Today we’re going to try something a little different. Today is the first installment of a little How-To series I’m going to call “Cooking for Geeks”. The common misconception about geeks, like myself, is that they’re not “manly men” and certainly not fit to man a grill at your next barbecue. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While I don’t do much “baking” around our house, I’m certainly no stranger to cooking. Actually, it’s one of my favorite hobbies. I’ve become a cooking junkie, even entertaining the idea of entering something like “Food Networks Next Big Star”. Out of all the things I cook, it’s what I grill that I’m most proud of. I’ve memorized cooking time tables for all the grilling basics. Knowing exactly how long to grill something, what temperature to do it at, how many times to flip it, etc, are all skills us geeks can excel at.

The dish I’m most proud of are my baby-back ribs, Texas style, and that’s what we’re going to be cooking today.

Photos, directions and conversation after the jump…

Now normally when you think of Texas and BBQ, there’s only one thing that comes to mind: Beef! They love their brisket down here. A giant beef brisket, beef ribs and juicy steaks are all Texas staples. Not being from Texas myself, I haven’t yet embraced this love for brisket. What I do enjoy is the flavor and spice that Texas BBQ has. Texas BBQ is much different from “southern style” BBQ, which is typically mustard based and tangy. I love good “Memphis BBQ” when I can get it, but that’s not what we’re cooking today. By comparison, Texas BBQ is a sweeter, smokier and also slightly saltier sauce.

Now, originally the recipe I’m about to give you was found in several different pieces and cobbled together by myself and my wife before we began tweaking it into our own. We had found a recipe for a good rub with horrible cooking directions, then one for the a sauce without a rub, then one with a horrible sauce and a horrible rub but with great cooking tips. This is how you learn folks. You take bits and pieces from here and there, remember what works and make it your own.

We’ll be going step-by-step, complete with pictures. This is a really great, simple recipe without a ton of weird ingredients. You probably have most of what this calls for already. Take it one step at a time and I can guarantee you’ll have a great rack of ribs when you’re done. Also, I should note that in the pictures you can see that I’m making 3 racks of ribs. These ingredient measurements are only for one rack. I tripled the ingredients (all but one, I’ll explain in a minute) to make enough for all three racks.

Without further ado, let me present Matt’s Texas Style Ribs!

Ingredients for the rub:

1 1/2 – 2 Tablespoons coarse (kosher) salt
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons sweet paprika
1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper (or “peppercorn medley” if you can find it)
1/2 to 1 Tablespoon garlic powder (to taste)

*Note* – When making a large batch, do not double/triple the kosher salt. That will make it too salty. A good ratio would be 2/3. For example, a triple batch requiring 6 tablespoons of brown sugar would only require 4 tablespoons for salt. Also, don’t be afraid to add extra brown sugar if you like your BBQ sweet. We do.

Ingredients for glaze:

2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons bourbon (or whiskey, or your favorite alcohol of that variety)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (as a base)
1/2 teaspoon of liquid smoke (optional)

Other ingredients and equipment:

2 pounds (1 rack) pork baby back ribs
Ice cubes
Aluminum foil (several large sheets – heavy duty if you’ve got it)
Basting brush (I like the silicone ones)
1 Medium sauce pan
Grill (duh!)


First, combine all the ingredients for the dry rub, breaking up any lumps (usually from the brown sugar). You should have a mixture that looks like this:

Next, prep the ribs by washing them throughly, especially if you got the kind that were pre-packaged. For awesome ribs, try getting your racks at a meat market or directly from the butcher at the grocery store. Typically they’re fresher and more tender.

Next, get out the aluminum foil. You’re going to be creating a “grill bag”. Normally I’d say you can just buy a grill bag, but they come in all sorts of different thicknesses and sizes. Half the time your ribs won’t fit in the bag and the other half of the time the bags are too thin and the ribs burn, so I’d say it’s best to make your own. My wife taught me this next trick. Take 4 sheets of foil that are the same size (larger than your rack of ribs). Place two sheets above the other two sheets so that they overlap a little (about half an inch). Interweave the edges. Fold over that interweaved edge, then fold it again, half the distance, back over itself. Now you should have one big sheet of foil, held together in the middle. It should look something like this:

Place an extra sheet across the middle. Set your ribs down on top of it.

Begin sprinkling the dry rub along the entire length of the ribs, making sure to coat everything. Turn it over, coat the “meaty” parts of the backside, then turn right side up again.

When you’re done, it should look like this:

Now, take a generous number of ice cubes and place beneath the ribs, in the arch that the rack makes.

Fold up the foil and “seal the bag” as tightly as possible. Take additional pieces of foil and wrap the packet again. I usually use two additional pieces, one wrapped around the middle, another wrapped length wise. It’s very important that the package is sealed, you don’t want steam or any of those delicious juices to escape.

Next, put your ribs back in the fridge and let them sit (about 30 minutes) while you fire up the grill and gather the ingredients for the glaze.

Set the grill on low or medium-low depending on how hot your grill normally gets. Mine is extremely hot, so I cook on low. If you don’t have one, get a grill thermometer, they’re great. Never trust the temperature gauge on the top of the grill. You should be cooking these somewhere between 300-350 degrees. Once the grill is ready, place the ribs on meat side up (bone side down). You’re going to grill these for 30 minutes on each side. DO NOT flip these more than once. DO NOT poke the bag, move them around, etc. 30 minutes on one side, flip, 30 minutes on the other. Cook with the lid closed!

With 10-15 minutes left to cook, combine the ingredients for the glaze in a medium sauce pan. The grill I was using when I took these pictures has a burner attached to it. If you’re not lucky enough to have one of those, just do it on the stove inside and bring it out with you when the ribs are done cooking in the foil. Cook ingredients over medium heat, letting the butter melt. Stir and make sure everything is combining nicely and that the brown sugar is melting as well.

Back out at the grill, when the 2nd 30 minutes is up, cut holes in the bag(s) to let the steam escape.

Once it has, continue to cut back the foil, exposing the ribs. Notice all those juices. This is a good sign.

Remove the ribs from the bag and set back on the grill (meat side up). You should now have ribs that look like this:

Baste each side of the ribs with the glaze:

Continue to cook the ribs, off the flame, with low or medium-low heat, basting every 5-7 minutes.

The ribs should already be fully cooked, so all you’re doing now is building up layers of glaze. The ideal rib in my opinion has a nice thick and crispy “candy” glaze on it. For me this usually take about 4 or 5 rounds of basting.

Now you’re all done. Serve and enjoy.

I hope everyone enjoyed that. As you can see, it’s not really hard to do great ribs. A few ingredients, about an hour on the grill, easy as pie.

Matt out.