These balsamic spare ribs look as good on your plate as they taste. They are sweet and sticky, and if you take your time, very tender. If you prefer them with a bit more bite, that’s possible too.
We used belly ribs for this recipe. These are, as the name implies, ribs that are on the belly side of the pig. These are clearly different ribs than baby back ribs that are used most often in the Netherlands.
Belly ribs have more meat between the ribs, and the meat is mostly tougher. While baby back ribs have more meat on the ribs and are usually more tender. That is not to say that belly ribs cannot be tender. If you keep them on the barbecue a little longer, they will become just as tender as you like.
The only preparation we do is to remove the membrane on the bone side. Insert a dinner knife between the bone and the membrane somewhere in the middle and then pull it loose until you can get a finger under it. Now you can pull it off in one go.
We first provide the ribs with a nice dry rub. The amount in the recipe is enough for 2 big spare ribs. Maybe for 3 baby back ribs. Sprinkle the ribs with a thin and even layer and let them sit for 45 minutes while you fire up the barbecue.
As you can see, the weather was great when we made these ribs. Every summer, the garden must be shared with a swimming pool. There is little space for the entire barbecue collection. We have parked the KJ Classic next to the swimming pool. This way, we can dip our feet in the water every now and then.
We are going to smoke the ribs first. To complement the recipe, we take cherry wood for smoking. It gives a mild smoky flavor and a beautiful reddish-brown color to the ribs. We are going to prepare the ribs with the 3-2-1 method. Smoking for 3 hours, wrapped for 2 hours, and grilled with sauce for 1 hour. You can/must adjust the times here and there because not every spare rib is the same.
Big belly ribs can be cooked with times like 3-2-1. Baby backs will often need 2-1-1. While a thick-fleshed baby back rib may be cooked longer. You need to get a little sense of what times work best for a specific rib. So there is nothing else to do than barbecue a lot of spare ribs.
When the ribs have a nice smoke color, and the dry rub sticks to the meat, we wrap them in aluminum foil. Use 2 layers of foil to avoid the risk of leakage. Then they can go back to the barbecue.
When the wrapped spare ribs have been in the barbecue for about an hour and a half, you check whether they are already tender enough. At this point, you decide whether you want the ribs fall-of-the-bone or with a little more bite. You check this by poking a probe from your thermometer through the meat.
If you have to push these through the meat with a little pressure, they can cook a little longer. If the probe goes in and out smoothly, you can unpack them. If you don’t feel any pressure at all, you get to have fall-of-the-bone ribs.
You can see that the meat has shrunk a bit compared to the ribs. That is a good sign that the meat is becoming more tender.
While the ribs have been on the barbecue, you made the balsamic sauce at your leisure. We are going to brush the ribs with it every fifteen minutes in the last phase. 2 or 3 thin layers are enough. But of course, you decide that yourself.
So we went for fall-off-the-bone this time. And as you can see, that worked out fine.
- 1 belly rib
For the dry rub
- 1 tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon of paprika
- ½ tablespoon of garlic granulate
- ½ tablespoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
For the sauce
- 200 ml of water
- 200 ml balsamic vinegar
- 150 grams of brown sugar
- Mix the ingredients for the dry rub. Remove the membrane from the ribs and sprinkle the meat with a thin layer on both sides.
- Prepare a barbecue with 2 zones for indirect barbecuing at a temperature between 110 and 150°C (230 to 300F).
- Place a chunk of smoke wood between the briquettes or coals and place the spare ribs on the cooler side of the barbecue. Close the lid.
- For the balsamic sauce, we put a pan on a low heat and add the water, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar while stirring. After about 15 minutes of cooking, the sauce has thickened. Stop in time; otherwise, the sauce will become too thick.
- After about 2 hours, you can check whether the spare ribs have a nice smoky color, and if the dry rub is well attached to the meat. Then you are ready for the next step.
- Wrap the ribs in a double layer of aluminum foil and put them back on the barbecue.
- After 2 hours, check if the ribs are tender enough to your liking by piercing them with a toothpick or your thermometer’s probe. Then you can unwrap them for the last step.
- Put the ribs back on the barbecue and coat them with the previously made balsamic sauce. Repeat this 2 or 3 times every 15 minutes until the sauce has become sticky.