Sticky Balsamic Ribs

Usually when cooking ribs at home, we’re told to take it low and slow. Instead, longtime Gourmet editor Ian Knauer will tell you to cook them fast and reckless—425° reckless.
June 15, 2015

About this recipe

Baby backs are more forgiving than bigger spare ribs, and here they get amply marinated and steamed so they come out surprisingly tender, yet sturdy enough to hold up to flipping on the grill. Go too low and slow and you end up with meat falling to pieces and bones sliding out all over the place.

And unlike barbecue recipes that call for a long list of dried spices that come together mysteriously, this one requires only a handful of rather feisty ingredients—and it’s clear what each one is doing there. Rosemary and garlic—our friends in so many pork endeavors—are the savory background; cayenne sharpens the garlic’s sting; balsamic vinegar and brown sugar bring the sticky, with the sugar leveling out the vinegar’s sour.


1. Mince and mash garlic to a paste with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Stir together with the rosemary, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, cayenne, remaining 3 teaspoons of salt and pepper. Rub evenly all over the ribs and transfer to 2 large roasting pans in a single layer, meaty side up. Marinate, chilled, for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Alternatively, marinate in a zippered bag or bowl covered with plastic wrap.

2. Preheat the oven to 425° with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

3. Pour ½ cup water into each roasting pan and tightly cover the pans with foil. Roast the ribs, switching the position of the pans halfway through, until the meat is very tender, about 1¾ hours. Remove the pans from the oven and transfer the ribs to a platter.

4. Add 1 cup hot water to each roasting pan and scrape up the brown bits. Skim off and discard the fat, then transfer the liquid to a 10- inch skillet. Add the remaining 1 cup vinegar and ½ cup brown sugar and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil until thick and syrupy and reduced to about 1 cup, about 15 minutes.

5. In a charcoal grill, prepare a fire for direct-heat cooking over medium- hot charcoal. Alternatively, preheat a gas grill to medium heat. The ribs can also be broiled 3 to 4 inches from heat (instead of grilled) for about 8 minutes.

6. Brush some of the glaze onto both sides of the racks of ribs. Grill, turning occasionally, until the ribs are hot and grill marks appear, about 6 minutes. Brush the ribs with more glaze and serve with the remaining glaze on the side.

Reprinted with permission from Food52 Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore, copyright © 2015. Recipe courtesy of Ian Knauer.
Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs: James Ransom © 2015

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  • 8 large cloves garlic
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt (we used Diamond Crystal brand)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar, divided
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 pounds baby back pork ribs
  • 1 cup water plus 2 cups hot water
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