Ribs may take more work than hot dogs and hamburgers, but done right, they’re definitely worth it. These smoky St. Louis pork ribs with mango jalapeño BBQ sauce may be the best thing you’ll grill all summer, and should certainly be in the running for your Labor Day dinner.
Chef Glenn Rolnick of Virgil’s Real Barbecue shows us how it’s done and shares his recipe:
You’ll get melting-tender meat packed with smoky flavor and sweet heat from the sticky sauce—but if you don’t have a grill, you don’t have to miss out on this masterpiece.
Let’s break it down into the key components:
For this recipe, Chef Rolnick uses St. Louis style pork ribs, which are a trimmed rack of spare ribs.
St. Louis-Style Spare Ribs, $24.99-$54.99 from Omaha Steaks
Get two or four half racks at a time.
If you can’t find them at the store or just prefer baby back ribs, you can use those instead; the cooking time will be shorter, but the rub and sauce will taste just as good.
See our guide to ribs for more info on the different types and cook times.
A dry rub is a classic flavor enhancer for any meat you’re going to grill. This one is composed of sweet paprika, sugar, chili powder (a Texas-style blend), minced onion (the dehydrated kind you find in the spice aisle), granulated garlic, dried parsley, and kosher salt.
Virgil's Barbecue Road Trip Cookbook by Neal Corman, $7.99 from Amazon
The rub recipe comes from this book
In addition, Chef Rolnick seasons the raw ribs with black pepper and coarse smoked salt before applying the rub, to which he also adds a little extra onion and garlic.
In order for all these seasonings to work their magic, you’ll want to apply them from 6-12 hours ahead of time (overnight is also a good plan). If you have room in your fridge, place the rubbed ribs on the baking sheet you’ll be using to cook them, wrap it tightly in foil, and slide it in. Otherwise, zip-top plastic bags work too.
Be generous with the salt and pepper, and don’t be shy with the rub either. You will have extra, which can be stored in an airtight container in your pantry and used throughout the rest of grilling season; use it for roasted meat too.
The BBQ Sauce
Rather than being constrained within the bounds of regional barbecue sauce styles (not that there’s anything wrong with tradition), this BBQ sauce is sweet, hot, and full of complex savory flavors; the fresh ginger, pineapple juice, and mango give it a little tropical twist. You can remove the jalapeño seeds if you want it to be less spicy. If you make it the day before, wait to add the lime juice until you’re ready to cook the ribs, because you want that citrus note to be bright and fresh.
OXO Silicone Basting Brush, $9-$12 from Sur La Table
A heat-resistant silicone brush lets you slather on sauce without the risk of leaving bristles behind
The recipe makes more than enough sauce for the ribs, so you can use the extra for grilled chicken or shrimp later in the week. Or stash it in the freezer for a month or two.
The Cooking Method
See how to smoke ribs in your oven—or simply bake ribs without wood chips; you can add a tiny drop of liquid smoke to the sauce, or a shake of smoked paprika, but even without it will still taste amazing. Either way, crank up the broiler at the very end to give the BBQ sauce a little caramelization (but get rid of the wood chips first if using them).
You can also turn your charcoal grill into a smoker and otherwise follow the rub and sauce recipe below.
Header image courtesy of Chef Glenn Rolnick