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Sweet Tea Ribs


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Sweet tea and summertime seem to go together like Cagney and Lacey, Turner and Hooch, or Tango and Cash. Ribs also go with summer. But what about sweet tea and ribs? Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit, that sounds like a match made by Gawd almighty hisself. But I’m not talking about drinking sweet tea when eating ribs. I’m talking about using it as an ingredient in the ribs.

Sweet Tea Ribs Ingredients:

2 slabs baby back ribs, skinned and sliced in halves
2 quarts sweet tea
1/2 cup table salt
Riley’s Garlic & Pepper seasoning

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First, put the tea, salt and ribs in a resealable plastic bag and mix until the salt is dissolved:

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Place in the fridge 2-12 hours. The following day, remove the ribs from the bag, rinse off and pat dry. Then place bone side up on a cutting board:

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Ready for a Rub Down

Now hit the bone side first with the Riley’s Garlic & Pepper and then flip the ribs over and hit the meat side:

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Hit it with the Rub

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How GREAT does that look?

If you do the meat side first, when you flip the meat over a lot more of it will be in contact with the cutting board and that is where the rub will be when you flip them back over – on the cutting board. Doing bone side first allows for the curve of the bones to keep the spices off the cutting board and firmly adhered to the meat.

Some of you are thinking, “I don’t need to buy the Riley’s. I have garlic and pepper.” The problem with that plan is that Riley’s has outstanding ingredients. Dave Riley is adamant about having not just good ingredients, but the best ingredients. Their garlic is fantastic and so is the pepper. Did I mention it is really coarsely ground? In other words, it creates more than a layer of dusted ingredients. It creates little dimples of flavor all over the sweet tea ribs. You can buy Riley’s All Purpose Seasoning at Schnuck’s and their entire line at Sam’s all over the Midwest centered on St. Louis. If they don’t carry the rubs near you, then you can buy them online here.

Prepare the grill for indirect grilling with coals on one side and nothing on the other. Place the smoke wood on the side with the charcoal and the ribs on the side with no heat. Or in this case, I have a Kamado style grill, the Char-Griller Akorn, so I put the place setter between the Rockwood charcoal, smoke wood and the ribs to cook them indirect at about 300 degrees.

After one hour, the ribs are browning up nicely:

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60 Minutes In

I like my ribs just short of fall off the bone so I generally smoke baby back ribs about 2 hours. If you want them fall off the bone, put them in foil at about 90 minutes with some fluid (beer, wine, honey, syrup, butter, whatever) and place back on the grill for an hour. Remove from the foil, hit the ribs with some high heat to firm up the rub, and they will be fall off the bone.

As for me, I just smoke them for 2 hours at 300 and they are perfect every time. Like these:

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Ready to pull from the grill despite the flames, check out that meat pulling back from the bones

This is what happens when doing a photo shoot while grilling. Most people lift the lid and check for doneness and remove the ribs if they are done or close the lid if they aren’t. Me, I have to take a bunch of pics to get one good one (#SucksAtPhotography) and in the mean time the extra oxygen hits the smoke wood and I have a flame up around the edge of the place setter. Makes for a pretty cool picture even though 99% of you will not have this happen to you.

Place the grilled sweet tea ribs on a cutting board to carve:

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Ready to Slice

Now the fun part, slice and serve:

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Ready to be devoured

The tea provides a certain earthiness from the tea used to brew it and sweetness from the sugar added to sweeten it. Couple that with the savory of the Riley’s Garlic & Pepper, and you have some outstanding ribs. Sometimes simple, outstanding ingredients, are all you need. Substitute gluten free iced tea and rub to make this recipe gluten free.

If you have any questions about the sweet tea ribs, feel free to ask them below or shoot me an email.

Sweet Tea Ribs
Baby Back Ribs brined in sweet tea and coated with a sultry garlic pepper rub.
Cuisine: BBQ
Recipe type: Ribs
Serves: 6
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 2 slabs baby back ribs, skinned and sliced in halves
  • 2 quarts sweet tea
  • ½ cup table salt
  • Riley's Garlic & Pepper seasoning
  • - Substitute gluten free tea and rub to make it gluten free
  1. Place the skinned and halved rib racks in a resealable plastic bag with the tea and salt
  2. Seal and slosh until the salt is dissolved
  3. Place in the fridge for 2-12 hours
  4. Remove from the fridge and the bag, rinse the brine off and pat dry with a paper towel
  5. Place bone side up and coat with the rub
  6. Flip and repeat on the meat side
  7. Prepare the grill for two zone/indirect grilling with charcoal and smoke wood on one side and the meat on the other, or in the case of a kamado style grill a place setter between the meat and the charcoal/smoke wood
  8. Target temperature inside the grill is 300 degrees
  9. Smoke for 2 hours
  10. Remove the ribs from the grill, slice and serve
For fall off the bone ribs, place the ribs in foil at about the 90 minute mark with some sort of fluid (beer, wine, honey, syrup, butter, whatever) and place back on the grill for an hour. Remove from the foil, blast over a hot fire quickly to firm up the rub, and they will be fall off the bone every time.


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