Succulent Memphis-style barbecue pork ribs made at home! A pomegranate vinegar mop and savory dry rub keep these ribs moist and tasty!
Every time I get a rib craving, I hear the Chili’s Restaurant theme song play in my head “I got my baby back, baby back ribs…”, haha.
I was surprised to discover that St. Louis style pork spareribs are my ribs of choice after becoming addicted to them at our local BBQ restaurant. I think what sold me was just the right meat to bone ratio and that excellent dry spice rub that adds extra flavor and punch with each bite!
I have a culinary confession to make. I’ve never cooked ribs before! I have been hesitant to make them at home for fear of overcooking them and also the intimidating uncertainty of which method to use. It’s easy to second guess yourself with so many cooking methods. There’s boiling, smoking, roasting, barbecuing and many combinations using multiple methods.
I’ve been building up my barbecue confidence this summer, so I choose to give St. Louis style pork spareribs a try. I decided to use the low and slow barbecue method then finishing the roasting in the oven. The result is the most flavorful and meaty home cooked Memphis-style barbecue pork ribs – you’ll never have to go out for overpriced barbecued ribs again!
The essential elements to make Memphis-style barbecued pork ribs
- Select ribs that are trimmed into St. Louis style spareribs (with the tips removed).
- The “mop” or thin vinegar based sauce used to baste the ribs multiple times as the ribs cook. I used a pomegranate juice and apple cider vinegar mop to add extra flavor and keep the meat moist throughout the cooking.
- The spice rub is what gives the “in your face!” flavor power for the ribs. The dry spice rub is a heavenly combination of sweet brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, pepper, salt, garlic, onion and dried thyme. Add to the meat before cooking so the spices can infuse. Then serve with an extra dusting of your savory mixture before serving, this gives the mouth-watering intense flavor in each bite.
When I barbecued the ribs first over low heat (275 to 300°F), I made sure to put a grill thermometer on the barbecue so that I could monitor the temperature.
When cooking low and slow for an hour and a half, monitoring that temperature is crucial for preventing excessively dry rib meat, especially with the dry rub. Searing the meat on the grill first adds a subtle flavor from the browning that occurs during cooking at high heat (Maillard reaction), and picks up any smoky flavors from the grill or wood when barbecuing.
The ribs can take up a lot of room on the grill if making more than one rack, so you can use a rib rack for grilling to create more space during the long cooking process after you have seared the meat. Finishing the roasting in the oven ensures consistent cooking and prevents excessive moisture loss.
I have to say, these Memphis-style barbecue pork ribs are addicting. Jason and I finished a whole rack to ourselves! I generously sprinkled each tender piece of rib with extra dry rub then dipped it in my homemade sweet and spicy barbecue sauce.
Make sure to serve some creamy All-American potato salad and sweet blueberry cornbread as your side dishes. Your guests will be sure to leave with a full belly and smiling face, but don’t be surprised if the food coma kicks in and they need a little rest on your couch!
How do you know when the ribs are done cooking?
Have you ever experienced the terrible over cooked beef-jerky-like rib wannabes? Well, the goal is a flavorful, tender, moist rack of ribs with some satisfying chew. Since these pork spareribs are dry rubbed, the risk of the meat drying out is higher. Adding some water to the bottom of the roasting pan during the last hour of roasting in the oven ensures a stable oven cooking temperature and prevents the ribs from over-drying. Adding the pomegranate vinegar “mop” also helps keep the internal moisture locked in the ribs and prevents the surface from becoming overly dry. The easy and essential way to check is by taking the temperature of the thickest part of the meat during the final roasting step. When your digital thermometer reaches between 190-200 °F (195°F is ideal), the ribs are done!
Memphis-Style Barbecue Pork Ribs
- 3 pounds spareribs, (St. Louis-style) trimmed
- 1/2 cup pomegranate juice, or apple juice
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, ground
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- Combine dry rub ingredients. Rub each side of the rack with 3 tablespoons of the spice rub. Save additional spice rub for seasoning when serving. Let ribs sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Combine the pomegranate juice (or apple juice) with the apple cider vinegar. Set aside.
- Heat grill to about 275-300°F. For a gas grill with 3 burners, keep the center burner off, and the two other burners to low. Adjust heat as needed for your grill.
- Clean and oil grill grate. Place ribs meat side down on the cool side of the grill.
- Cover and cook for 1-½ hour as follows: After the first 30 minutes, brush the rack with 2 tablespoons of pomegranate juice mixture. Flip the rack over at 45 minutes of cooking. Brush the rack with 2 tablespoons of the juice mixture. At 1 hour and 15 minutes of cooking, brush another 2 tablespoons of juice mixture on the rack.
- During the final 20 minutes of cooking the ribs on the grill, adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300°F.
- Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Transfer ribs (meat side up) to prepared rack and brush the rack with 2 tablespoons of juice mixture.
- Roast for 1 hour, brushing each with 2 tablespoons of juice mixture every 15 minutes (4 times total).
- Roast until meat is tender but not falling off the bones, the internal temperature should reach 190 to 200°F at the meatiest part of the racks. This may be a total of 1 hour to 1-½ hours roasting in the oven.
- Transfer ribs to cutting board, tent loosely with foil and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes. Slice ribs between bones and serve with your favorite barbecue sauce and additional spice rub for extra seasoning.