BBQ sticky ribs

Like many men, I will admit an addiction to both barbecues and the American smoke-pit style of cookery, and while it might not be the mainstay of haute cuisine the BBQ and smoke pit is never as satisfying without really good sticky ribs.

Trouble is that you have to prepare and cook them right or you will be highly disappointed.  My mother, bless her, always cooked ribs swimming in liquid and served them more braised than anything else.  Various other methods have been tried over the years, but this one is head and shoulders above the rest.

Yes, you can do them in the oven instead but a proper charcoal BBQ does make a nice touch, especially if you’ve put a few soaked hickory chips on the coals to make some tasty wood smoke and impart their flavour on the food.

However, a word of warning: light the barbie and leave until the coals are white and glowing, after the greatest heat has subsided.  If you time your cooking wrong, the result will be burned meat, which is none too pleasant.  One other tip is to make the fire to one side of your BBQ pan, so you can move the meat and other delicacies around to warmer or cooler areas, depending on the type of heat needed.

Finally, the marinade is a very personal thing.  Again, I’ve experimented and found this one works really well.  However, you may prefer to use different ingredients and different proportions, so nothing is set in stone.


  • Racks of whole ribs, trimmed, preferably from your butcher.  One rack will probably serve two average people or one glutton!
  • For the marinade:
    • Good slug of chilli/chilli & garlic sauce (for the pics, I used Rocket Fuel sauce)
    • Chillis (optional – try keeping a Scotch Bonnet whole, but slit the sides)
    • Lemon zest
    • Good slug of Worcester sauce
    • Garlic puree
    • 1 tablespoon tamarind sauce (optional but gives a really good fruity flavour – otherwise try HP or similar brown sauce)
    • Good slug of high quality tomato ketchup or tomato paste
    • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tsp mustard powder (optional but desirable)
    • Sea salt and black pepper
    • 1 tsp smoked paprika
    • 1 tsp allspice (optional)
    • 1-2 tbs clear honey (put the jar in a bowl of boiling water for a few mins to liquify)
    • Your choice of alcohol: half a can of Guinness works well, though try cider too
    • A teaspoon of dark rum if you fancy.


Mix the marinade ingredients together, starting with dry and gradually stirring in the sauces.  Finally, add the honey and the beer and mix into a smooth and liquid consistency.

Cut the ribs in half, then put in big bowl.  Using a brush, coat the ribs with the marinade, then pour over the remainder, cover and leave to soak for 2-3 hours.

Then put the ribs in a big tin, baste again and cook in a slow oven for 1-2 hours, checking regularly.  They should look “blanched” and moist, but not very browned. Reserve the rest of the marinade.

While you are waiting for the barbie to reach the right temperature, heat another tin on the hob at a medium to high temperature.  Add the ribs and most of the marinade.  “Sizzle” the ribs, turning regularly, until the marinade is thick and sticky.  It should coat the ribs beautifully.

Put the ribs on the barbie and cook on both sides.  Don’t subject them to fierce heat, but do ensure they are evenly browned and look tasty.  If necessary, continue to baste with the remaining marinade during cooking.

Serve immediately with salads and whatever else you fancy.  Leave your guests to cut the ribs apart – they should be just cooked, tender and juicy.  The chilli sauce should leave a lip-smacking warmth in the mouth!

PS.  Here’s another version.

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