From marinating and cooking to recipes
You can cook spare ribs in all kinds of different ways and that also makes it a lot of fun. Below we will answer the questions: What actually is a spare rib? How do you make the ideal spare rib? When is it ready? And which marinade should you use?
Finally, we will share a number of recipes with you for inspiration on cooking spare ribs.
What are spare ribs?
A spare rib consists of a piece of thirteen ribs. Spare ribs are lower in the ribcage of the pork and come from both the abdomen and the ribcage. The meat is all around the bones, so both on the bones and in between.
They should always be cooked as a whole, over low heat and slowly. They are therefore ideal for roasting on the barbecue or cooking in the oven. A spare rib is perfect for marinating. For this, both spicy and sweet marinades are suitable.
The spare rib is one of the most popular cuts of meat. Although it is also known as lean ribs or pork ribs, “spare ribs” remains the most popularly known name.
What does a spare rib consist of?
A spare rib consists of different parts. Below is a description of the different parts.
The outside of the meat. This is the first thing you taste when eating the rib. This will turn dark brown during cooking. It consists of smoke, a marinade and fat.
This is the layer just below the crust. If the color is red to pink, then the smoke has done its job well.
This part is colored gray and should be al dente. It is important that it is not too soft, because a spare rib tastes best when it has a bite.
A spare rib has some fat. Although still unknown to some, but fat gives flavor to the meat. Therefore, do not remove it beforehand, because it gives a rich flavor to the meat. Part of the fat melts away and part of the fat remains.
With a perfect spare rib, you basically suck the meat off the bone. The bone barely sticks to the meat. If you can pull the bone out of the meat without resistance, the meat is overcooked.
The difference between spare ribs and baby back ribs
You’ve probably heard it: baby back ribs. But what is that? And how is it different from spare ribs?
Baby back ribs are cut from the backbone of the pig. They consist of 11 to 13 bones and weigh between 900 and 1,300 grams. They are tender and streaked with fat.
The difference with spare ribs is that spare ribs are lower in the ribcage of the pig. They are slightly meatier, fatter and slightly tougher than baby back ribs. As a result, spare ribs require a longer cooking time than baby back ribs.
Which marinade can you use?
The nice and tasty thing about spare ribs is that you can use various types of marinades. It doesn’t matter if the marinade is sweet or spicy. In addition, it can be either a wet or dry marinade.
A wet marinade
A wet spare rib marinade is a moist mixture. It consists of different herbs and spices combined with water, oil, sweet soy sauce or another liquid medium.
Adding an acidic liquid to the marinade will also make the meat more tender. Acids and enzymes break down the proteins in the meat. This makes the meat softer.
A dry marinade (dry rub)
A dry marinade is known to most people as a dry rub. This is a mix of herbs and spices without the addition of a liquid substance.
A dry rub is only used as a seasoning. In addition, it also provides a crispier crust. Because of the salt present in the rub, moisture is extracted from the surface of the meat.
Be creative, look up recipes and try out different spare rib marinades.
How to cook spare ribs?
Cooking a spare rib consists of several steps. It starts with buying the right spare rib, followed by the preparation and cooking. Below is an explanation of the different steps.
1. Buying the right spare rib
A spare rib consists of fat and meat. Ask your butcher for a proper distribution. Most butchers offer spare ribs from the ribs. These are smaller than spare ribs from the belly. As a result, spare ribs from the belly require more cooking time. On the other hand, they do have more fat and flavor.
2. Preparing the meat
Before you get started, rinse your spare ribs under running water. This will remove loose splinters and grit. Then pat the meat dry.
2.1 Removing the membrane
The hollow side of the spare rib has a membrane. By removing this, you ensure that the smoke and marinade can properly be absorbed into the meat.
It can be difficult to remove the membrane the first time. Use a knife, pin or screwdriver. Place it in the center of the spare rib behind the membrane and pull up. You can then pull the membrane off with your fingers. You can use kitchen paper for this, so that you have more grip.
2.2 Cooking spare ribs: to do or not to do? (optional)
This step is optional. You actually cook spare ribs when you have little time or don’t feel like waiting for 4 hours. By cooking spare ribs beforehand, they need a shorter cooking time in the oven or on the barbecue.
We prefer to slowly cook spare ribs on the barbecue, because of the smoky taste, and therefore do not mind waiting a little longer.
Cooking the spare ribs can best be done in a broth. Bring a pan with 3 liters of water with (vegetable) stock to a boil. Add the spare ribs and let them cook for 30 minutes on a medium heat.
