Whatever the season, whatever the reason – there’s always room for BBQ pork ribs. Slathered with an apricot glaze and falling off the bone insanely tender, these are a keeper.
I’ve been making a variation of these ribs for years, and, quite frankly, they’re freaking delightful. The meat literally collapses off the bone after slow roasting in the oven for a few hours, and that sticky-sweet apricot glaze, spiked with fresh ginger and apple cider, is something akin to a young lover’s passionate embrace on a hot, humid Southern evening.
Whew — is it getting hot in here?
There a few key things you should know before you set about making these apricot-glazed sticky pork ribs:
BUY ST. LOUIS-STYLE RIBS.
First of all, there are different cuts of pork ribs, and for this recipe you should buy St. Louis-style ribs as opposed to baby back ribs. Well, the first difference is in the price (St. Louis ribs are generally cheaper). Baby back ribs are smaller, upper ribs cut from where the rib meets the spine. They’re less fatty than the larger St. Louis ribs, which are cut from the belly. Some people prefer baby back ribs because they’re meatier, but I actually prefer the St. Louis style ribs because of the marbling (i.e., the fat).
CUT THE MEMBRANE OF THE RIBS.
One of the most important things you can do to make sure your pork ribs turn out really, really tender is to cut the membrane off of the back of the ribs. The membrane is a silvery-stretchy film covering the entire back (i.e., not the meaty side) of the ribs. I generally remove the membrane by starting at one end of the rack and grabbing a firm grip using a paper towel to pull the membrane off, shoving my fingers indelicately in between the membrane and the bone to loosen it up as I go. In case that’s as clear as mud to you, here’s a video on how to do it that I believe may have been narrated by a relative of Barry White’s.
I’m fairly certain that my pork ribs are my husband’s third-favorite thing about me (after my breathtaking good looks and winning personality, of course). I know this because I made him a rack of ribs shortly after we began dating when I learned he’d never eaten pork ribs before. This life fact struck me as deeply, deeply sad, since ribs are basically one of the world’s most perfect foods and are widely available, which also led me to to wonder if maybe my then-boyfriend was one of those people who basically hadn’t had a truly happy moment before meeting me. Now that we are married, I know this fact to be about 86% true. He did get to go to EPCOT as a kid.
The point of this sad story is basically that, like all good things, you have to wait for these ribs to become the perfection that they can be. These ribs slow roast in a low-heated oven for 3 and a half hours, and you can’t sliver off a minute of that time. So these aren’t like, weekday ribs unless you are working from home and can set your Microsoft Teams status to “Roastin’ Ribs” every time you need to do a spot-check on the roasting progress.
I served these pork ribs with Chrissy Teigen’s mac and cheese recipe, which uses a terrifying amount of cheese but is also sinfully and satisfyingly creamy. If you’re looking for something lighter, try this skillet cornbread (originally paired with my vegetarian chili), my favorite celery and apple slaw or our staple weekday French carrot salad.
Apricot Glazed Pork Ribs
- 1 rack St. Louis style pork ribs
For the dry rub
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp chili powder
For the cooking liquid
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tbsp apricot jam
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp grated ginger
For the glaze
- 1/4 cup apricot jam
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- Rinse the ribs and pat dry with paper towels. Flip the ribs over and using the blunt side of a knife, loosen the silvery membrane on the back and pull the membrane away from the ribs. Keep going until the entire membrane has been removed.
- Find a baking sheet large enough to hold the entire rack of ribs and line it with aluminum foil. Place the ribs on the baking sheet.
- Mix together the spices for the dry rub (you'll have extra leftover for the next time you make ribs, or use the spice mix for a tasty taco seasoning). Generously season the meaty side of the ribs with the dry rub. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for at least an hour and up to overnight.
- An hour before you are ready to start roasting the ribs, remove them from the refrigerator and keep covered to bring the meat up to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees (120 degrees Celsius).
- Place the ribs in the oven, uncovered, and roast for 2.5 hours with the meat side up.
- While the ribs are roasting, mix the ingredients for the cooking liquid together. When the 2.5 hours is up, remove the ribs from the oven and carefully flip the rack over so that the meaty side is down and the bone side (where you removed the membrane) is face up. Carefully pour the cooking liquid mixture into the baking sheet and cover the baking sheet tightly with foil.
- Roast for an additional hour. While the ribs are roasting, mix together the ingredients for the apricot glaze in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally, to let the sauce thicken. Once the sauce has the consistency of a thick glaze or sauce, remove from heat (alternatively, if the sauce is too thick, you can thin it with a little bit of water).
- When the ribs are done roasting face down, remove the baking sheet from the oven and drain out the cooking liquid. Turn on your grill (or the broil function of your oven, set at 500 degrees) and liberally brush the top of the pork ribs with the apricot glaze. If you're broiling, put the ribs back on the baking sheet and if you're grilling, you can place the rack of ribs directly on the grill. Broil or grill for 3-4 minutes, then brush more glaze on the rib and broil for another 1-3 minutes more. Remove from heat, cut and serve immediately with leftover glaze.
Ann Kaufman is an emotional food enthusiast who writes at Grits & Chopsticks (www.gritsandchopsticks.com). When she's not writing about food, she's caring for her two young children, lawyering and thinking about her next meal.