Little Labor, Big Flavor: Slow-Cooked Ribs

Slow-Cooked BBQ Ribs

Yield: 12  |  Total time: 3 hours
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Photo by Leela Cyd for the cookbook, "A Mouthful of Stars" by Kim Sunée
Photo by Leela Cyd for the cookbook, "A Mouthful of Stars" by Kim Sunée

For Labor Day, friends and family have requested these spicy, tangy ribs from my new cookbook, "A Mouthful of Stars." As to what makes perfect 'Q, a Southern BBQ-lovin' expert friend of mine once said: You cook the meat until it finally gives in and says (with proper southern accent), 'all-righty, I guess I'll go on and be tender now.'  The key to knowing if ribs are cooked properly is that the bone pulls out easily with just a tug and without the meat sliding completely off. 

The beauty of these ribs is that they cook low and slow and the only fuss is making a dry rub and the sauce, which is a bit tangy and more vinegar-based; I like my sauce on the spicier side and not too sweet. If you prefer a sweeter taste, add a bit more sugar or honey.  This recipe makes enough sauce for 3 slabs without too much extra for serving; double the sauce if you like saucy ribs. Look for New Mexico red chile powder in the Hispanic section of your local market. Although not necessary, some people like to finish these off on the grill to crisp them up.  For more tasting notes, see what the testers at Leite's Culinaria had to say. 

For the non-meat eaters, I usually serve these ribs as the main meat course and offer about 5 or 6 vegetable dishes. Some of my favorite meatless options to round out the Labor Day meal: Avocado-Papaya Salad, Laurie Constantino's Kale Galette with Yogurt Crust, Jamie Oliver's Four-Grain Salad with Lemon and Herbs, Yotam Ottolenghi's Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce, Alaska From Scratch's Baked Zucchini Fries, and garlicky Patatas Bravas from Saveur, and Suvir Saran's Summer Tomato Pie.  For dessert this year, I'm making my friend Bill Smith's updated version of the 1950's Atlantic Beach Pie.  I've eaten it several times with him at Crook's Corner and have always wanted to make it.  Here's the recipe; the crust is made with saltines to balance out the sweetness of the condensed milk. 


    3 slabs pork spare ribs or baby back ribs (about 9 pounds)

    Dry Rub

    Spicy Tangy Sauce

    For the Dry Rub:

      • 1 1/2 ounces (about 1/3 cup) New Mexico Red Chile powder3 tablespoons ground cumin
      • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
      • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
      • 1 tablespoon fine grain sea salt
      • 1/2 teaspoon ground Cayenne pepper

        For the Spicy Tangy Sauce:

          • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
          • 3/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
          • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
          • 1/2 cup ketchup
          • A few dashes Worchestershire sauce
          • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
          • 1 tablespoon cumin
          • 2 tablespoons New Mexico red chile powder
          • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
          • 1/2 tablespoon fine grain sea salt


          1. Preheat the oven to 300°. Line two rimmed baking sheets with heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Pat the ribs dry and, if desired, remove the silver skin (the tough outer layer) by using the point of a sharp knife to cut into the skin and a paper towel to grab the skin and remove.  

          2. Make the dry rub by combining all the ingredients together.  Rub ribs on both sides evenly with the dry rub. Bake, uncovered, for two hours.  Make the Spicy Tangy Sauce by combining all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally about 15 minutes.  After the ribs have cooked uncovered for two hours, brush the ribs evenly on both sides with the sauce; wrap tightly in aluminum foil and bake another hour or until meat is tender and bone pulls easily out of the meat. Unwrap and either grill, if desired, or serve at once with more sauce on the side.

          Date Published: August 29, 2014

          All recipes have been tested by the Test Kitchens unless otherwise noted.

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