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smoking American, Barbecue, Southern
Bourbon-Glazed Ribs

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This Kentucky-inspired recipe is our personal favorite for “wet” spareribs. They’re finished at the end with a mellow glaze that also serves as a table sauce.

Yield: Serves 6



  • 1/3 cup freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup paprika
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt, either kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 3 full slabs of pork spareribs, “St. Louis cut” (trimmed of the chine bone and brisket flap), preferably 3 pounds each or less (see Notes)


  • ¾ cup bourbon
  • ¾ cup cider vinegar


  • ¼ cup butter, preferably unsalted
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • ¾ cup bourbon
  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt


1. The night before you plan to barbecue, combine the rub ingredients in a bowl. Apply the rub evenly to the ribs, reserving about half of the spice mixture. Place the slabs in a plastic bag and refrigerate them overnight.

2. Before you begin to barbecue, take the ribs from the refrigerator. Pat them down with the remaining rub. Let the ribs sit at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes.

3. Prepare the smoker for barbecuing, bringing the temperature to 200°F to 220°F.

4. If you plan to baste the meat (see Notes, “To Mop or Not”), mix together the bourbon and vinegar with ½ cup water, Warm the mop liquid over low heat.

5. Transfer the meat to the smoker. Cook the ribs for about 4 hours, turning and mopping them after 1½ and 3 hours in a wood-burning pit, or as appropriate in your style of smoker.

6. While the slabs are smoking, prepare the Bour-BQ Sauce so that it is ready to apply to the ribs approximately 45 minutes before the meat is done. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden. Add the remaining sauce ingredients, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the mixture thickens, approximately 40 minutes, stirring it frequently.

7. Brush the ribs with sauce once or twice in the last 45 minutes of cooking. Return the remaining sauce to the stove and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until reduced by one-third.

8. When the slabs are ready, the meat will bend easily between the ribs, and the sauce will be gooey and sticky. Allow the slabs to sit for 10 minutes before slicing them into individual ribs. Serve with the reduced sauce on the side.

Serving Suggestion

We like the ribs best with a simple salad like Killed Salad, which means there’s still room for Run for the Roses Pie afterward.


The preferred size of spareribs for barbecuing is “3 and down,” meaning 3 pounds or smaller, a variable that depends on the weight of the pig when butchered. Don’t fret if all you can find are larger slabs, but do smoke them a little longer.

To Mop or Not

The equipment you use for barbecuing determines whether and how often you baste food while it cooks. We list mops as “optional” in most of our barbecue recipes, but you should use them if they are appropriate to your style of smoker. In a few cases, we suggest basting food before or after cooking, rather than during the process, and in those unusual situations, the mop works well with any kind of equipment.   Wood-burning pits: Mops were made for pits. If you burn logs or wood chunks in a manufactured or homemade pit of traditional design, basting your food will improve its quality. Mop as often as the recipes indicate.   Outdoor ovens: Never apply a mop during cooking in an oven that operates on electrical power. It’s not only dangerous, but in some cases, at least, also unnecessary. In ovens that seal as tightly as the Cookshack, for example, food retains its internal moisture and doesn’t require any basting. Follow the manufacturer’s directions with other brands or smoker ovens.   Charcoal and gas grills: You should baste food in a grill, but not as often as you do in a wood-burning pit because grills generally lose more of their heat when you lift the lid. In a conventional charcoal grill, we mop only when we have the top off to add charcoal or pieces of wood. In an oven-style grill, such as the Hasty-Bake, we mop with about half the frequency we would in a wood-burning pit.   Vertical water smokers: Basting isn’t really necessary in a water smoker because the cooking process itself adds moisture to food. We like to mop occasionally for the flavor value, but we limit the frequency for the same reason we do in a charcoal grill—heat loss. We baste every 1 to 2 hours, or when we have the lid off for another purpose.

© 2003 Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

Nutritional information is based on using 9 pounds of St.Louis Cut spareribs and includes the Bourbon Mop.

1441kcal (72%)
262mg (26%)
22mg (37%)
220mcg RAE (7%)
401mg (134%)
2148mg (90%)
17g (83%)
51g (78%)
7mg (41%)

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