How To: Dry-Rubbed Spare Ribs and Crack on the Cob

I’m making dinner right now, featuring the titular ribs and roasted corn on the cob with a version of Diana’s Dijon and Dill Butter Sauce.  The sauce is so good, you’ll need to keep eating corn just so you can feel alive.

Here’s the “before picture” of the dry-rubbed ribs.  Check back later to see how they come out.  After the jump, I’ll tell you how to make your own dry rub.

spareribsThe first rule of dry rub is “You don’t talk about dry rub.”  That’s why I’m not giving you my recipe.  Rub recipes are like fingerprints that you keep hidden at all times in kevlar gloves, or snowflakes in a very cold, impenetrable vault.  Each one is different, and you never share it with anyone, ever.  This was the least believable part of “Grindhouse Presents: Planet Terror.”

I like to make a big batch of dry rub all at once, but if you aren’t going to use it that often, get out your calculator and cut it down by half.  Also, whenever possible, I use freshly ground spices.  If you don’t already have one, go buy a coffee grinder that you’ll use only for spices.  To keep it clean and non-rusty, fill it with dry oatmeal when you’re finished, hitting the grind button a few times.

Here’s a general recipe for your rub:

16 oz. light brown sugar, tightly packed, or half dark brown and half sugar-in-the-raw

6 oz. kosher or sea salt (do NOT use granulated salt)

2 oz. chili powder

1 oz  black pepper (or other mix of peppers – black, white, red, green)

1 oz  cayenne pepper (or other hot pepper powder)

1 oz  onion powder

These last 3 ingredients are where you get to apply your stamp to the rub.  Try a few things until you find a combination you like.

1 oz  hot ingredient – A hot spice blend like creepily-named Essence of Emeril, or even a packet of taco seasoning will do the trick, or you could blend several types of dried chiles in your new spice grinder.  Mix in some smoked paprika if you like.

1 oz  savory ingredient – Something like Montreal Steak seasoning is good here.  I use my own steak rub in this spot.  You can combine steak seasoning with Adobo, too.

1 oz  dried herbs – sage, thyme, or cilantro are good.

With this general outline, you can make other substitutions that you think might be good.  Grind your spices before combining in a container with a lid.  Shake it up really well.  If you use the raw sugar, run it through the blender real quick.

This rub is good for back ribs, spare ribs, pork shoulder, really any braised pork recipe.

Lay your ribs out on heavy-duty foil or double-folded normal foil, on top of a sheet pan.  Put a handful of rub on them with your dry hand, and spread it around with your pork hand.  (The “dry hand” never touches the pork, and the “pork  hand” never touches anything but the pork and what’s on it.  Don’t mix up the hands, or you’ll be watching Law & Order in the lobby of the ER instead of enjoying your awesome dinner.)

Press the rub into the meat, turn the ribs over, and repeat.  Crimp the foil at the top/center of the ribs, and crimp one end shut.  Leave the other end open for your cooking liquid.

Here’s another way to make the recipe your own.

Cooking liquid:

3/4 cup white wine – You need the wine, but you can reduce it to 1/2 cup and add in something else, like a shot of Maker’s Mark or a strong, dark beer.
2 tablespoons vinegar – White wine or apple cider are good.  Dark vinegars, not so much.
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sweet syrup – I use molasses, but other choices are honey, dark maple syrup, or whatever else you can think of.
2 cloves garlic, mashed and minced

Stir the liquid, nuke it for about a minute, stir it again, and pour it into the open end of your foil.  Fold it shut tightly, but don’t crimp.  You need to be able to pour it out when you’re done.  Tilt the tray back and forth to distribute the cooking liquid.

If you want to add a smoky flavor, add a couple of slices of smoked bacon, but make sure you cook most of the fat off, first, or your barbecue sauce will look like a lava lamp.

Cook in a 250 degree oven for 3 hrs.  If you have time, cut the heat to 225 and add an hour.  The ribs will be that much more tender.

When they’re done, open one end of the foil and pour the remaining liquid into a saucepan.  Simmer over medium-high heat until it reduces by about half.  Carefully open the foil (watch out for steam) and brush the glaze on top of the ribs.  Place the ribs, foil open, under a high broiler for a couple of minutes, just until the glaze bubbles and browns a little.

The remaining glaze will be the base for your sauce.  This can be as simple or as fancified as you want.  I like a sweet sauce, so I whisk in a half-cup or so of brown  sugar, ’til it dissolves.  Squeeze in a cup or so of ketchup (or if you’re some kind of purist, make your own frakkin’ ketchup), whisk, and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes or so.  Taste it.  If it’s too spice, cut it with some more brown sugar.  If you want it spicier, whisk in some more of your rub.  You can also mellow it out with some tomato paste.

