Slow-Roasted Barbeque Spare Ribs

Mary Anne here. My family LOVES to throw down…and no one more so than my brother Steve. Steve lives on the water in Rhode Island and has just about as many parties as there are weekends in a year! The home he shares with his wife and three daughters has become our official family reunion epicenter. And we’ll use just about any excuse to get together and enjoy tubing off the back of his boat, sipping Margaritas in his hot tub, and then feasting on a family effort of flavorful food. Steve’s wife, Martha, facilitates his efforts by organizing, shopping (often she can be found in a grocery store when most people are in bed!) and endlessly cleaning up after us. She is an amazingly good sport when the Ellicott clan descends upon her home!

Steve calls me frequently with questions about how to prepare, plan, and execute various fiestas he’s hosting. He’s an incredible home-chef, and while I have taught him many techniques in food prep and shared a multitude of my recipes, I am in awe of his mastery over all things grilled. When I need advice in the backyard arena, his phone number is the first thing I reach for.

The following recipe uses my rub and homemade BBQ sauce, but the execution is all Steve’s. He has admitted to me that his incredible ribs are sauced with store-bought BBQ, so clearly the flavor is in the way he patiently slow-roasts the pork before it hits the heat of the grill. If you find BBQ sauce on sale, go for it! Otherwise, try this one as it takes less than 20 minutes of actual prep time and then another 45 minutes to simmer with just the occasional stir.

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Slow-Roasted Barbeque Spare Ribs
Serves 6

Ingredients for the Rub (enough for a 5-6 lb. rack of ribs):
5 to 6 lb rack of pork spareribs – $10.85
NOTE: I prefer pork ribs over beef and I never buy baby back ribs (cut from the pork loin), as they are incredibly expensive. The ribs I purchased for this rendering were on sale at my local market for $1.99 a pound.
1 Tablespoon kosher salt – stock
1 Tablespoon cracked black pepper – stock
1 Tablespoon chili powder – stock
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar, firmly packed – stock
1 ½ Tablespoons paprika – stock
1 Tablespoon onion flakes – stock
1 Teaspoon ground ginger – stock

Ingredients for the BBQ Sauce:
Makes 1 quart
2 Tablespoons olive oil – stock
1 large Vidalia onion, finely chopped – $0.79
3 cloves garlic, minced – stock
1 – 6 oz. can tomato paste – $0.69
1 – 28 oz. can tomato puree – $1.79
2 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar, firmly packed stock
2 Tablespoons unsulfured molasses – stock
¼ cup orange Juice – $0.69
2 Tablespoons Dijon-style mustard – stock
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce – stock
½ Teaspoon cayenne pepper – stock
2 ½ Tablespoons freshly grated Ginger – $0.59
1 Teaspoon paprika – stock
2 Teaspoons chili powder – stock
1 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Grand Total Assuming Well-Stocked Pantry: $15.40
Total Per Serving: $2.57

Rub Directions:
1. Combine all of the seasonings and grind to a powdery substance using either a mortar and pestle or the back of a round soup spoon.

2. Rub onto both sides of the rack of ribs; really massage well.

3. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. This begins the tenderizing process.

BBQ Sauce Directions:
1. Heat the oil in a heavy Dutch Oven (or a heavy skillet if you don’t have a Dutch Oven). Sauté the onion over medium-high flame for 10 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add the garlic and sauté an additional 5 minutes.

3. Add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a bubble (it doesn’t really boil as it’s a thick mix). Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes until thick and the tomatoes have lost much of their acidity. Store in the fridge until ready to grill.

Directions for Slow-Cooking the Ribs:
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

2. Choose a roasting pan large enough to accommodate the rack. If needed, you can cut the rack into more manageable pieces if your pans aren’t large enough to roast it whole.

3. Set a metal rack or invert a muffin tin into the bottom of the roasting pan. Fill with water, about ¼ inch up from the bottom. Place the prepared ribs on top of the metal rack or inverted muffin tin (the water should not be touching the meat.) Cover with foil.

4. Roast in the oven for 4 to 4 ½ hours. This method produces the tenderest spare rib you’ll ever taste! Just be sure not to over cook them or they’ll be falling off the bones before you can get them onto the grill! I start checking them about 3 ½ hours into the cooking time. They’re done when a fork easily lifts the meat from the bone.

5. As soon as the ribs come out of the oven, slather them up on both sides with the BBQ sauce. After 15 minutes, repeat the “slathering” step. You will be amazed how the pork absorbs the sauce! ( **These can be prepared up to this point the day before. If you do that, wrap in foil and store in the fridge. Bring the meat back to room temperature before proceeding.)

6. Preheat the grill. When hot, sear the ribs, about 5 minutes on each side. Be careful not to burn them. Transfer to a cutting board. To carve, cut one side of each rib close to the bone. Repeat down the line and then transfer the pieces to a serving platter.

7. Serve with the BBQ sauce on the side and reams of paper napkins!


  1. Jimmy says

    I tried the slow cooked method you described here and they turned out great! I didn’t have time to put together the rub and sauce, but used a bottle of barbecue sauce from a well known Kansas City establishment. Thanks, keep up the good work!

    • feastonthecheap says

      Terrific! I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed them. They’re definitely my fave rendition but I’m a little biased…

  2. Bob says

    Thanks for the recipe !!! The ribs are in the oven slow cooking as I write this email. What an easy recipe which I’m sure by the smell will have great results. By the way I’m using store bought BBQ sauce like your brother. I guess I’m just a little lazy or just enjoying the pool and my beverage too much.

