Perfectly caramelized and full of flavor, these smoked baby back ribs are hands-down the best. Just look at that finish! Tender, succulent ribs are glazed with our special sauce for the taste you will seriously crave.
🍽️ Why This Works
Crave-worthy and Tender Ribs. These melt-in-your-mouth smoked ribs will have you coming back again and again!
Glazed to perfection. This whiskey glaze is to-die-for. It is definitely worth the added time to finish them off.
Quick and easy. As smoking goes, this is a relatively short smoke time so if you want to smoke some meat for lunch and don’t want to start in the middle of the night, these smoked baby back ribs are a great choice.
📝 Ingredient Notes
Baby Back Ribs – Make sure you get plenty because everyone is going to love them. These little “baby” ribs come from the backbone and have the curve from the spine of the pig. Don’t let these babies fool you. They might be small in size (the largest section usually runs about six inches and down to the smallest section at three inches) but these tender ribs are large on flavor, especially when comparing these to the St Louis Style Ribs.
Coca Cola – Adds sweetness and a slight bitter edge to the outside of the meat and prepares it for the glaze.
Whiskey – You need the whiskey because it helps tenderize this meat. It also adds incredible depth of flavor. If you want the best smoked baby back ribs, whiskey is not really optional. It does not matter what kind you use. We used Small Batch 1792 Bourbon.
Dry Rub – We used The Gospel All Purpose Rub. Your favorite rub of choice will work. A mixture of herbs and spices will bring out the best in your meat. Be reasonably generous with it.
Brown Sugar – Use light or dark brown sugar, it doesn’t matter. Dark brown sugar will add more molasses flavor as well as sweetness.
Butter – This gives the glaze thickness and helps it stick to the meat.
⏲️ Equipment and Tools
Smoker | We used our Big Green Egg but the method works the same for the Traeger, Camp Chef, Masterbuilt or Weber.
Wood Chunks or Chips | We could go on and on about how much we love the sweet smokey flavor of the Bourbon Barrel Chunks. Look for these at your favorite BBQ shop or online.
BBQ Tongs | Pull out the long BBQ tongs that all men get for gifts, as you want to keep your hands as far away from the heat as possible.
Step One: Combine the all purpose rub and the brown sugar in a bowl and mix well. Rub it all over the meat.
Step Two: Heat up the smoker to 225-250°F. Put the ribs on the grate. Make sure you put it in meat side down if you want a stronger smoke flavor in the meat. Smoke for 4 to 4.5 hours.
Bend Method: You’ll know they are ready when you lift off the rack of ribs off the grill with the tongs, they BEND down. If they bend OUT, they are not quite ready yet. You are looking for them to be limp as that means the connective tissues have adequately broken down.
Step Three: While the meat is smoking, combine the brown sugar, butter and whiskey in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil until it is thick which should take 4-6 minutes. Stir or whisk to keep the glaze mixed well. It will be thin like a syrup.
Step Four: When the ribs are done, spritz them with Coca Cola. I used a cheap spray bottle to do this. The carbonation in the soda will make it spit out from the spray so don’t keep it sealed on unless you are ready to actually spray the ribs.
Step Five: Then start applying the whiskey sauce 2-3 times. I like to apply, close the lid and wait a couple minutes. Apply again and do the same thing for a total of 2-3 times. This will create a harder bark on the outside and the layered flavors are insanely delicious.
Step Six: Enjoy your smoked baby back ribs!
❗ Recipe Tips and Tricks
The ribs are ready for glaze and finish when they bed down toward the grill like something is pulling on them. If they flare out to the side when you lift them up in the middle, they are not quite ready for basting.
We served our ribs with melted butter for dipping. Oh my.
The Bourbon Barrel Blocks for smoking (shown in one of the images above) are amazing for this recipe. Bourbon-flavored smoke. How could it get any better than that? This is one of the most genius uses of old whiskey barrels I’ve ever seen.
Remove the silver membrane from the surface of the ribs if there is one. This “silver skin” is unpleasantly chewy when left on. It can usually be cut in one corner and then peeled off fairly easily.
Rest your meat. When you remove the ribs from the smoker, wrap them in foil for a short rest while you bring everything and everyone to the table. This allows the meat to rest and redistribute juices.
Make sure there is room for air to circulate around each rack of ribs in your smoker.
Be generous with the rub and give it plenty of time to soak into the meat if possible. Thirty minutes wrapped in plastic wrap after applying the rub will improve the flavor and moisture in the meat.
