BBQ and Beer – Grilled Baby Back Ribs

In my opinion, grilled baby back ribs and BBQ in general go hand in hand with all things beer! Thinking about beer as an ingredient, beer as an appetizer, beer as the fuel to keep the brisket smoking throughout the day, and a cold beer to wash it all down puts a smile on my face.

Although I love making BBQ, sometimes a night out with friends at a proven BBQ joint just makes sense.

Take a look at this little spread including grilled baby back ribs, courtesy of JoBoy’s Brew Pub.

BBQ spread includes: grilled baby back ribs, pulled pork, brisket, smoked chicken, baked beans, fried okra, fresh cut fries, and cole slaw.  The beer choice is an American IPA called Hopitude, brewed by JoBoy's Brew Pub
BBQ spread includes: grilled baby back ribs, pulled pork, brisket, smoked chicken, baked beans, fried okra, fresh cut fries, and cole slaw. The beer choice is an American IPA called Hopitude, brewed by JoBoy’s Brew Pub

Grilled baby back ribs at home

This article may have started out with some talk of beer and ribs from a BBQ joint. However, I really want to talk about grilled baby back ribs at home. Ribs on the grill is one of my favorite meats to do on the grill. They are relatively hard to screw up, the process is fun, and the results will impress your guests.

Ribs require the right sauce

If you are looking for a quick and easy at home BBQ option, look no further than Sticky Fingers BBQ Sauce and a couple racks of ribs. Making my own sauce is fun and rewarding, but sometimes the schedule and a lack of motivation takes its toll. Using Sticky fingers is an option I will always recommend when doing grilled baby back ribs.

Prepare the ribs in the oven

My trick to making great ribs on the grill is to cook them in the oven first! Depending upon your schedule or travel plans, now is a good time to open a beer. My goto would be a session beer at this time of day. Is it noon yet? Who cares! Dilute some vinegar with water, I usually put more water than vinegar. If you want a bit more of a bite, half and half will work. Salt and pepper the ribs. Pour the vinegar solution in a roasting pan, put the ribs in meat side down, cover with foil and cook them at 350 for about a half-hour. You can inadvertently pour the rest of your beer into the vinegar solution as an excuse to open another one! Depending upon the time you have you can reduce the heat a bit and leave them in longer. Just watch them and make sure they aren’t drying out. You can baste them halfway through or, if you want to seem busy, baste them more. Be careful though, as they say: “If you’re lookin’ you’re not cookin'” The ribs can go right on the grill afterward or you can put them back in the fridge and wait to fire up the grill.

I prefer charcoal for smoking BBQ

When you are ready for the grill, get your charcoal going or use gas. Wood chips, like mesquite, hickory, apple, or pecan will add complexity and give you that traditional BBQ flavor. With baby back pork ribs, I like hickory. Apple wood also makes delicious smoke for pork. Simply sprinkle a handful of wet wood chips on the coals or use a smoking box over the gas burner. (A foil pack of wood chips could also work over gas. Just create a “dish” out of heavy duty foil and place it under the grill, over the burner.) Soaking the chips in warm water for 30 minutes prior to using them will give you more smoke and less burning wood chips!

Grilling and smoking

Once the wood chips start to smoke, put the ribs on medium heat. I like to keep the ribs indirect of the coals or gas flame at first. With the lid closed, cook them meat side up for about 5-10 minutes. This gets them going and allows the smoke to flavor the ribs. You should start to hear them sizzle and smell that wonderful mix of hardwood smoke and glorious ribs mixing together. Now, its time to add the BBQ sauce. Sticky fingers BBQ sauce is my preferred pre-made sauce. Baste the meat side generously and cover for a few minutes. Flip them to a hotter grill location and baste the underside.

Baste the ribs

Continue this process of basting and flipping until you are happy with the smell, look, and amount of beer you have consumed while grilling. The sauce will start to stick to the ribs better as they cook over the heat. With all the sugar in the sauce, it isn’t hard to burn them. I like a little caramelized sauce on my ribs, but be careful! The wood chips will stop smoking after about 20-30 minutes. You could reduce the heat and move the ribs to an indirect location, add more wood chips, and allow them to smoke. This will add quite a bit of flavor, too much for some folks. The smell of the grill as the sauce, juices, and smoke mix together is a type of back yard, beer drinking, meditation, incense that will lure in passersby and make your guests hungry, thirsty, and pensive.

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