Sunday, July 15, 2012

Food Unchained: Vinegar Brined Baby Back Ribs

Vinegar Brined Baby Back Ribs

Somebody check the temperature in hell...

I'm a little embarrased by all this good fortune but I was chosen the winner of a giveaway sponsored by Kaitlin of I Can Cook That. Thank you very much!

Now onto the food...

When my wife and I were first married, we would eat at chain restaurants about once or twice a month. Often, we would end up at Chili's Grill & Bar.

Fast forward to late 2009 when my wife took me there for my birthday. I hadn't started a food blog yet but I had found a baby back ribs recipe by Dave Lieberman (using store bought barbecue sauce) I really liked after my brother-in-law demonstrated his version he brought with him from the Philippines and I wanted to find something that originated from Southern barbecue. I figured baby back ribs was a signature dish, so it would be a pretty safe choice.

I was wrong.

The ribs I made at home were so much better by comparison and cheaper too. In short, I felt ripped off. In fact, my first recipe for Food By DB was the recipe above, which served as one motivation to start blogging in the first place. About a year ago, I updated my recipe using Chef Michael Chiarello's recipe using his barbecue sauce. The best way to prepare ribs is to smoke them but this is apartment living folks, and I am not able to due to space constraints. Also, these two recipes used a similar cooking method and needed to mix things up a bit.

The Challenge

Not only recreate, but improve a dish served at a restaurant chain, in this case Chili's baby back ribs with original barbecue sauce.

The Source

Adapted from this Guy Fieri recipe for several reasons:

1. I've already reviewed the benefits of a brine with my chicken & rice recipe I published a couple of months ago, but I've never brined pork ribs. If I can't smoke my ribs, can I enhance flavor with a brine? Going in, I was a little skeptical that a short time in the brine would be effective.

2. This recipe is different than the cooking methods I've used in the past but it is very similar to rib recipes used by Bobby Flay I've tried in the past.



1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced serrano pepper Anaheim pepper, minced (I'm not much of a spice fan.)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger teaspoon, grated ginger
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 cups frozen raspberries
1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam preserves
3 tablespoons molasses maple syrup


1 cup apple cider vinegar
4 cups water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly cracked black peppercorns
10 garlic cloves, smashed
3 pounds baby back ribs, silver skin removed, racks cut into 3 to 4 rib sections
6 fluid ounces beer
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered


Prepare your barbecue sauce:

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and Anaheim and cook until the onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic and the ginger and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer, being cautious not to burn.

2. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and then add the frozen raspberries, preserves and maple. Stir to combine, then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Puree with an immersion blender, then strain through a sieve into a bowl or jar, to remove the seeds, pushing the sauce through as much as possible. Can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Raspberries Pureed
Straining the Puree

Cook the ribs:

4. Preheat a grill to high and an oven to 400°Fahrenheit.

5. In a large resealable bag or nonreactive container; combine the vinegar, water, 1 tablespoon of the salt and 1 tablespoon of the pepper, 4 of the garlic cloves and the ribs. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes only.

6. Remove the ribs from the brine and season both sides with the remaining salt and pepper. Sear the ribs on an indoor grill or outdoor if available, until lightly browned.

7. In a large roasting pan, fitted with a rack, arrange the ribs on the rack and pour in the beer. Add the onion and remaining garlic cloves. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and put into the hot oven. Reduce the heat to 300 and roast for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the foil and baste the ribs with the BBQ sauce. Roast for 7 minutes, then turn the ribs over, baste again and roast for another 7 minutes. Remove the ribs from the oven to a cutting board and slice between the ribs. Arrange on a serving platter and serve.

About to Go into the Oven
After 90 Minutes


The raspberry sauce was a little too sweet and I liked Chef Chiarello's better but it still was an improvement over Chili's. The brine also was effective in keeping the ribs succulent.

And finally, I'll leave you with...

(Think they were singing about my ribs?)


  1. What a wonderful recipe! I just love ribs!

  2. I love baby back ribs! My friend smoke ribs for us and they are so good. Vinegar brining is interesting. You always teach me new cooking skill!

  3. This looks awesome! And congrats on the win!!!

  4. Looks great! I'm going to have to try my ribs in a brine the next time I make them.

  5. Very interesting! I love smoked ribs and plain grilled once, but I can see looking at your recipe that it sounds very delicious!
    Great idea, and your ribs look mouthwatering! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Love ribs. They are so good. These look incredible and tasty and so much better than any chain food.

  7. Sounds wonderful! I've never brined my ribs...what an excellent idea~

  8. Woo! Congrats on winning again! Annnd these blow Chili's baby back ribs out of the water, yum!

  9. Ribs are my new favorite this summer! I can't wait to try these!

  10. I love your bbq sauce! Looks so great after straining. The ribs look fingerlickingly good!

  11. That look fantastic. I found you through Oh, Cake and your unchained food challenge from the Food Networks Blog. I love this challenege and I think it was your idea - thanks, I love it!

  12. 2 giveaways! Congrats DB. I would play the lottery if I were you.

    It is so funny to visit my old favorite restaurants now that I am more well rounded cook. Something are just not so fantastic and when they are... It is so much fun to recreate them at home.

  13. I like that you keep coming back to recipes to try to improve them. Also - raspberry sauce YUM!

  14. Love, love this! I'm bookmarking it in case summer ever decides to come back here. Thanks for sharing:)

  15. Great job!!!!

    And omg...I'd forgotten about the N*SYNC commercial! haa!

  16. Oh my goodness! I don't think I'd find the raspberries too sweet. They're my favorite! That's a great BBQ sauce. Great update on a restaurant recipe :)

  17. PS...I've never had an It's It, but I'm craving one now!!!

  18. Your ribs look amazing--I'm not a huge ribs fan, but I love the idea of the vinegar brining.

  19. I love ribs but never make them at home because I can't smoke em. I am loving the brine/roast idea! Thanks for teaching me something new.

  20. Your ribs look insanely good! =] Love the step by step photos too!

  21. This looks so delicious, even being a veg I want to rip my teeth into it :P
    Great blog!

    Choc Chip Uru

  22. You can't tell, but I am going to tell you anyways.. I am drooling, literally. My dad loves a good BBQ rib and I am so glad that you share this recipe. We have a pro griller sitting in our back yard which it's time to be put to use by me.. LOL. Lets just say I am the foodie in the house, and I will go to miles to cook or bake good food ;). Btw, I have sign up the Federated Media form, but no response. So I might just sign up again.. Till then, do stay in touch. Send my regards to your wifey! Cheers, Jo

  23. I've never heard of vinegar brining! Sounds like a cool technique. And, not surprising at all to hear that your homemade ribs would be better than Chili's.

  24. These look SO good. Tender, juicy and totally perfectly glazed which is how I like 'em! Glad you took the challenge to make better ribs 'cause it looks like it paid off :)


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