Cider-Basted Baby Back Ribs with Lemon Barbecue Sauce


No American barbecue is complete without ribs. For Steven Raichlen, perfection means ribs that are tender, sweet and spicy—just the sort of ribs you get when you coat baby backs with a homemade rub, baste them with apple cider, grill them with plenty of hickory smoke and serve them with a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. The ribs need to marinate for at least 4 hours, so plan accordingly.Plus: More Grilling Recipes and Tips

Cider-Basted Baby Back Ribs with Lemon Barbecue Sauce
Photo: © William Meppem


  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons light brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sweet paprika

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 2 racks baby back pork ribs (about 4 pounds)

  • 2 cups hickory chips

  • 2 cups apple cider

  • Vegetable oil, for the grill

  • Lemon Barbecue Sauce


  1. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar with the paprika, salt, garlic and pepper. Rub the seasonings all over the ribs, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or for up to 8 hours.

  2. Soak the hickory chips in 1 cup of the cider for 30 minutes, then drain. Light a grill and set it up for indirect grilling. If using charcoal, when the fire is medium hot, rake the coals into two piles on opposite sides of the grill. Place a foil drip pan in the center of the grill. If using a gas grill, light the front and rear or outside burners.

  3. Scatter the wood chips over the charcoal. If using a gas grill, place the chips in the smoker box or on a 12-inch square of foil; fold the foil into a 6-inch square and poke 12 holes in the top. Place the package near the flames and heat until smoking. Cover the grill and adjust the vents until the temperature registers 325°.

  4. Pour the remaining 1 cup of apple cider into a spray bottle. Spray both sides of the ribs with the cider. Lightly brush the grate with oil. Set the ribs, bone side down, on the grill directly over the drip pan or between the 2 burners of a gas grill. Cover and cook for 35 minutes, spraying the ribs with cider twice. Turn the ribs and add more hot coals to the fire if needed, letting the coals burn uncovered for about 10 minutes. Cover and grill the ribs until very tender, spraying with cider two more times, about 40 minutes longer. Lightly brush both sides of the ribs with the Lemon Barbecue Sauce and move them directly over the fire. Grill until deeply browned, about 2 minutes per side.

  5. Serve the ribs with the remaining barbecue sauce.


Cooking Club Tip Baby back ribs are the meaty pork ribs cut from the lower back rib section. Before rubbing the ribs with the spice mixture, you might have to remove the thin, silvery membrane on the back of the ribs, which can prevent the rub from seeping into the meat. You can pull the membrane off in one piece with your fingers, using a clean dishtowel to help you get a secure grip.

Suggested Pairing


Chilled beer is the best accompaniment for a tangy-sweet barbecue sauce and a refreshing contrast to these richly flavored ribs. Go for a lager-style bottling, such as Dos Equis from Mexico or Lone Star from Texas.

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