Bourbon Barbecued Pork Baby Back Ribs

| July 15, 2011 | 0 Comments

Summer is finally here. At least, I think it is. It’s been a mild one so far and we haven’t cracked 90 degrees yet in this part of Oregon while parts of the rest of the country have had sweltering heat. The long, sunny, mild days mean that we, as well as all of the neighbors on our block, have been dusting off our barbecue grills and firing them up. And on early evenings, we can tell who’s grilling for dinner as we scan the backyards for smoke signals, and inevitably the heavenly aroma of grilling chicken, beef or pork comes wafting our way.

Being an ex-Texan, I believe that barbecue aficionados can be divided into two camps: those who prefer rubs and those who prefer sauces. The methods are similar in that they impart sweet and salty flavors to the meat. But there they part ways. Rubs are dry. Sauces are, well, wet. I’m a saucy kinda guy. Whenever I’m craving barbecue, I’m always amazed when I’m at the grocery store and see people plying the grocery store aisle for barbecue sauce. Why? It’s so incredibly easy to make. And it’s also incredibly easy to make it uniquely yours by adding your favorite spices and seasonings. Heck, even liquor (hiccup). Soy sauce, hoisin sauce, beer, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, apple cider, bourbon, whiskey, paprika, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce—I’ve used all of these at one time or another in barbecue sauce.

Because we’re a beef-free household (Mom doesn’t eat beef), we tend to favor chicken leg quarters and pork baby back ribs as our meats of choice for barbecuing. I like the leg quarters because the bones and fat content mean that the meat is less likely to dry out on the grill. And pork baby back ribs are so much easier to manage at the dinner table than full-sized ribs. I always start out making the sauce early and marinating the meat for a few hours in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to penetrate the flesh. And when using leg quarters, I puncture the meat with an ice pick, fork or metal skewer so that the sauce flavors get through the skin and soak in.

Now that I’ve given you some of my tricks. Here’s a delicious and easy sauce recipe to try the next time you’re going to grill. But really, make it your own by adapting it. And let me know how it turns out. Also, because this sauce has brown sugar, make sure you cover your grill with the lid or your meat will turn to cinders before it cooks because the sugar will burn. A little carbonization is good, but you don’t want it to turn into a lump of coal.

Bourbon Barbecued Pork Baby Back Ribs

Serves 4-6


  1. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) oil
  2. 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  3. 1 cup (240 ml.) finely chopped white or yellow onion
  4. 1 15-ounce (500 ml.) can of tomato sauce
  5. 1 cup (240 ml.) water
  6. 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute
  7. ½ cup (120 ml.) brown sugar
  8. ¼ cup (60 ml.) bourbon
  9. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) Worcestershire sauce
  10. 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) balsamic vinegar
  11. 2 pounds (908 g.) pork baby back ribs


  • In a saucepan, heat the oil and sweat the garlic and onion.
  • When onion turns translucent, add all of the remaining ingredients except the pork and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring to melt the brown sugar.
  • Let sauce cool and pour into large plastic ZipLoc plastic bag and add the ribs. Seal the bag and massage it so that the ribs are coated with the sauce. Refrigerate for at least an hour. (Note: if you want to have a little sauce available to add to the ribs at the table, set aside a quarter of a cup in a ramekin before you pour it into the plastic bag.)
  • Grill the pork until done and serve with your favorite sides.


— Vic


Category: Meat, Pork

About the Author (Author Profile)

Victor Panichkul is a journalist and writer by training; a cook, wine lover and photographer by passion; and a lover of the outdoors since moving to Oregon more than 10 years ago. He is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.

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