When it comes to deciding what type of ribs to cook, you have basically two choices: spareribs and baby back ribs.

Spareribs are cut from the ribs closest to the belly and are meaty, bony and thick. Baby back ribs are cut from where the rib meets the spine. They’re only called “baby” because they are shorter and thinner than spareribs; they don’t refer to the age of the pig. Each baby back rib rack aver- ages 10 or so curved ribs that are 4 to 6 inches long and weighs about 1 1/2 pounds, which easily feeds two people as a main course.

Baby back ribs also typically have a slightly higher price tag, but they are generally leaner, more tender and quicker cooking.

Serve with Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce (see related recipe).

MAKE AHEAD: Rubbed with the spice mixture, the ribs need to sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature, and then refrigerated overnight.


1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup sweet paprika

2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt

1 tablespoon granulated garlic (garlic powder)

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon piment d'espelette, Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes, or as needed

2 racks baby back ribs (2 3/4 to 3 pounds total; see OVERVIEW)

Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce, for serving (see related recipe)


Step 1

Use a fork to stir together the brown sugar, paprika, salt, granulated garlic, black pepper and your choice of red pepper in a small bowl. The yield is 3/4 to 1 cup.

Step 2

Coat each set of baby back ribs with half the spice rub mixture, rubbing it into the meat all over. Let them sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Place in a resealable plastic container or seal in plastic wrap. If you use the latter, make sure to place the wrapped ribs on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any seeping liquid, due to the salt in the rub. Refrigerate overnight.

Step 3

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a wire cooling rack on the sheet. Grease the rack with cooking oil spray.

Step 4

Unwrap/uncover the ribs and place them side by side on the prepared baking sheet. (If you have time, let them come to room temperature here.) Roast (middle rack) for about 2 hours, or until the ribs are done and a knife slides easily into the thickest part of the rib meat.

Step 5

Let the ribs rest for about 10 minutes, covered loosely with foil, and then cut between the bones to separate the individual ribs. Serve right away, with the barbecue sauce for dipping.

Adapted from “Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South,” by Virginia Willis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018).

Tested by Carolyn Stanek Lucy; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

Did you make this recipe? Take a photo and tag us on Instagram with #eatvoraciously.

For a printer-friendly and scalable version of this recipe, view it here.

The nutritional analysis is based on 6 servings.


Calories: 560; Total Fat: 38 g; Saturated Fat: 14 g; Cholesterol: 145 mg; Sodium: 1290 mg; Carbohydrates: 12 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 8 g; Protein: 41 g.