How to make mouthwatering barbecue ribs at home

Barbecue ribs with sweet potatoes.
Barbecue ribs with sweet potatoes. [ MICHELLE STARK | Times ]
Published Sep. 8, 2020

I don’t really know why, but I had long ago written off making ribs at home.

We didn’t have a grill until very recently, and I never really considered making them any other way.

Then one day, I was watching the Food Network, the place where most of my cooking motivation comes from. Molly Yeh was making “sticky ribs” on Girl Meets Farm, and I was shocked at how easy it looked. Sure, those TV chefs make everything look easy, but I was intrigued by how she cooked ribs in the oven with just a simple rub.

I had to try it.

I took to the grocery store for a rack of ribs ― just a slab of plain meat, which is not as easy to find as you may think. Lots of store-bought racks are already seasoned or glazed with sauce. I eventually found pork loin back ribs, which is in fact another term for baby back ribs, ribs cut from the rib that meets the spine of the pig. It’s the ideal rib to make at home because it’s easiest to cook.

The other major component of this dish is a dry rub that goes on just before baking the ribs. It’s a combination of classic barbecue spices plus sugar to create a nice sweet glaze. The rub goes on and then the ribs go in the oven. No need to let the rub sit for hours.

That’s because the ribs cook for hours, about two hours at a low temperature. Wrapped in foil, the ribs become super tender. This is what I most feared: tough ribs that would not pull easily from the bone.

I went about two hours and 15 minutes in my oven, then tested one rib by using a fork to nudge some of the meat. It came off the bone easily, which meant it was nearly done.

The finishing touch is time under the broiler or on the grill if you’ve got one, which will impart some high heat to the ribs slathered in barbecue sauce. This will help get great color on the ribs, plus little charred bits.

Use your favorite barbecue sauce here, because you will be dousing the ribs in it. It’s enhanced by some of the meat drippings from those slow-roasted ribs.

This is definitely a plan-ahead meal, but not a stressful one. After about three hours and minimal work, I had sweet, sticky, charred restaurant-quality ribs. My husband and I ate nearly the whole rack.

Barbecue Ribs with Garlicky Sweet Potatoes

For the ribs:

¼ cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon paprika

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 slab pork loin back ribs or baby back ribs, about 2 to 3 pounds

2 cups of barbecue sauce

For the sweet potatoes:

2 sweet potatoes

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

2 garlic cloves

Half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl.

Place the ribs on a piece of foil large enough to fold over and seal, then place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the dry rub all over the top of the meaty side of the ribs. Wrap the foil around the ribs and seal tightly so that no juices can escape during baking. Bake until the meat is tender and can easily be pulled away from the bones with a fork, about 2 hours.

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While the ribs are cooking, make the sweet potatoes: Slice the sweet potatoes into long, thin slices about ¼ inch thick. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat the potatoes, then set aside.

When the ribs have about 30 minutes left, place the sweet potatoes in the oven with the ribs and let cook until the ribs are done.

Meanwhile, make a garlicky yogurt sauce. Add yogurt to a small bowl, then add finely grated or minced garlic, the juice from half a lemon and some salt and pepper. Stir well and set aside.

Heat your favorite barbecue sauce in a small pan over medium heat until warm.

Remove the ribs from the oven and open the foil pack. Remove the ribs from the foil and pour any juices that have accumulated into the barbecue sauce and mix to combine. Continue to simmer the sauce until thickened, about 7 minutes.

Stir the sweet potatoes, flipping them so that the other sides get nice and browned. Crank the oven up to 425 degrees and cook potatoes for another 7 or so minutes. Remove from oven and set aside while you finish the ribs.

Heat a grill at medium-high heat or turn on your oven’s broiler. Slice the ribs into 1-bone pieces. Brush all over with the barbecue sauce. Place the ribs on the grill and cook until grill marks appear, a few minutes on each side. Or, broil for about 4 minutes. Keep an eye on them.

Brush with more barbecue sauce before serving. Serve with sweet potatoes topped with garlicky yogurt.

Serves 4.

Source: Adapted from Molly Yeh