Updated: May 3
Want to try out a delicious rib recipe but nervous about using a smoker? Look no further than these glorious Sticky Balsamic Ribs! This recipe (adapted from epicurious.com) starts by baking baby back ribs in a hot oven first and then finishing them on the grill- they aren't "authentic" BBQ ribs but hey, if you don't tell, I sure won't! The ribs become extremely tender wrapped in foil in the oven, and then develop smoky flavor and a glossy, crispy bark on the grill. If the weather is nasty or you don't have access to a grill, they can also be finished in a grill pan or under a broiler- they're able to satisfy your family and guests year round! However, for me, ribs signal summer time. They're best accompanied by cole slaw and cold beer, preferably eaten outside on a picnic bench on a warm evening. I love swapping flavors from other countries into recipes that are distinctly American- here, traditional Tuscan ingredients (rosemary, balsamico, and garlic) pair perfectly with baby back pork ribs. The syrupy balsamic glaze serves as an outstanding rib rack lacquer and BBQ sauce! It's actually the same recipe I use on my Pork Chops Agrodolce- pork and balsamic make a beautiful couple. These ribs will brown up nicely on the grill as the sugars begin to caramelize- don't fear the char! That blackened bark is pure flavor. I like to serve these both as appetizers for a larger party or as an entree for a smaller group. You can easily double, triple, or quadruple this recipe to serve a crowd. Also, you can bake these ribs up to a day ahead of time and then throw them on the grill when you’re ready to eat- this is a great make-ahead entertaining recipe. No one will leave hungry after feasting on these succulent, sticky baby backs! Get your grill fired up- it's rib season!
prep time: 4 hrs. 15 min. (Includes marinating) cook time: ~1 hr. 50 min. serves: 6 as an entree
2 racks baby back pork ribs (about 2 lbs each)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp minced rosemary
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup water, divided
heavy duty non-stick aluminum foil
1 cup balsamic vinegar (or 1/2 cup balsamic and 1/2 cup BBQ sauce *see note)
1 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 rosemary sprig
3 tbsp butter
For the ribs, combine the garlic, rosemary, sugar, balsamic, salt, black pepper, and red pepper in a bowl. Divide the rub evenly between the two racks and massage it all over the ribs- top and bottom. Allow the rib racks to marinate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours in the fridge (this is an optional step, but recommended).
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425°. Take the ribs out of the fridge and place each rack on a large, wide sheet of non-stick aluminum foil. Begin to wrap each rack in the foil, pouring 1/4 cup of water into the foil “packet” (not directly on top of the ribs) before crimping and folding the foil to seal tightly. Place the individually wrapped racks on a large sheet pan or in a large roasting pan and place on a middle rack in the oven to cook about 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hours, until the meat is very tender. Rotate the pan a few times during cooking.
While the ribs bake, make the glaze: combine the balsamic, water, honey, rosemary sprig, and salt in a small sauce pan. Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer, allowing the glaze to reduce by half, about 15-20 minutes. Off the heat, remove the rosemary sprig and stir in the butter to melt. *I ran out of balsamic vinegar the other day and so subbed 1/2 cup of my favorite BBQ sauce in for half of the balsamic- they turned out great! More of a traditional BBQ flavor... try it if you like! I love both ways.
Preheat the grill to med-high heat and spray with non stick oil. When the grill is at temperature, place the rib racks on the grill flesh side up- brush the tops of the ribs thickly with the glaze. Flip to grill about 3-5 minutes, brushing the underside of the ribs with more glaze. Flip again once the top is well caramelized and grill another 3 minutes to brown the underside of the ribs- they should be starting to char on the outside. Slice into 1 or 2 rib portions and serve with more glaze on the side.
*Ribs can roasted in the oven and chilled up to 24 hrs ahead of time. If making ahead, bring ribs to room temperature and proceed with recipe as written.