After years of learning convoluted tricks for making competition-worthy pork ribs, I've realized the ribs I like best are made more simply and have bolder flavors, like the earthy, spicy rub and fruity, smoky apricot sauce in this killer recipe.
Why this recipe works:
- Apricot preserves give the sauce a sweet, fruity flavor.
- Chipotle chiles add an earthy, spicy flavor that contrasts with the fruity apricot.
- Misting the ribs with apple juice after the barks begins to darken helps keep it from blackening.
- For the Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
- 1 1/4 cups apricot preserves
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon jalapeño jam
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped chipotles in adobo plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from the can
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the Rub:
- 1/3 cup paprika
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chile powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- For the Ribs:
- 2 racks St. Louis-cut spare ribs
- 2 cups apple juice in a clean spray bottle
- 2 fist-sized chunks of light smoking wood, such as apple or cherry wood
- Type of fire: Indirect
- Grill heat: Low
For the Sauce: Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add apricot preserves, ketchup, honey, vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, jalapeño jam, chipotles, adobo sauce, and mustard and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened slightly, about 20 minutes.
Puree sauce with an immersion blender, or transfer sauce to the jar of a regular blender, and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool to room temperature, transfer to a jar or container, and refrigerate until ready to use; sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
For the Rub: Mix together rub ingredients in a small bowl.
For the Ribs: Remove membrane from back of each rack of ribs and trim meat of excess fat. Generously season ribs all over with rub mixture.
Fire up a smoker or grill to 225°F, adding chunks of smoking wood when at temperature. When the wood is ignited and producing smoke, place the ribs in smoker or grill, meaty side up, and smoke until the ribs have turned a deep mahogany color, 2-3 hours. Spray ribs with apple juice and continue smoking, spraying the ribs with apple juice every 45-60 minutes, until they bend slightly when lifted from one end, about 2-3 hours longer; during the last 30 minutes of cooking, brush top of each rack with sauce. Remove from smoker, slice, and serve.
Immersion Blender, Grill or Smoker