Remove them from the pan, pat them dry and let them cool.
2.3 Marinating spare ribs
After you have rinsed the spare ribs, cooked them if desired, you can marinate the spare ribs. Rub the meat with one of your favorite spare rib marinades. Use your index and middle fingers on both hands to do this. Do this on both sides of the meat.
Place the meat in a baking dish and cover it with foil. Then let it sit in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.
3. Finishing the cooking process
Now we are going to cook the spare ribs. This can be done in the oven or on the barbecue. The difference between these methods is that you can add wood chips when cooking spare ribs on the barbecue.
By doing this, you will smoke the meat with a certain taste, for example cherry or apple. This gives an extra flavor to the meat. That is also the reason why we prefer to cook spare ribs on the barbecue.
Roughly speaking, it comes down to the following when cooking a spare rib. Assuming a piece of 1-1.5 kg, the cooking process takes about 4 hours at a temperature of 110-125 °C. The meat is done when it pulls back about an inch from the end of the bone.
Below, we will assume that the spare ribs are not pre-cooked. If they are, you can safely subtract an hour from the cooking process. In addition, these are global steps for cooking spare ribs in the oven or on the barbecue. However, each recipe has its own steps, marinade and sauce. So, this can differ. Look at the bottom of the page for a specific spare rib recipe.
In the oven
- Preheat the oven to 125 °C.
- Place the spare ribs in an oven dish covered with aluminum foil. Place the baking dish in the oven and leave it for 2 hours.
- Heat the oven to 220 °C. Remove the aluminum foil and cover the ribs with a delicious sauce. Place the baking dish in the oven for another 40 minutes.
- In the meantime, check whether the spare ribs are ready. When they are ready, place them on a plate along with the remaining sauce.
- Prepare the barbecue for indirect grilling. Maintain a temperature of 125 °C.
- Add wood chips to the coals. Place the sparerib bone-side down on the grill. You can also use a spare rib rack if it does not fit on the grid.
- Smoke the spare rib for about 3 hours. You can then cover the spare rib with a delicious barbecue sauce.
- Then let the spare ribs cook for another hour.
4. When is a spare rib ready?
You can test the doneness of a spare rib in three ways: The meat at the end of the bones has retracted. You can pull the ribs apart. The spare rib bends when you lift it with tongs.
Note: if you can easily pull the bone out of the meat, the meat is overcooked. A spare rib must have a bite. Of course, you should be able to pull the bones apart easily, but the bone should not be easy to slide out
Recipe: Oven baked spare ribs with barbecue sauce
Oven baked spare ribs with barbecue sauce
- 2 spare ribs with the silver skin removed
- 2 tbsp barbecue rub
- 4 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cm ginger fresh
- 1 small red pepper
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp ginger syrup
- 1 dl soy sauce
- 1 lime juice and zest
- Pat the spareribs dry.
- Peel the ginger and slice it finely. Cut the red pepper in half, remove the seeds and slice it finely. Finely chop the garlic. Mix this in a bowl with the ginger syrup, tomato puree and soy sauce. Stir it all well.
- Sprinkle the ribs on both sides with the barbecue rub and press the rub well into the meat.
- Spoon some of the marinade you just made over the top and bottom of the ribs and place them in a serving dish. Cover it with foil and let it marinate overnight. Store the rest of the marinade separately.
- The next day, preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius.
- Remove the spare ribs from the dish and place them with the convex side up in an oven dish in which they fit next to each other without touching each other. Pour a good splash of water along the ribs and brush the top of the meat a little extra with the marinade.
- Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and place it in the preheated oven for 2.5 hours. Remove the dish from the oven once more halfway through, add a small splash of extra water and cover the meat again with a thin layer of the marinade. Cover the dish well again with aluminum foil and let it cook.
- Increase the temperature of the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Remove the foil and coat the ribs well with a generous layer of the marinade. Use a brush for this.
- Place the dish in the oven and roast it for another 20-30 minutes. Rub the meat a few times in between with the rest of the marinade, but make sure it doesn’t burn.
- Remove the dish from the oven and cut the ribs loose. Serve them with your homemade barbecue sauce.
More spare rib recipes
There are countless spare rib recipes that each have their own marinade and sauce. If you are going to cook spare ribs for the first time, you can, for example, start with a basic rub and sauce. Check out the recipes below for more inspiration.