🧑🍳 Storage and Reheating
Keep leftover ribs in the refrigerator in a plastic zipper bag for two or three days. Even though they will be in the refrigerator, use a freezer-quality baggy to keep out odors. You can also use an airtight container.
To reheat the ribs, use the microwave or oven. Skillets work inefficiently because the ribs are curved and the meat can’t all touch the surface. You can also cut the meat off the bones for reheating if you want. We give you all the deeper details in our post about How to Reheat Ribs.
Prepare and add the dry rub mixture to the ribs one or two days before you want to smoke them. This gives the rub time to soak into the meat and redistribute moisture. It is not critical though.
If you prepare the sauce ahead of time, make sure to refrigerate it in a sealed jar or container until you are ready for it. Save the extra as long as you aren’t dipping your baster into the mixture, then onto the meat, and then back into the mixture. To avoid this, portion out the sauce and keep untouched sauce in the refrigerator for one or two weeks.
Additions and Substitutions
I love the combination of a dry rub and a sticky glaze for lip-smacking flavor. If you don’t want to purchase a rub, make this one or this one.
Technically, you can use any of your favorite sauces. But trust me when I tell you, you need to try this homemade whiskey glaze. Have I mentioned how good it is?
Spritzing the meat with Coca Cola helps keep it from drying out and also ever-so-slightly tenderizes the surface to prepare it for the glaze. This is very subtle but effective from the acidity in the soda. You can use a different soda such as root beer or Cherry Coke if you prefer.
If you don’t want to use whiskey or bourbon (a specialized whiskey) you can use beer. It will change the flavor but still be tasty. When having a cookout, try making a few racks with different sauces. Grab the Honey Mustard Sauce, Honey Sriracha Sauce, Dr Pepper Sauce, Habanero BBQ Sauce, Cherry Bourbon BBQ Sauce, Bourbon Honey Mustard Glaze, Smoked Pumpkin Bourbon BBQ Sauce or Beer BBQ Sauce.
Serve your whiskey-glazed ribs with some delicious sides like cheesy potato skins, Grilled Roasted Root Vegetables, Asian Bacon Green Bean Bundles or Baked Beans.
❓ Recipe FAQ
These ribs come from a pig and are located between the spine and loin sections. Proximity to the loin means that the baby back ribs include some of the most tender meat on the pig. Baby back ribs are best slow-smoked or slow roasted.
4-5 hours at 225-250ºF until the ribs bend downward when lifted in the middle.
225ºF-250ºF is our recommendation for a nice slow smoke that results in tender, buttery ribs.
No. I do not recommend freezing ribs on the bone. If you want to freeze the meat, remove it from the bone and dice it up to use later in a soup or beans for amazing flavor.
Look for a thicker portion of meat on the front of the ribs, which comes from the loin. This is the best, most tender meat on the pig. You want your ribs meaty to take advantage of that tenderness.
To check for doneness, try to pull the meat away from the bone with a fork. Whether you want a little more firm meat or fall-off-the-bone tender, this is the easiest way to tell. A meat thermometer is ineffective because of the sheer amount of bone and the thinness of the cut. That being said, the internal temperature should be around 203ºF which is when the last of the connective tissue will break down.
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Smoked Baby Back Ribs
- Mixing Bowl
- Meat Tongs
- Smoking Wood
- 2 tbsp All Purpose Rub we used Gospel
- 2 tbsp Brown Sugar
Whiskey BBQ Glaze
- ½ cup Whiskey
- ½ cup Brown Sugar
- 1 stick Unsalted Butter
Baby Back Ribs
- 1 rack Baby Back Ribs
- Coca Cola
- Combine the all purpose rub and the brown sugar in a bowl and mix well.
- Combine the brown sugar, butter and whiskey in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil until it is thick which should take 4-6 minutes. Stir or whisk to keep the glaze mixed well. It will be thin like a syrup.
Baby Back Ribs
- Rub the ribs on both sides of the ribs.
- Heat up the smoker to 225-250 degrees. Put the ribs on the grate. MEAT SIDE DOWN IF YOU WANT A STRONGER SMOKE FLAVOR.
- Smoke for 4 to 4.5 hours until when you use the tongs to lift of the rack of ribs, they BEND down. If they bend OUT, they are not quite ready yet. You are looking for them to be limp.
- Apply the whiskey glaze 2-3 times. I like to apply, close the lid and wait a couple minutes. Apply again and do the same thing for a total of 2-3 times. This will create a harder bark on the outside.
- Remove from the smoker and let the ribs rest for 10 minutes or so.