Lip Smackin’ BBQ RIBS – three ways

It’s hard work in Britain, when barbecue season comes along. We fret about the weather and stare up at grey threat-filled clouds, brace ourselves stiffly against the gust of wind that makes eating outside a little more effort than it really should be. And what for? Pre-packaged burgers with high fat-content, sausages blacker than the charcoal underneath them, charred to an inch of their lives and chicken kebabs with meat somehow drier and more tasteless than the bamboo skewers holding them together. Inspiring.

Meanwhile, across the globe the Texans have the right idea and in the other southern states of America too. Slow cooking the biggest chunks of meat in dry rubs and lick-your-lips-sweet glazes on barbecues that last for hours, if not whole days. Patience is a virtue, they say. But I say Patience is a slow roasted rack of ribs on a Saturday afternoon with bottle of beer and a pile of coleslaw. Stop. Let the neighbours scurry around with their over cooked chicken drumsticks and black sausages whilst you take stock of your life and chill out breathing in your garden being filled with the sweet and smoky flavours that will make you savour every last morsel of fall-off-the-bone meat.

And what of the rain? Make sure your barbeque has a lid, and be done with it. The following three recipes do not require a constant vigil by the side of the grill. Just a few checks with an umbrella if need be.

Cost? Well, I know that you can buy racks of pork ribs in packs of two for around £5.00 in most supermarkets, so I’d argue that you would not get much more value from a pack of shop bought burgers and buns. You certainly wouldn’t get the flavours.

I would like to share with you three awesome rib marinade recipes for this coming weekend. One boozy whiskey marinade (maybe for the adults), one sweet maple glaze (maybe for the kids), and my favourite own family marinade of red Chinese spices.

So let’s kick off with ribs no. 1:


1 rack of ribs
1 small onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (or 2 tsp. garlic salt, then omitting the rock salt)
70 ml Jack Daniels
3 tbsp. Cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
3 tbsp. Muscovado sugar
2 tbsp. tomato purée
Juice and zest of an orange
A dash of Worcester sauce
Freshly milled black pepper
1 tsp. rock salt

Fry off the finely chopped onion and garlic in a pan with some oil and once soft and golden, allow to cool. Add to this all the other ingredients, but save the orange husks once you have squeezed the juice out. Place the ribs in a large enough container to hold them (a freezer bag will do if you have one large enough) and pour the marinade over it. Rub it in, using your hands, on both sides. Add the orange husks to the same container and allow the marinade to work for at least couple of hours – over night if possible.

Prepare the barbecue by reducing the heat to a really low temperature. 120º is ideal. The idea is not to place the meat directly over the heat – so rearrange the charcoal a bit to one side. If you have a separate grill shelf, however, this will do for the rib cooking. But if the meat shrinks on the bone during the cooking process, this is a sure sign the temperature is too high.

Tip: Place a small tray of water on the grill which will steam as you cook the ribs – make sure this is topped up whenever you come back to check on the meat. This keeps the air moist and prevents the meat from drying out. It also helps to keep the temperature constant.

Place the ribs curve side down and brush a coating of left over marinade from the container. Use a pair of tongs and the saved orange half to paint the marinade onto the meat, basting it every 30 to 40 minutes or so and when you turn the meat over. Cook like this for about 2 hours (small racks may only need one and a half hours).

Tip: The meat will be done when you are able to run a skewer between the bones with very little resistance.

Ribs no. 2:


This marinade at least three generations old – and tried and tested on many occasions.

1 pack of spare ribs (you can use a rack of ribs if you prefer)
Juice and zest of 1 orange
5 drops of red food colouring
2 tbsp. five spice
1 tbsp. dark soy sauce
4 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 inch of fresh ginger (finely chopped)
2 tbsp. Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry


In a large container place the all the spare ribs and add to this, all the other ingredients. Mix them really well so that all the ribs are coated. Be very careful how you mix – the red colouring can stain. If you’re averse to the colouring staining your hands then wear rubber gloves. Cover and allow the marinade to stand for six hours to start the tenderising process.

When you are ready to cook them, place them on the barbecue (with that pan of water as before to prevent drying out) making sure to keep an eye on them, turning them individually when necessary. They should take not much longer than an hour to cook. If you would like to cut into the meat a little to make sure it’s cooked through, you should be looking for white meat close to the bone.

Tip: If you would like to cook these under the grill, boil the ribs for 15 minutes before marinating them and then grill (or bake in the oven) for about 40 minutes, depending on the size – until cooked. For me, this is also a great Chinese New Year dish to put on the table with the rest of the feast.

Finally ribs no. 3:


1 rack of ribs
1 cup of maple syrup
1 tsp. rock salt
1 apple (sliced)
1 tbsp. cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. Muscovado sugar
3 tsp. Dijon mustard
Freshly milled black pepper


As with the previous recipe – place the ribs in a container or in a large enough freezer bag. No previous cooking is required, just tip in all the ingredients and rub liberally over the meat to coat well. Leave for at least a couple of hours.

Place on the barbecue, curve side down and cook for 2-3 hours on the same low heat. Layer any loose apple slices from the marinade over the meat. Once again, baste liberally with any left over maple marinade every half hour or so.

All that’s really left to say is have a go and have a great dinner. ~


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