I Keep My Promises Sweet Chipotle Glazed Baby Back Ribs

I have not bored you to tears much lately with the saga of my broken jaw. Well it’s mended, mostly. I still have some soreness, my teeth are slightly out of alignment, and I get weird headaches. But those problems are small and getting smaller everyday. In fact I predict a full recovery by the time you see me at the FoodBuzz Bloggers Festival. Did you nominate your favorite bloggers yet? There is still time.

Even though I have been unwired for quite sometime I have not been in fully functioning mouth mode. Today marks the day I go back to eating whatever I like (except: nuts, ice, corn tortilla chips, beef jerky, and hard candy, especially– pardon the expression, jaw breakers).

In honor of this great event I am making ribs. I have never made ribs before. But I was skulking around at Dash of Stash a while back. He made some lip smackin’ good lookin’ ribs. I commented about my fear of cooking ribs and he offered a challenge. He would cook “something from the sea” if I made ribs on the grill.

Sup! is up for most any challenge; especially challenges that expand my experience regarding food. So I accepted the challenge with the caveat that it would have to wait until I was mandibularly mobile enough to eat ribs.

chipotle glazed ribsWell like I said, that day has arrived.

As I am a rib-newbie, I decided to do a little research on how indeed the best ribs were made. Boy was that a mistake… I am still getting hate mail from a few BBQ drones that felt my questions were shall will say “light in the britches”. Can you believe there are entire blogs completely dedicated to the fine art of flame? Well of course you can…I am being snarky.

However, it does seem passions run strong regarding all things BBQ, but most especially regarding ribs. With the big “bone of contention” being– seasoning.

It boils down to Rubs vs. Sauces

The real rib-masters of this world, be they contest winning BBQ fanatics with grills as big as a barn– or more modest backyard geniuses who preside over smaller apparatus; all seem to have an opinion in this wrangle.

As I learned from the few entreaties I made, emotions run high in the rubs versus sauces arena. I have come to the conclusion that for a novice like myself, both should play important, and perhaps even co-dependent roles, when it comes to building a better rib.

Most of the opinions I had hurled at me pre-suppose that rubs are the foundation on which all the other flavors are built. They are a mandatory first step. Though there was great debate regarding how much moisture belonged in a rub. A question I will leave with them to wrestle amongst themselves; “don’t hurt yourselves, boys”!

But basically, rubs are literally “rubbed” onto ribs. Their ingredients and flavors are open to vast interpretation and the possibilities are as wide as the shining sea. But it seems these magic mixes should layer flavors in a complex way. Typically a bit of heat, a bit of sweet, and a hint of something herbal.

The rub works its wonders when it is allowed to sit on the meat for a few hours, or preferably, overnight. The best rubs seem to penetrate the meat, chemically changing its flavor and texture.

One school of thought says that once they have undergone this bit of alchemy they are ready for the flame.

Others require some early saucing and more sitting about before the meat meets the heat.

Regarding the specifics of sauces, I got a lot of “I’d like to tell you, but I’d have to kill you” bluster from some of the bloggers I contacted. I mean I like a good rib, but I am not willing to die for one. So back off dude!

The truly ‘que obsessed have sauces so complex that they amount to top-secret private labels. But, what information I was able to ascertain about these sauces, certain ingredients are integral: heat from peppers; bite from vinegar, and more often than not, bravado from a bit of booze. In the sauce, not the belly… or maybe a bit of both.

Whether this sauce is slathered on before cooking or brushed on at specified moments during the barbeque process; it is what gives ribs their deep, lustrous nuance. 

Though I admit to rookie status, this won’t stop me from entering the fray with a bit of bravado of my own. That’s right I am flat out making up a rib recipe of my own. Right here and now, off the cuff! Both rub and sauce. 

Further, because I can’t drive my barbeque up to the curb and park 120 baby backs on rotating grill racks, I am going to (gasp) take a short cut and make mine in the oven, then finish them on the grill!

But please don’t give out my address to any of the ‘que dudes I talked to. I’m in fear of what they might do to me.

baby back ribs with sweet chipotle sauceSo here is my recipe for “Now I’ve Done It, Stash” Sweet Chipotle Glazed Baby Back Ribs including Sup’s! Not So Secret Chili Rub serves 4.

  • 1⁄4 c canned chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
  • 1⁄4 c rice vinegar
  • 1⁄4 c soy sauce
  • 1⁄2 c honey, divided
  • 1⁄4 c mustard seeds, or powder coarsely ground
  • 2 clv garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium shallot, roughly chopped
  • 1⁄4 c cilantro, leaves only
  • 1⁄4 c lime juice
  • 1⁄4 t red pepper flakes
  • coarse salt and ground black pepper
  • 1⁄2 c canola oil
  • homemade chili rub to taste (recipe here)
  • 2 racks pork ribs (2 1/2 pounds each- silver membrane removed)
  • chili rubvegetable oil for grates
  • lime wedges for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor combine chipotles, rice vinegar, soy sauce, 1/4‑cup honey, mustard seeds, garlic, shallots, cilantro, lime juice, red pepper flakes, 3 tablespoons salt, and 2 teaspoons black pepper. With the machine running drizzle the canola oil in a slow steady stream. Process until a smooth sauce is formed.

Place a large double layer of aluminum foil or parchment paper on a large rimmed baking sheet. Place ribs on top, centered. Rub plenty of the homemade chili rub onto both sides of each rack.

Then rub both racks with sweet chipotle sauce. Wrap ribs tightly in the foil or parchment (tie closed with kitchen twine if using parchment). Bake the ribs on the baking sheet until the meat is quite tender, about 2 hours.

Heat the grill to medium-high; and lightly oil hot grates. Remove the ribs from the foil or parchment pouch, letting extra sauce drip off. Brush ribs with the remaining 1/4‑cup honey and grill them until lightly charred. About 3 minutes per side. Cut between bones to separate ribs and serve with lime wedges.


Greg Henry