Asian Baby Back Ribs
on Jun 01, 2013, Updated Jul 28, 2023
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A sticky, tender Chinese-style rib recipe that you can make on a grill or in the oven.
This sticky Asian ribs recipe is one of my family’s all-time favorites. It’s tangy with a hint of sweetness and a bit of spiciness, and boy will you want to have a big pile of napkins on hand! If you love ordering ribs at a Chinese restaurant, then you will be delighted to realize you can make the same kind of stick, finger licking ribs at home, either using a combo of the oven and the grill, or in the oven all the way through.
This recipe was featured in the New York Times article “Mastering Chinese-Style Ribs” at Home by Julia Moskin and I couldn’t have been prouder.
I created this baby back ribs recipe as my Father’s Day gift to my husband Gary, who loves ribs more than anyone else I know, with the exception of my own father. My kids are no slouch in the rib-loving department either. We are a pork ribs family, and baby back ribs are a true love.
Below is a photo of Jack when he was about 1 1/2, eating his first rib. In it he looks simultaneously surprised and perplexed and ecstatic, and maybe a little drunk. In my mind the caption for this photo was always, “For the love of God, where have you people been hiding the pork?”
“Katie Workman’s recipe for Chinese-style ribs is so easy that I’ve made it countless times.”Julia Moskin, New York Times
Asian Barbecue Sauce
If you have a food processor, small or large, this marinade, really an Asian barbecue sauce, comes together in a flash. If you are a cutting board-and-knife kind of a cook, then it will take a tiny bit longer, but it’s still an extraordinarily simple and flavorful sauce.
What is in Asian Barbecue Sauce for Ribs
- Garlic – for a nice kick
- Scallions – also for kick and flavor, and some nice color
- Hoisin sauce – a powerhouse Asian pantry ingredient made from fermented soybeans. Hoisin adds a ton of umami and flavor to the sauce.
- Ketchup – the tomato-ey base of this and many other barbecue sauces!
- Vinegar – for acidity and tanginess
- Soy sauce – add that great salty pop of flavor.
- Mirin or dry sherry – even a small amount of alcohol (which will burn off in the cooking) helps elevate the flavor of the whole sauce.
- Honey – provides some sweetness – but this means you need to pay attention to the ribs over the fire after the sauce gets added. The sugar in honey can cause the glaze to burn if the heat gets too high.
I almost feel like paper napkins should be listed in the actual ingredient list, since they are so critical to the enjoyment of this dish. These are great eaten outside, with no white clothes or tablecloths or cushions in sight.
What to Serve with Asian Baby Back Ribs
How to Cook Asian Baby Back Ribs:
This oven-to-grill rib recipe has the ribs start off the the oven for a low and slow bake, then they get finished over the fire. I love starting ribs in the oven and then moving them to the grill, because you can leave them alone while they are in the oven, and you can even do the baking part ahead of time. Then a final blast over fire gives them nice nice char and a smoky flavor.
Whether you pick oven or grill or both, you’ll want to save the high heat for the end. The honey in the glaze can burn if the ribs spend too much time over high heat. Feel free to use brown sugar instead of honey if you prefer.
A sticky, tender Chinese-style rib recipe that you can make on a grill or in the oven.Tweet This
How to Cook Baby Back Ribs in the Oven:
To cook the ribs completely in the oven, simply raise the heat to 400°F at the end of the first. hour. Let them cook for another 30 minutes, giving them a good baste or two towards the end. Take a peek at the ribs along the way to see that they don’t burn.
How to Cook Baby Back Ribs on the Grill:
Or, you can cook the ribs completely on the grill, but given the significant sugar content in this sauce, this requires some vigilance on your part. Either preheat a gas grill to medium-low, or set up a charcoal grill for indirect grilling. Arrange the ribs on the grill but NOT over the direct flame, with the meaty side up to start, and grill them for an hour, turning them frequently, and watching closely for flare-ups.
And you can re-heat leftover ribs in a 300°F oven for 15 minutes. This recipes multiplies easily. You can also do this with 4 or 5 pounds of larger spareribs, just cook them for about 2 hours in the oven before grilling them, or cranking up the heat.
If you want more fall-off-the-bone meat, let them cook a bit longer at the lower temperature, otherwise they have some nice texture and chew to them. Grab those napkins (or paper towels if you’re going old school), and have at them.
Other Asian-Inspired Recipes:
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Asian Baby Back Ribs
- In a food processor or blender, first finely mince the garlic and scallions. Add the hoisin, ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce, mirin or dry sherry, and honey and process until well blended.
- Pour the sauce into a plastic container with a lid, large enough to hold the ribs, or it’s quite handy to marinate the ribs in a large heavy duty-zipper top bag. Add the ribs to the marinade and turn so they are well-coated. Marinate the ribs for at least 4 hours, and up to a day in the fridge, if you have time.
- To bake the ribs and finish them on the grill, preheat the oven to 300°F. (See above for directions on how to bake these ribs completely in the oven, or how to make these ribs completely on the grill.) Place the ribs meaty side up, in two rimmed baking sheets that have been lined with aluminum foil, (you do not want to skip this step). Bake the ribs for 1 hour. Shortly before the hour is up, preheat the grill to medium (see Note), or simply raise the heat to 400°F at the end of the hour, and let them go for another 30 minutes, giving them a good baste or two towards the end, and watching carefully to see that they don’t burn..
- Arrange the ribs on the grill, meatier side down to start, and grill for about 20 minutes, turning the ribs frequently so they won’t burn, and basting them with any marinade that remains in the pan as you go. Don’t wander away. Remove the ribs from the grill and let them sit for about 5 or 10 minutes before slicing them. Serve hot or warm.