Sticky ribs are a quintessential summer food for me. Whether you cook them on a grill or using the oven/broiler method, these Spicy Beer-Braised Back Ribs are a winner every time.
Best, Best, Best …
There’s something about ribs that just says summer. Best made on the outdoor grill (though I’ve had great success using the oven and broiler too), best eaten outdoors with extra napkins for sticky fingers and chins, and best with summer-style sides like tangy coleslaw and creamy potato salad … no other season suits them quite as well.
I like to make ribs by cutting them into serving portions (one or two ribs) and starting them off in a hot and spicy flavour bath, simmering them for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until just-about-to-fall-off-the-bone tender.
If you like to wash your ribs down with a cold beer, why not use beer in that braising liquid? Along with the spices and aromatics it’ll make those ribs even more delicious.
Batch Cooking Spicy Beer-Braised Back Ribs
If I’m cooking ahead, I freeze the braised ribs on cookie sheets and then store them in freezer bags. This way they won’t freeze together and it’s easy to remove what I need. This means I have ribs on hand all summer, ready any time a craving for them strikes or company drops by for dinner. Brilliant!
Cooking the Braised Ribs
One of the things I like best about using a braising sauce for ribs is that it means the meat is completely cooked at the end of the braising process. Whether taking the ribs immediately to the grill, or storing them in the fridge or freezer to finish later, all that needs to be done is to ensure the ribs are warmed through and successive layers of sauce form a sticky, satisfying glaze with whatever level of char you prefer.
When it’s time for ribs, I start by heating them through on the barbecue over a medium-high heat for a few minutes without sauce. Then I turn the heat down to medium or medium-low and start brushing them with with my choice of sauce (like this classic or this fun variation), top and bottom, turning a few times and reapplying sauce. The trick is to have the heat low enough that the sauce won’t burn. When they have nice grill marks and the sauce has intensified in colour and stickiness, it’s time to put them on a plate and ring the dinner bell. Not that it will take much encouragement for people to gather around a platter full of these!
Here’s another unique barbecue sauce to try: Crosby Molasses’ Blueberry Bourbon Barbecue Sauce. Not sponsored … this just caught my eye!
The Oven/Broiler Method
If you don’t have a barbecue or don’t fancy shovelling your way through snow drifts to get to it, you can get excellent results using your oven and broiler too.
I suggest accompanying Spicy Beer-Braised Back Ribs with a simple coleslaw with a tangy dressing like spicy lime vinaigrette. The zestiness of the dressing is a good counterpoint to the fatty richness of the ribs and sweet- and spiciness of the sauce. The contrast heightens the appeal of each dish.
I’m pretty confident guaranteeing you’ll enjoy every one of these Spicy Beer-Braised Back Ribs right down to the bone.
I like to braise pork back ribs in a flavourful liquid until they're cooked through. Then I either individually freeze them and then store for use any time that craving for ribs strikes, or take them straight to the grill with the barbecue sauce that's below. I cut the ribs into two-bone portions before braising them as I like having them pre-portioned (and they're easier to handle than a big rack of ribs).
Although this recipe calls for one rack of ribs, why not stretch that braising liquid by either cooking two racks in it in batches, or all at once in a large skillet with a lid. As long as the ribs are mostly covered it should work just fine. If some are sticking out, turn them over from time to time while braising. If you're doing big-batch cooking, just multiply the recipe as required and haul out your biggest stock pot. In years past I've done a summer's worth of ribs in one session, for almost instant gratification throughout the season (and even into the fall and winter).
- 3 cups chicken stock I use bouillon cubes
- 1 cup lager beer
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp molasses
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp dried red chile flakes
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp cumin ground
- 1 yellow onion quartered
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 inch ginger root sliced
- 1 rack pork baby back ribs just over 1 pound (or more, if desired)
- up to 1 cup barbecue sauce of your choice (see suggestions in the instructions)
Place all the ingredients (except the ribs) in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cut the rack of ribs into two-rib portions. When the braising liquid is boiling, turn the heat down and add the ribs. Cover the pot, and cook at a rolling simmer for 40 minutes, or until the ribs are cooked through and tender.
If making ahead for freezing, cool the ribs on a rack set over a baking tray. Once cool, put in the freezer until frozen. Then pack the ribs into a freezer bag or other container and store for 2 or 3 months.
Barbecue: I start by heating the ribs through on the barbecue over medium-high heat for a few minutes without sauce. Then I turn the heat down and start brushing them with with my choice of sauce (like Sweet & Spicy Barbecue Sauce or Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce) top and bottom, turning a few times and reapplying sauce. The trick is to have the heat low enough that the sauce won't burn. When they have nice grill marks and the sauce has intensified in colour and stickiness, the ribs are ready to serve.
Oven/Broiler: Pre-heat the oven to 400°F. Spread the ribs on a baking tray and, if cold, heat them for about 10 minutes. Brush on several successive layers of sauce, letting each get nice and sticky for about 10 minutes, before finishing them off under the broiler on the low setting for that characteristic bit of char. Watch the broiler like a hawk — less than 5 minutes can do the trick and sometimes there's a fine margin between appealingly charred and outright burned.
Looking for More Ideas?
The following are a few recipes that I’ve either made on the barbecue or are barbecue-friendly. There have been times in my cooking history when a barbecue wasn’t available to me (or I simply didn’t want to venture out into the snow to get to it). So, I have numerous oven/broiler recipes that translate easily to the grill. Let’s start with one of my earliest published recipes — the photos for these ground turkey/chicken burgers need to be updated because I took them before I knew anything about food photography, but you won’t care when you taste them. Red Curry Chicken Drumsticks became a new favourite of mine last year, and Pomegranate Molasses-Glazed Chicken Thighs offer a nod to Middle-Eastern-inspired flavours.
First Published 2012 07 16
Updated 2017 06 29
Republished 2020 07 12