    • feastonthecheap says

      I’m so glad you’re trying out this recipe! My brother swears that using bottled BBQ sauce does not compromise the flavor. I’m pretty sure it’s all in the slow-roasting process. I’d definitely skip the homemade sauce in favor of lazing by a pool! Let us know how they turned out. And don’t forget to slather them with sauce as soon as they come out of the oven. The meat absorbs the sauce in a big way which makes them so delicious.

    • feastonthecheap says

      It was so nice to hear from you, Darlena, and we’re thrilled to know you’ve bookmarked our blog! We look forward to hearing from you again and encourage any and all comments and suggestions from our readers. Happy (Almost) Spring!

  3. Jan P says

    I used parts of ur recipe as I wanted twice cooked spare ribs. They turned out FANTASTIC! This is how I varied from ur recipe: when I was slow cooking them in the oven, I took whole peeled carrots and placed them under the racks; one carrot under each 1/2 rack. I then took an onion and wedged it into 4ths, then cut that into half and placed those pieces under the ends of each 1/2 rack. Ur recipe sounds like u have a lot of people, whereas I had only 4 to cook for making it a lot easier.
    The carrots and onions is from a recipe that a famous restaurant here in Canada uses to win rib feasts with. And u r absolutely right when u use the cheapest store bought BBQ sauce!… it’s the double cooking that counts. This restaurant always uses cheap sauce to cook the ribs in and then when they go on the grill that’s when they put a little bit of the good sauce on.
    Another secret that they have is that they always refrigerate the ribs after cooking them. Then when someone orders them they take them out and place them on the grill. The chef always said the flavors r better after they cool.
    Anyway, I am sated…beautiful ribs and a great bottle of local wine…life is good. Loved ur whole story.
    Sending love ur way,
    Jan P

    • feastonthecheap says

      Thank you so much for your raves and your comments!! We were thrilled to hear from you and just love the idea of using carrots and onions to “sweeten the pot”. My brother was the one that taught us to cook ’em twice, and I always slow roast them the day before I BBQ them. It definitely improves the final flavors, as they have that time in the fridge to really mellow and the flavors are all the richer for it. Sounds like you had a very successful, satisfying dinner. Wahoo! M & M

  4. Caiaphas says

    Concerning the rack vs. pan size: If I do not have a pan large enough to accommodate a whole rack and need to divide the rack, do the ribs still need to be single stacked in two pans, or can I double layer them in one?

    I’ll be trying this in 2 weeks, as my youngest recently fell in love with ribs! I’ll go whole hog and attempt the sauce as well!

    Just as Darlena, Bookmark!

    • feastonthecheap says

      I think it is better if you can use 2 pans, as this slow roast method truly is slow and if you stack them, it could take hours and hours longer before the meat is tender. Plus you would have to rotate them as they need to have the benefit of the steam bath. Long answer, but I just don’t want you to be tempted to put the divided rack in the same pan. I’ve had ribs that have taken 6+ hours for the slow roasting part, as they were particularly tough. The other option is to slow roast over the course of 2 days, if your oven won’t accommodate 2 pans. Just a thought…In any case, wonderful to hear from you and we’re delighted you are trying not only the method but the sauce. Last weekend we had a family reunion, and as usual, these ribs were front and center. Most likely the most beloved attendee of our reunion! Let us know how your ribs turn out! Best, M & M

  5. bJ says

    just finished my own version of BBQ sauce, similar to yours, but made with ketchup and red wine options. was looking for a slow roast recipe to use, not into boiling meat. thanks for what will be an excellent meal.

  6. Alice Olson says

    I’ve never successfully grilled ribs because I always thought they had to grill all day and, when I did that, they were black and tender as the sole of my husband’s dress shoes. Since my latest such debacle we’ve opted for a change of pace when it comes to ribs. We leave them in the oven for four hours as you describe and then just slather them with Thai Sweet Chili Sauce and put them under the broiler for 5 minutes. Delicious. Next time, I’ll try the barbecue sauce and the grill. This sounds easy — and that’s my favorite kind of recipe. Thanks.

    • feastonthecheap says

      So good to hear from you, Alice. I was thinking about you this past weekend – just random thoughts of SLC and naturally you appeared, center-stage, in my mind’s eye. Maybe we were working on ribs at the same time! I made a batch for the Labor Day holiday. Like you, I used to be totally intimidated by preparing this corner of pig heaven, but my brother’s recipe is fool proof. Hope all is well, and again – so happy to hear from you!

  7. Marc says

    Made these this past weekend. Absolutely amazing! So tender and juicy! You are correct in saying the secret’s in the rub. I tried making the BBQ sauce, but I must have screwed something up as it turned out to be more like marinara. A quick trip to the store fixed that. Will definitely make these again, hopefully with homemade sauce next time. Thanks!!

    • feastonthecheap says

      Hi Marc. So glad you liked the ribs but wondering what happened to your BBQ sauce. It is largely tomato based, but no way it should have tasted like a marinara. Curious as to where you went wrong. Cheers!

      • Marc says

        I don’t know, but I’m sure it was me as I tend to have issues making sauces and soups. Doesn’t matter though, because they were amazing and I’m making them again for a Memorial Day cookout!! Thanks!

  8. laura zumer says

    kinda funny actually…I have a rack of ribs and searched for a “slow roast then grill” kinda recipe. I am going to make them today. But the reason for my post is a little different. I don’t usually comment or reply to anything on the web. I am more of a lurk and leave kinda gal. I have a 14yr old son who is writing a research paper. Maybe I was just caught up in that frame of mind but your article, (blog, into, description) about your family and how you get together, was SO well written. I really enjoyed it. I will share it with my son to show him great writing techniques with transition sentences and choice of descriptive words. Very well done. Hope my ribs turn out as well. Thanks Laura


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