Sweet-and-Sour Balsamic-Glazed Spareribs from Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook of Animal

Sweet-and-Sour Balsamic-Glazed Spareribs from Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook of Animal

[Photograph: Johnny Miller]

Leave it to carnivores Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook, the fearless chefs behind the meat-centric LA restaurant Animal to give us a platter of blackened, sticky ribs, as documented in Adam Roberts' new book, Secrets of the Best Chefs.

The recipe involves a two-step cooking method. The ribs are first slow-roasted with thyme sprigs to suffuse the meat with an earthy herbaceousness. They are then generously slicked with an amalgam of a sauce; balsamic vinegar, honey, ketchup, beer, and mustard make up the bulk of it, but the long reduction and additions of molasses, red onion, Tabasco, and Worcestershire really make the sauce sing.

Why I picked this recipe: Melt-in-your-mouth ribs plus a sticky sweet sauce sounded like the perfect dish to enliven a cool, wet December day.

What worked: I'll call this sauce black magic from now on; it's a sweet sticky mess of a glaze, but it makes for some pretty spectacular ribs.

What didn't: I found the smaller ribs a little too fall-off-the-bone (if such a thing exists). If you like your ribs with just a tiny bit of chew, watch them carefully when approaching the three hour mark.

Suggested tweaks: The recipe makes a plethora of sauce (at least twice as much as needed); cut the glaze recipe in half if you're cooking less than four racks of ribs or have no use for leftovers. That said, the sauce has been pretty spectacular on turkey sandwiches in my house.

Reprinted with permission from Secrets of the Best Chefs by Adam Roberts, copyright 2012. Published by Artisan, a division of Workman Publishing. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

  • Yield:serves 4
  • Active time: 30 minutes
  • Total time:4 hours


  • For the Ribs
  • 2 racks spareribs
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 to 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • For the Glaze
  • 2 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar (don’t waste your best balsamic here)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1 can beer (preferably dry)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1/4 cup grainy mustard
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons Tabasco (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. 1.

    Preheat the oven to 250˚F and place each rack of ribs on a square of aluminum foil. Sprinkle the ribs generously with salt, add a few sprigs of thyme to each, and then wrap well. Place the rib packets on a cookie sheet and bake for 3 to 4 hours, until the ribs are extremely tender. Allow the ribs to cool slightly in their packets before opening.

  2. 2.

    To make the glaze, combine all of the ingredients in a large pot on medium-low heat. Allow to simmer, stirring every so often, for a few hours, until the sauce is nice and thick. Set aside.

  3. 3.

    To bring the ribs and glaze together, do the following. Turn on the broiler (if you don’t have a broiler, get the oven up to 450˚F). Cut the rib racks into individual ribs, place them on a foil-lined cookie sheet or broiler tray, and brush them aggressively with the glaze. Pop them under the broiler and watch them carefully: all that sugar makes them burn very easily! You want the glaze to fuse with the ribs; it takes 3 to 4 minutes. If you’re cooking the ribs in the oven, do so just until the glaze begins to bubble, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve the ribs hot with lots of napkins—trust me, you’ll need them.