Fina’s Grilled Baby Back Ribs

I spent this weekend at home, getting a break from the city and some much needed time with my family. It was nice to be able to walk around barefoot in the grass, take a nap outside, and eat some excellent food. Being at home is always exciting simply because it is a break from the crazy, busy, hectic life I lead in the city. It is away from the subway and the sirens and the summer-sweaty masses of tourists that I plow through everyday on my way to and from work. It’s also an opportunity to spend some time with three people I love very much (because I am lucky in this way and actually like my family).


Baby Back Ribs Grilling


Even more than that, though, being at home is a time to experiment with exciting new food things that I can’t do in my apartment. My parents have had a good long time to collect fun kitchen utensils (like the ice cream machine featured in this post) that I haven’t yet had the opportunity or means to acquire. They have the space to store more gadgets than I do in my apartment, where the only utensils that we can keep are ones that are used at least semi-frequently. They also have a much larger backyard than any NYC apartment could ever dream of advertising, which makes it much more suitable for things like using a grill.

That’s right. This weekend we took full advantage of the grill. I feel like this summer I have scarcely been able to write a blog post without mentioning the grill, but in all reality I am a total grilling novice, especially when it comes to meat. Veggies are easy enough to grill because they are very obviously done or not done. Meat has a much more difficult doneness scale. You have to take the type of meat into account as well as how people like theirs cooked, all while balancing your precious protein on small, fire-hot rods of metal. Grilling is hard. I am not so great at it. And so this weekend my mom (Fina) generously took it upon herself to teach me how to make her amazing, fool-proof, fall-off-the-bone ribs. She even more generously is letting me share her recipe with you all. Everyone remember to thank her!


Grilled Baby Back Ribs


My mom has been making these ribs for years now and I swear that it is somehow impossible to mess them up. Every time they come off the grill I have a brief moment where I worry that they will not be as tender, or as juicy, or as perfectly fall-apart good as the batch that came before them. Somehow, though, my fears are always proven to be unwarranted. They are always tender. They are always juicy. They always call for a fork and knife (or some very messy finger-licking) because they are always so moist that they fall off the bone. These ribs are a summer staple in my house, and they should definitely become a staple in yours. And I promise– they are so easy that you will be able to make them too. Even on the first try.

To make these ribs even better, use my mom’s version of barbecue sauce that is tangier and more flavorful than any of the sugary stuff you can find in the supermarket. Slather this on the ribs and it’ll caramelize to a perfect, tomato-gingery glaze over the fire without being overwhelmingly sweet. Round out the dinner with some coleslaw, cornbread (you will want to use the bacon fat in this one, I promise you), and grilled pineapple. Drizzle the cornbread with honey and cover everything else with barbecue sauce. Devour. Lick your fingers. Repeat. You won’t be disappointed.


Fina's Grilled Baby Back Ribs


Barbecue Sauce

1 large bottle Heinz ketchup

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch by 1 inch cube fresh ginger, minced

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

Tabasco sauce to taste


Mix sugar and ketchup together  in a medium-sized pot. Combine the lemon juice and Worcestershire in the emptied ketchup bottle, mixing to pick up any remaining ketchup, and pour into the pot. Add ginger, hot pepper flakes, and “a few glugs” of Tabasco. Heat over medium, stirring occasionally, until boiling. Let cool and store in the emptied ketchup bottle for about two months.


Fina’s Grilled Baby Back Ribs

For the dry rub:

2 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder


For the ribs:

3 full racks baby back ribs

Dry rub (see above)

1 cup water

1 cup white vinegar

Barbecue sauce (see above)


Combine ingredients for the dry rub and set aside.

Cut the rib racks into portions of 2-3 ribs each. Coat with the dry rub, making sure to massage the rub into the meat. Expect to use about 3/4 of the dry rub in this process. Store any remaining dry rub in an airtight container (do not store it if it has been contaminated by the raw meat). Refrigerate the meat for at least one hour, but preferably 4-6 hours or overnight.

Heat your grill on high. Once hot, place the ribs onto the grill and sear on both sides for just long enough for grill marks to appear. Move the ribs to a large foil pan.

Reduce the grill heat to medium with the center burner off. Add water and vinegar to the pan, then cover tightly with foil and put it on the grill. Cook for 90 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees every half hour. Check every 30 minutes to be sure there is still liquid remaining in the bottom of the pan– if not, the ribs will burn. If needed, add water to the pan 1 cup at a time.

After 90 minutes, remove the pan from the grill and increase the heat to high. Place the ribs directly onto the grill and brush with barbecue sauce. Once caramelized, turn the ribs over and repeat with the other side. Serve with additional barbecue sauce.


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