For the corn, you can roast/grill it in the husks if you like, but I just use sheets of tinfoil, 1 for each ear.  Brush the foil with the corn dressing, then put the corn on the foil and brush the top of it.  You can snip in some more dill with scissors if you like.  Crimp the foil and roast the corn under the broiler or on the grill for 20-25 minutes, turning 4 times.  For the grill, you can unwrap them at the end and give them a few minutes on the grill to get some markings.

When you serve the corn, you can brush them again with the dressing.  This corn dressing is sofa king good, you might just skip the rest of the meal.

Corn dressing recipe:

2 sticks butter, cut in pieces

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons country-style dijon mustard

2 teaspoons horseradish

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Put everything but the butter and dill in a saucepan over medium to low heat.  Whisk it all together, then begin whisking in the butter a few pieces at a time.  Don’t stop whisking, or it’s lava-lamp time.  If the sauce starts to bubble, remove from heat momentarily, and keep whisking in the butter.

Once all of the butter is integrated, remove from heat ans whisk in the dill.

For a mellower sauce, you can use up to another stick of butter without it separating.

A great, simple vegetable idea for this meal is brussels sprouts with chopped bacon.  Chop 2 slices of bacon (I use meat shears) and begin to cook over medium-high heat.  Once it starts to sizzle, add a pound of frozen baby brussels sprouts, thawed partially in the microwave, and saute for 5 miutes, stirring occasionally.

You can do the exact same thing with green beans if you don’t like the sprouts, but I swear, these are the best sprouts you’ll ever eat.  The only reason you don’t like brussels sprouts now is you’ve never had them cooked right.

I’ll be back later to show you how dinner turned out.

Update: Oh, yeah.




  1. These recipes are indeed spicelicious, so you may wish to lighten up on the salt portions, for one. I never even ate much meat (beef other than ground or pork other than ham or bacon) before Tommy came along, so there’s a testimonial for you 🙂 The ONLY dijon mustard I use is Country-Style Grey Poupon. You may also substitute same amount of chopped fresh parsley for the dill, if you want to mellow it out a bit. These recipes will not disappoint. True comfort food!

  2. That’s the same way I do my ribs. Except my dry rub is mine! But, you got it right. I should know because I’m the ultimate cook! 😉

  3. Okay Tommy,

    1. I’m ready to eat a second dinner now after looking at those pictures.

    2. If you ever make it out to St. Louis, you tell me what to buy and I’ll supply it if you cook it.

  4. Deal, although St Louis has a pretty good reputation for ribs. I’d be honored.

  5. Hey, Diana, what is it with libs & grey poupon! :>)

    It all looks delicious.

  6. Wait a minute, Tommy, the cholesterol count has come in. You better get out of Dodge because the HHS food Basiji are on theway.

  7. OMG! I absolutely love ribs–I’m gonna try your recipe Tommy. And yours too, Diana, I love grilled corn on the cob. You two missed your calling–start a second blog for the two of you and make it a cooking one. 😉

    Now Bob, what is wrong with Grey Poupon? Not all French are Liberals ya know.

  8. LOL, Bob! All I need is some of Caleb’s Perrier 😉

    Great to see you, PCL! I’ve been leaving “hit and run” comments around here, so haven’t noticed if you or Michelle have responded. If that’s the case, sorry. I’m a good cook, but Tommy’s the master chef here, especially when it comes to meat dishes. A true foodie! My specialties are authentic Italian and other “ethnic” dishes, veggies, fruit salads, baked goods/desserts and such. Lots of country-style comfort foods, too, like for holiday dinners (read: artery cloggers). Oh yeah, can’t forget breakfast & that french toast (with his maple & pecan butter 🙂

  9. The sauce looks good.
    The best way to get juicy ribs is to par boil them (that’s right, par boil) for a few minutes in water with crushed garlic and salt until they are just pink. Make sure whatever BBQ sauce you use is mostly oil to keep the meat from burning.. When I’m feeling ambitious I put garlic, chopped unions and dark brown sugar in a pan with some oil and slowly cook the onions down to nothing. You can add any crappy BBQ sauce to that and it will taste great.
    Remember, tomato sauce burns. A sauce heavy on tomatoes can be added last with an indirect heat so it doesn’t burn. Otherwise your sauce should be heavy on the oil.
    It is true what PCL says, some Frenchman are pigs.

  10. Hi Diana,

    Sorry Diana, since Splash and I started our own blog, on top of our regular real jobs, I haven’t had much time to comment.(I commend all of you who have and maintain a blog, this is a lot of work!) But I finally took some free time (in LA visiting the daughter) to comment, and the pictures and recipes here caught my eye. I am a TRUE lover of ribs. Babybacks are my favorite. And your corn and sauce, Diana–I have to try that one on the 4th.

    Anyway, I still think you both should start a cooking blog–with recipes contributed by blog readers, add in a little ‘Tommy’ humor, a little politics–and you may have a big hit on your hands. LOL! I would be an avid reader.

    Fitiz: that may be true about the French men–but don’t go throwin’ us French woman
    in the mix. LOL! 😉

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