In Canada, BBQ often means ‘grilled’ while BBQ means low, slow, well-sauced and often smoked centre-of-the-plate deliciousness south of the border. Here are some secrets to making the best BBQ pork ribs and tips for making a tasty coffee BBQ sauce.

BBQ Pork Ribs: Secret Sauce

If you’ve never boiled pork ribs to make them tender––good for you. If you have, follow the directions below, never do it again, and your secret is safe with me.

These BBQ pork ribs are smoked low and slow. Don’t worry if you don’t have a full-on smoker. You can make these ribs on a multi-burner BBQ grill, cook them offset by using just one burner and put the meat on the non-burner side. You don’t even need to have a proper smoke box. If you’re one of the folks with a smoker, go ahead and light it up and set it for 225F to start.

It will take four to five hours to smoke these ribs.

The secret to BBQ pork ribs: apple juice. Put regular apple juice in a clean, food-safe spray bottle and spray on the ribs when they go on the smoker and every half hour until they’re done. The apple juice is a primarily neutral flavour, helps the smoke stick, moistens the meat, and provides just enough sweetness to make it interesting.

How to Make BBQ Pork Ribs

BBQ pork ribs on the grill covered in BBQ sauce.

There are three key steps for BBQ: rub, smoke, and sauce. Here are the overall directions with details below.

      1. Side ribs work best for this recipe. Purchase 2 kilograms of the best meatiest ribs you can find. Remove the membrane on the one side of the ribs with a boning knife.
      2. Mix up the rub below, coat each side of the ribs well, and shake off the excess spice.
      3. Spritz the seasoned ribs with apple juice. Do this every 30 minutes of cook time.
      4. Prepare the smoker or BBQ Grill as described below and heat to 225F.
      5. Smoke ribs until the internal temperature is 165F.
      6. When the ribs hit 165F, wrap the ribs in foil if you want especially tender ribs. Professional BBQ competitors call this a “Texas Crutch”, but it works well to make tender ribs. If you prefer a bit more bite in your ribs, continue with the regular spritz and carry on. Either way, increase the heat to 250F and cook the ribs to an internal temperature of 205F.
      7. When the ribs reach 205F, baste with sauce (either this recipe or your favourite alternate) and return them to the grill for 5 minutes or serve ‘dry’ with sauce on the side.

What You’ll Need for the BBQ

      • Buy 2 Kilograms of pork ribs (for four hungry rib eaters and a few leftovers.)

What You’ll Need for the Rub

Ingredients for the rub used to make BBQ pork ribs

      • 2 tablespoons of sweet paprika
      • 1 tablespoon smoked hot paprika or cayenne pepper
      • 1 tablespoon celery seed
      • 1 tablespoon black pepper
      • 1 tablespoon smoked salt12 tablespoons kosher or coarse salt
      • 1 tablespoon garlic powder (optional)

The thing about a rub is––it should be yours. Make it so! The recipe above is a place to start. Add and subtract what pleases your palate and your guests. I love garlic but am not a fan of it in my rub, so I leave it out. Mix this up and rub it on both sides of the ribs. Heat the BBQ or smoker.

What You’ll Need for the Coffee BBQ Sauce

(Mix up the sauce and let it simmer while the ribs are smoking.)

      • 1 red onion peeled and diced fine
      • 1 shallot peeled and diced very fine
      • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
      • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
      • 1 cup strong French-roast or other dark coffee
      • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
      • 1 tablespoon dry chopped orange peel
      • 1 cup rice wine vinegar
      • 1/4 cup molasses
      • 1/4 cup corn syrup
      • 1/2 cup brown sugar
      • Salt to taste – but go easy because the ribs are salted

How to Make the Coffee BBQ Sauce

      1. Sauté onion, garlic, and shallots in oil until transparent.
      2. Add the rest of the ingredients.
      3. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3-4 hours or until it is suitably sauce-thick.
      4. Sauce ribs for final grilling or serve on the side at the picnic table.

What You’ll Need for Smoking

      • Aluminum foil (to make a smoke packet with wood chips and wrap ribs if you choose).
      • A Thermapen or equivalent instant-read thermometer2.
      • Wood chips. I like cherry.
      • Apple juice.
      • Food-safe spray bottle.

Can I Use My Multi-Burner Grill to Smoke?

Cherry woodchips during smoking process of BBQ pork ribs.

No matter if you don’t have a smoker or even a smoke box. Peel off a square of aluminum foil, place a handful or two of cherry woodchips in the centre, fold over opposite sides and seal to make a small foil packet. Poke one-centimetre holes in the top so the smoke can escape. You may want to prepare a few small packages to extend the smoke exposure in advance. To smoke on your grill, preheat the grill to 225F, shut off all but one burner, and place the foil packet directly on the flame.

Do I Need a Thermometer?

An accurate instant-read thermometer is an absolute must. It is the only way to know for sure your ribs are at the perfect temperature. Follow these directions, and you will be well on your way to enjoying some of the best ribs your family and friends have ever tucked into.

      1. Smoked salt is available from specialty spice stores. Searching for it is worth the effort when you taste the results.
      2. I bought my Thermapen on Amazon for less than a spoiled rib dinner ($50).

While BBQ pork ribs are an iconic BBQ season meal, you can use this BBQ sauce on everything from salmon and chicken to lamb chops and burgers. The point is––it’s summer, and let’s make the most of it with some close friends and a decent BBQ.

      • When: June 17 – 19, 2022
      • Where: Place Jean-Beliveau, Quebec, QC
      • More Details: BBQ-Fest website

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