Baby Back Ribs with an Asian Twist

baby-back-ribsI love baby back ribs. Maybe it’s because they seem to have more meat and a less pronounced pork flavor. Growing up just hearing that ribs were on the menu would make me happy. Fourth of July at our house always meant a barbecue blazing with porterhouse steaks and plenty of baby back ribs. My mom relied on teriyaki sauce for the steaks and a sweet tomato based barbecue sauce for the ribs.

Through the years I have experimented with different ways to cook baby back ribs and different sauces to complement them. Despite being a California girl, I never learned the ins and outs of proper barbecue techniques. Usually it was throw the ribs on the barbecue and brush sauce on them a few minutes before they were done so the sauce wouldn’t burn the ribs.

I have found that first marinating the ribs and then baking them in a 325F degree oven enclosed in aluminum foil, essentially steaming them, results in a moist and very tender slab of ribs. An extra bonus is that this can be done a day ahead, cooled and refrigerated.

This marinade combines the slightly sweet soybean flavored hoisin sauce with honey and rice wine vinegar for an Asian-style glaze that is a fun twist on classic sweet American barbecue sauce. You can also try this method with fruit sauces or chutneys.

If you’re wondering what to serve with these tasty morsels, consider simple coleslaw flavored with a bit of chopped cilantro. Grilled corn on the cob would be just right with the ribs. A platter of grilled vegetables drizzled with vinaigrette would round out the menu and offer choices for everyone at the table. For an easy dessert, how about fresh summer berries with sliced pound cake? To drink I like ice-cold Chinese beer or dry Rose.

Help is on the Way:

  • When you are selecting ribs I prefer the meaty and less fatty baby back ribs, sometimes called loin ribs. They have a covering of meat over the bones and also between them that makes them leaner and meatier than spare ribs. They are shorter and smaller than spareribs. They are a bit more costly than spare ribs but I think well worth it.
  • Look for racks that have significant meat on the ribs and not a lot of fat. It’s best to purchase fresh ribs that have not been frozen.
  • Sometimes you will find the smallest ribs cut up and called Chinese-style ribs. These are the small ribs from the end of the loin rack. You can substitute these individual ribs if you prefer; these make a great appetizer.
  • Use this marinade on pork tenderloin or chicken.
  • This may be prepared 1 day ahead through step 4, covered and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before grilling.

Hoisin-Honeyed Baby Back Ribs

Serves 4-6


1/2 cup hoisin Sauce

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons oil

1 scallion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

4 pounds pork loin ribs cut Chinese style or baby-back ribs

  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Place the ribs in a jumbo plastic sealable bag. Add the marinade to the ribs and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours, turning occasionally.
  1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
  1. Place the ribs on a piece of foil large enough to wrap tightly without any holes. Place the package in a large roasting pan and bake for 1 hour. Or alternately, place the ribs in a roasting pan and cover well.
  1. Remove the ribs from the oven. Remove the ribs from the foil, drain and reserve the juice and place in a dish.
  1. Prepare the barbecue for medium-heat grilling. Grill the ribs about 3 inches from the flame for 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until they reach the desired doneness, basting occasionally with the remaining marinade, making sure they do not burn. Place on a serving platter and serve with the reserved juices, if desired.

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