With the success of our 3-2-1 Wet Brined Pork Ribs recipe, we decided to separate the 3-2-1 method from the brining. We take baby back ribs and brine them in apple cider before smoking and foiling them to perfection on a charcoal grill for this Simple Wet Brine Ribs Recipe.
Would like to take your rib game to the next level? Then it’s time to hop on board for a trip to “Brinetown.’ We’re not going to plow into the minutiae of molecules and milliliters, although if that’s your thing please visit my friend Meathead and you’ll find plenty of supporting data. We’re employing the KISS (Keep It Simple Smokers) method, which will be revealed as we cruise through this very simple ribs recipe and test cook. I chose baby back ribs as they are much leaner than spare ribs and would benefit the most from brining.
Why Should You Wet Brine Ribs?
There is a lot of science and chemistry as to why to wet brine, but the simple answer is because it makes meat juicier, more tender and tastier.
Simple Wet Brine Ribs Recipe Ingredients:
- Kosher salt (table salt can be used too)
- Fresh Apple Cider (Good ole Water works fine too–we love the little ‘extra’ we get from cider)
- Resealable food bag
For the meat prep:
- 2 slabs baby back ribs (approximately 3 lbs. each)
- Mustard for a binder if you so choose
- Your favorite barbecue rub (There are so many I’m forced to rotate them on a regular basis)
For the spritz:
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- A food grade spray bottle
For foiling the ribs:
- Aluminum foil
- 8 pats of butter, divided
- some spritz based on the ingredients above
Before brining the ribs should be skinned.
Why skin the ribs?
Removing the membrane will permit penetration of the brine, smoke and seasoning into the meat fibers thus maximizing flavor. Leaving the membrane on can also lead to a chewier bite.
Pro tip: Use the handle end of a soup spoon to loosen the membrane from the back of the ribs.
When using a knife the membrane may tear easier in my experience. Here’s a peek at a couple ways to remove that pesky membrane:
A paper towel is always your friend to help with grasping that slippery rascal. So, grab one corner of the membrane with a paper towel and peel it back to the other side of the slab:
Next, cut the slabs of ribs in half. Why? We’re conducting a test cook on my dinner guests and I want a portion from each side to be brined and the other portions without brine. To be somewhat scientific (did I just go there?) I wanted a control so each full side (or slab) of ribs will have a brined and non-brined section.
How to Make a Rib Brine:
The typical liquid to salt ratio is one gallon of water (in this case cider) to one cup of salt. Although, if using kosher salt feel free to make it a heaping cup as it isn’t as concentrated as table salt (smaller granules). Accordingly, we’re using one quart of cider and 1/4 cup of kosher salt. A quart is all that is necessary for one full side of ribs.
First, add the cider, or water, into a pourable container.
Second, add the salt to the liquid
Finally, stir until salt dissolves completely:
Afterward, place two half slabs into a gallon size resealable plastic bag. Notice how perfectly the half slabs fit? The was a method to my non-scientific madness. Then add the brine mixture to the bag and seal tightly while removing as much air as possible.
Pro tip: Place the brine bag into another container such as a foil half pan to catch any leaks should they occur.
Note the position of the seal at the end of the pan. It still shouldn’t leak even if not sealed perfectly. Ask me how I know this.
Place the container into the icebox for 2-8 hours, for this reason these ribs were brined for 5 hours. Above all, avoid overnight brining which can create a texture issue as brining too long is called curing and will make the ribs have a ham-like consistency:
My old standard charcoal grill is set up for two zone or indirect cooking with some Rockwood lump charcoal, a water pan, and pecan wood for smoke:
If you don’t have access to pecan and want to see what wood you can get pairs with, we have an incredibly detailed list of smoke woods right here.
Next, remove the ribs from the brine and pat them dry. The bottom two are the cider brined halves which have a slightly different color than the non-brined halves.
Dust all the baby backs with your favorite bbq rub. For me, this can change often since there are so many delightful choices available as my overstocked cupboard will attest. With this in mind, for this particular cook we used a product by the fine fellas on the Boars Night Out championship BBQ team.
Then get the grill to 300F (+/- 25F) inside the chamber and toss in the pecan wood over the hot charcoal:
How to Make our Simple Wet Brine Ribs Recipe
The baby backs are placed on the side over the water pan away from the direct heat of the Rockwood lump charcoal:
After the ribs hit the grill, combine the water and apple cider vinegar in a food safe spray bottle. Give the baby backs a spritz every 20-30 minutes:
How does that color look?
After two hours in the charcoal grill I wrapped the ribs with butter and a bit of the spritz liquid:
Wrapped and back on the charcoal grill for 30-45 minutes:
After about three full hours on the cooker, the cider brined ribs are pulled from the heat and this is what unwrapping revealed. I know because the bones are peeking out 1/3-1/2 inch which tells me they are done. Additionally, please save the liquid for drizzling or dipping.
Finally, it’s time to slice our wet brined ribs:
Sliced and showing a lot of lovely thick rib meat.
Dinner is served! Perfect bite baby back ribs with baked beans and homemade potato salad is indeed a great way to end the day.
Simple Wet Brine Ribs Recipe Rundown
What about the side by side taste test? My dinner guests took one bite from a wet brined rib and one from a non-brined rib. This was a blind tasting just like a competition judge would experience. I felt comfortable administering this exercise, after all i’m a certified judge in KCBS, SLBS, WFC, and SCA. The results were unanimous! Wet brined ribs for the win!! There was no deliberating or wishy washy consideration, thus the decision was immediate. The brined ribs were juicier, tastier and much more tender than the non-brined baby back ribs. I encourage you to conduct your own experiment for your family and friends, however, a side by side taste testing with a control group is vital, but you got this.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or send me an email.
And if you could leave us a great review that would be oh so appreciated!
Also, you can follow us on our GrillinFools Facebook page, Instagram, and YouTube feeds
Simple Wet Brine Ribs Recipe
- Resealable plastic bag Gallon size
- Food grade spray bottle
- aluminum foil
- ¼ cup Kosher salt
- 1 quart Apple cider
- 2 slabs Baby back ribs
- ¼ cup Mustard divided
- Your favorite BBQ rub
- 1 cup Apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup Water
For Foiling Ribs
- 8 pats Butter divided
- Spritz From above
- Skin the membrane off the bone side of the ribs and then slice the slabs in half. Place the sliced slabs of ribs in two gallon resealable plastic bags
- Combine cider and salt in a pourable container at a ratio of 1 quarter of cider to 1/4 cup of salt and stir until all the cider is dissolved. Then pour the brine over the ribs and seal the bag. Place the bags in an aluminum pans and slide the pans in the fridge for 2-8 hours
- Remove the slabs from the brine, pat dry and season with your favorite BBQ seasoning starting with the bone side
- Prepare the charcoal grill for two zone grilling with coals on one side and a water pan full of water on the other. Place the smoke wood on the coals and place the ribs over the side of the grill above the water pan
- Target temp inside the charcoal grill is 300F
- Make up a spritz by combining equal parts apple cider vinegar and water in a food safe spray bottle
- Smoke the ribs for 2-2.25 hours spritzing with the spray bottle every 20-30 minutes
- After 2-2.25 hours, lay down a couple sheets of aluminum foil with four pats of butter and some of the spritz. Lay down a side of ribs, meat side down over the butter and wrap up in the foil and place back on the grill over the water pan.
- After 30-45 minutes in the foil, remove the perfectly cooked cider brined or wet brined ribs from the heat and the foil.
- Slice and serve, reserving the liquid for drizzling or dunking