Main Dish

Fall-off-the-Bone Baby Back RIbs

Portalupi Wine

107 North Street
Healdsburg, CA 95448

Long, slow cooking on an outdoor grill produces baby back ribs that are falling-off-the-bone tender. They're prepared in the classic Cal-Ital style.

  • 1 to 2 pounds cherry or oak chips
  • 1/2 to 1 gallon apple juice
  • 4 to 6 racks baby back ribs
  • Olive oil as needed
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup crushed garlic
  • 10 pounds briquettes (if using a charcoal grill)
  • Barbecue sauce for brushing
  • Cooked polenta for serving
Soak the wood chips in the apple juice overnight. 

Drizzle the ribs on both sides with olive oil and rub into the meat. Sprinkle on both sides with salt, pepper, rosemary and garlic. Place on a baking sheet and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill and stack the coals to one side. Close the top and bottom drafts on the lid to 1/8-inch intake and outtake when the charcoal is gray and glowing. If using a gas grill, preheat on high. 

Sear the ribs, bone side down, until blackened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Cover the coals with the soaked chips and close the grill lid. When smoke starts to flow, after 3 to 5 minutes, place the ribs, bone side down, on the grill, opposite the coals and chips and stacking them  if necessary. Close the lid, with the top vents opposite the stack of coals and over the ribs. Cook for 2 to 3 hours. 

Restack the rib racks, giving every rack a chance for top-meat smoke exposure, or simply shuffle the stack. Close the lid and cook for 2 to 3 hours longer. Transfer the ribs in a large roasting pan. 

Fire up the gas grill again. Place 1 or 2 rib racks on the hot grill and immediately brush with barbecue sauce. Flip the ribs over and sear for 30 seconds to 1 minute, brushing the other side with sauce. Flip and sear for 30 seconds to 1 minute longer. Transfer to a baking sheet and repeat to sear and sauce the remaining rib racks. 

Let the rib racks rest for 10 to 20 minutes, then cut between the bones and transfer the ribs to a serving bowl. Serve with polenta.