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Balsamic Baby Back Ribs Recipe

Balsamic Baby Back Ribs – sweet, zesty & full of hearty flavor. Fall-off-the-bone tender! With Rosemary, Cayenne, Brown Sugar, & Balsamic.
Course Entree
Cuisine American
Keyword Baby Back Ribs
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 16 hours
Total Time 16 hours 30 minutes
Servings 12 Servings
Calories 678 kcal
Author Holly Sander


For The Rub:

  • Extra-wide heavy duty aluminum foil
  • 1 Large sized disposable aluminum roasting pan
  • 10 pounds baby back pork ribs – also sold as “pork loin back ribs” (3 large racks)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt & pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh finely chopped rosemary
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 13 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder

For The Balsamic BBQ Sauce:

  • 1 ¼ cups balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne (more if you like it spicy)
  • rib cooking liquids


Rub & Marinate The Ribs:

  1. Combine all ingredients for the rub in a medium bowl. Mix well.
  2. Tear off three pieces of foil at least 8 inches longer than the racks of ribs. Place them where you have easy access to them, shiny side facing down.
  3. Spoon 1/3 of the rub over one rack of ribs and coat thoroughly. Then place the rack meat-side down onto a piece of foil.
  4. Carefully bring together the long edges of the foil, then roll them together down toward the ribs. Close and roll up the short ends of the foil to seal the ribs for cooking.
  5. Transfer all the foil-enclosed ribs to the aluminum roasting pan. If you have three racks of ribs, you can stack the third one right on top of the other two.
  6. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 12 hours.

Slow-Cook The Ribs:

  1. Place oven rack in center position, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place baking tray with ribs in the oven. Cook at 350 for the first 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 and bake for another 90 minutes.
  3. After the first 2 hours, rotate the foil packets. Leave the temperature at 300 and cook for another 90 minutes.
  4. At this point check to be sure the ribs are done: leaving the ribs in the baking tray, carefully open one end of one foil packet. (Be careful the steam is extremely hot.) You should see that the meat has started to pull away from the bone. Gently test with a fork to ensure that they are tender and give easily, but still hold their shape to be able to survive grilling or broiling. Check multiple foil packets in the same way. If they need more time, re-seal the foil and return them to the oven for another 15-30 minutes.
  5. Carefully pour all the cooking liquid from the ribs into a large saucepan. If desired, skim off fat. Gently place the ribs on a large cookie sheet with the bone side down and set aside. Discard the foil that was used to bake the ribs.

Make Balsamic BBQ Sauce & Grill The Ribs:

  1. Add the additional balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and cayenne to the saucepan with cooking liquids. Mix thoroughly over medium heat, and bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Allow it to cook long enough to reduce somewhat and thicken… usually about 15-20 minutes. The result should be somewhere around 1½ cups of sauce.
  2. Using a basting brush, cover the meat side of ribs with the sauce. Don’t worry about the bone side at this point.
  3. Thoroughly oil grill grates using paper towels and canola or olive oil, then bring grill to 450 degrees.
  4. Place ribs bone-side down on the grill, cook with lid closed for 3 minutes.
  5. Gently turn the ribs over, meat side down. Brush the bone side of the ribs with a small amount of BBQ sauce. Leave the grill open, and closely monitor the ribs during this step! Grill the ribs long enough to caramelize, without burning them. You may need to adjust grill heat as necessary to achieve this, but normally this takes around 5 minutes. Place the grilled ribs bone-side down onto a cookie sheet, then re-apply BBQ sauce over the meat side.

Recipe Notes

This cook time includes 12 hours of marinating.

Some recipes advise removing the thin membrane from the bone side of the ribs when prepping them but we don't find this necessary (marinating the ribs 12+ hours and using a "low-and-slow" cooking method help break down the membrane). However, if you want to remove the membrane, use a knife to loosen it from the bone at one end of the rack... then use a paper towel to get a firm grip and gently peel the membrane away from the bone.

If no extra-wide heavy duty foil is available to you...
- You can combine two regular-size pieces of foil to create the needed size. Just cut off two long sheets, lay them next to each other with the long sides slightly overlapping, and roll/crimp them together.
- Also, you should consider using two layers of foil for each rack of ribs to ensure the bones don’t puncture the foil.

When baking the ribs, be very careful not to overcook them! Otherwise they tend to fall apart before you’ve gotten them onto the grill.

For the final cooking step you can broil instead of grilling. This is helpful when the ribs have been over-cooked in the baking step and just won’t hold together well on the open fire, or if a grill is not available.
- Just raise the oven rack to the broiler height, place the ribs meat-side up on a broiler tray or cookie sheet, and broil until ribs start to caramelize. Just like grilling, this should take around 5-10 minutes max, and you want to watch the ribs carefully to make sure they don’t burn.
- When done, apply a little more BBQ sauce to the meat side of the ribs. Also, if you use the broiler, it is not necessary to flip the ribs over during this step.