Epic Candied BBQ Ribs Recipe

If you’re a fan of sweet and savory dishes like candied bacon, then you’re going to love these candied BBQ ribs.

It all begins with a rack of St. Louis cut spare ribs seasoned with Meathead's Memphis Dust. The ribs are smoked low and slow in the usual manner until mouthwateringly moist and tender. Normally, the ribs would then be sauced, sliced, and served, but this recipe employs a technique more often used for the French dessert crème brulee (literally, burnt cream). You sprinkle the ribs with sugar then torch them until the sugar melts and browns. When the sugar cools, it crystallizes and forms a sweet and crunchy shell, followed by the savory rub, and finally completed by the tender and moist smoked pork.

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Crunchy bruleed sugar adds an unexpected twist to traditional low and slow smoked spare ribs in this recipe for sweet and savory candied BBQ ribs.

Course. Lunch. Dinner. Entree.

Cuisine. American.

Makes. 2 servings, 1/2 rack each

Takes. 15 minutes of prep. About 5 to 6 hours to smoke.

Special Tools. Culinary torch such as the one offered here. Three to four chunks of your favorite smoking wood.

Serve with. Your favorite pale ale or IPA.


1 slab St. Louis cut ribs

1/4 teaspoon Morton’s kosher salt per pound of meat (learn more about the science of salt here)

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Meathead's Memphis Dust dry rub

6 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoons water

About the salt: Remember, kosher salt is half the concentration of table salt so if you use table salt, use half as much. Click here to read more about salt and how it works.

About the mayonnaise: The use of mayonnaise is completely optional but is something that I have done for years. As with the more popular yellow mustard, the mayonnaise serves as a binding agent for the dry rub without altering the flavor of the finished meat. Unlike mustard, mayonnaise is high in fat, something that can only benefit the ribs.


1) Remove the membrane from the slab of ribs (read more on removing the membrane here).

2) Season the slab of ribs with Kosher salt. If you can, give the salt 1 to 2 hours to be absorbed. The process of salting in advance is called dry brining. The rule of thumb is 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat, but ribs consist of only about 50% meat, so use about 1/4 teaspoon per pound. You can simply eyeball it by sprinkling on the same amount of salt you would sprinkle on the ribs if they were served to you unseasoned. 

3) Fire up. Prepare a smoker for indirect cooking. Alternatively, you can set up a charcoal grill for 2-zone cooking by placing a chimney full of lit charcoal briquets on one side of the grill's charcoal grate in order to create direct and indirect cooking zones. Adjust the smoker or grill vents to bring the temperature to about 225°F and add three to four chunks of your favorite smoking wood to the charcoal for flavor. On a gas grill, adjust the temperature knobs so that one half of the grill is off and the other half is heated enough to maintain a temperature of approximately 225°F on the indirect side.

4) Once the smoker or grill is ready, brush both sides of the slab of ribs with mayonnaise and lightly season with Meathead's Memphis Dust dry rub.

5) Cook. Place the slab of ribs meat side up on the main cooking grate as far away from the heat source as possible. Cover the smoker or grill. Allow the ribs to smoke until the meat just begins to shrink back from the ends of the bones, approximately 5 to 6 hours. The exact time will depend on how thick the slab is and how steady you have kept the smoker or grill temperature. To test if the ribs are done, we prefer to use the "bend test." Use tongs to pick up one end of the slab of ribs, then bend them slightly. If they are ready, the slab will bow until the meat starts to crack on the surface. Here are some other tips for judging whether ribs are ready.

6) Remove the ribs from the smoker and set it on a sheet pan or wooden cutting board. Combine 1/4 cup of the sugar and the water in a small bowl and blend well to make a sugary paste. Use a brush to coat the topside of the ribs with the sugar mixture (note: add a small amount of water to the mixture if the mixture doesn't spread easily).

7) Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the top of the ribs then use a culinary torch to heat the sugar until is begins to bubble but before it begins to burn (wisps of smoke will tell you that it has begun to burn).


8) Allow the sugar to cool completely. If properly bruleed, the sugar should create a hard shell on the ribs. If it doesn’t, simply torch the sugar for another 1 to 2 minutes.

9) Serve. Slice the ribs and serve.


"You can never put too much pork in your mouth as far as I'm concerned."Comedian Lewis Black

Clint Cantwell

Clint Cantwell is AmazingRibs.com's Senior Vice President, charged with creating recipes, writing articles, shooting photos, and a little bit of everything else. Cantwell was was named one of the "10 Faces of Memphis Barbecue" by Memphis Magazine and was the winner of Travel Channel's "American Grilled: Memphis".



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