Tender smoked baby back ribs with that Caribbean island flavor from dry jerk rub seasoning.
Besides fried bologna sandwiches, ribs were probably the first thing I learned to cook from my days hanging around in the kitchen of my neighborhood BBQ joint in Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas. It was all spare ribs and short ends then, but I mastered them and later when I was introduced to baby backs during my Chicago years I applied the same skills and technique. And yes, if you’re wondering, I had never seen a baby back rib growing up in Texas, but when I moved to Chicago it was the opposite. It was all rib tips and baby backs with no sign of spareribs.
Though I’m still partial to spareribs, over the years I’ve grown to appreciate baby backs. The great thing about baby backs is the flexibility they provide as for as different flavor profiles you can create. With plenty of Caribbean spices on hand, jerk baby back ribs were a no-brainer.
Baby Backs vs. Spareribs
Baby backs and spareribs are two different cuts. Spareribs are meaty and cut from the belly so there is also more fat. Fat equals flavor, so you already know why spareribs are preferred in Texas. Back ribs are the “upper ribs” cut from where the ribs meet the spine, hence are leaner. Baby backs are also heavily marketed, which has increased demand and thus price. Despite the differences in cuts, I cook them pretty much the same. The only difference is cooking time, where the larger, fatty and tougher spareribs take longer to cook.
Should You Remove the Membrane From the Ribs?
Whether baby back or sparerib, each rack holds a shiny thin membrane that covers the bones. People are split on whether to remove it or not. Most restaurants leave the membrane on primarily for efficiency as the taste difference isn’t noticeable enough to most to take the extra step. I actually prefer to remove the membrane, but don’t always do it. Though not a big flavor variable it does make the ribs somewhat chewy. It’s not particularly difficult to remove the membrane. To remove, simply take the flat end of a spoon and insert it between the bone and membrane in the middle of the rack of ribs, use your fingers to separate the membrane slightly, then grasp the membrane with a paper towel and pull the rest of the membrane from the rib bones.
Do you marinate baby back ribs?
Once the membrane has been removed, I layer on a heavy dose of dry rub seasoning. For this recipe, I use a jerk seasoning rub. I’m not one to marinade ribs, as I find smoke and dry rub are all the flavor needed.
Should my ribs be fall off the bone?
One of my pet peeves is hearing someone brag about “fall off the bone” ribs. It’s another marketing ploy and annoying and misinformed as hell. In my not humble opinion, properly cooked ribs do not fall off the damn bone. The only ribs that do are either boiled, steamed, or overcooked. The sure sign is mushy ribs. If you can eat ribs without teeth, your ribs are mushy AF! Properly cooked ribs will pull easily from the bone but you need teeth. There should be some tug, resilience, or chew.
Making these baby back jerk ribs
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Baby Back Jerk Ribs
- 3 lbs pork baby back ribs
- 1 tbsp dry jerk rub
- Remove the membrane from the bone side of ribs. Clean and dry the ribs. Season liberally with the spice rub, seal in ziplock back and refrigerate over night.
- Prepare smoker for indirect heat using your choice of wood chunks (oak, apple, hickory, etc.)
- Smoke bone side down or upright if you have rib racks maintaining temperatures between 225-250 degrees for 3 hours.
- Remove and let cool. Spray ribs with apple or orange juice and sprinkle reserved spice mix on the ribs.