Our easy recipe for braised pork spare ribs delivers flavorful, fall-off the bone meat every time. Optional – make a gravy with the braising liquid.
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Read on for relevant tips and step-by-step pictures (1 min)
The pleasure of cozying up at home while delicious aromas are wafting from the oven (for hours) is only surpassed by enjoying the resulting comfort food – in this case perfectly tender beer braised spare ribs. You can master our recipe in just one try, it is simple yet delivers spectacular results.
What Are Spare Ribs?
Spare ribs are the pork equivalent of beef short ribs and lend themselves really well to slow cooking at low temperatures, especially when in the company of moist heat. Braising is our favorite way to cook them and we like to employ a dark beer in the braising liquid to infuse it with more flavor. We also do not miss the opportunity to convert the braising liquid into a delicious, rich gravy to serve the ribs with (as seen above).
You Will Need
- Spare ribs. A full rack, which typically has 10 to 13 bones, weight about 3 lbs.
- Oil & veggies. For searing and sautéing. Carrots, celery, onion and garlic form the aromatic base of the braising liquid.
- Flour and tomato paste. As thickening agents and for the acidity of the latter.
- Beer. We favor a local dark brew, New Belgium Brewing 1554 Black Ale (which is really a lager, but local beer naming rules force the faulty name). It has a pleasant malty sweetness to it, balanced by a toasted flavor with notes of dark chocolate and spice. As viable alternatives substitute with dark German lagers such as schwarzbier or dunkel or use brown ales (avoid aggressively hopped versions) and porters (avoid versions using roasted barley). Your goal is a malty backbone, some roasted character, caramel, spices, and dark fruit notes.
- Beef stock. For even more flavor. If not using beer use a bit of extra beef stock.
- Herbs and seasonings. Bay leaf and thyme, brown sugar for extra earthy sweetness, salt and pepper.
- Dijon and slurry. Both of these are added when making the gravy in the end – as a liaison and a thickener.
How to Cut Spare Ribs & Braise Them
We favor an oven temperature of 275 F, but 300 F works too. The key is to be patient and allow adequate time for the magic of slow cooking amidst flavorful liquid to happen. You cannot rush spare ribs, but they will reward you in the end.
Prep. Begin by prepping the spare ribs and veggies. For the spare ribs (as pictured above) – pat dry, remove the membrane on the back holding them together (be thorough) and cut into 4 sections of 3 to 4 ribs. Trim excess fat and flaps of meat. Season liberally. Rough chop the veggies and set aside.
Sear & make braising liquid. Heat a large pan (if braising in roasting pan) or the actual braiser over medium high. Add the oil and working in batches sear the spare ribs on all sides (see #7 below). set aside, lower the heat and soften the veggies. Add the flour and tomato paste, stir and cook for another minute. Deglaze the bottom of the pot with the beer, add the beef stock, brown sugar, bay leaves and thyme. Stir.
Braise. Add the ribs to the braising liquid – arrange them so they fit the bottom of the pot (there will be overlaps). Cover with braiser lid. Or, transfer the braising liquid to a roasting pan, place the ribs on top and tightly cover with foil. Place in oven an braise for about 2 and half hours. Turn the ribs over about 90 minutes in if they were really tightly stacked, otherwise do not worry about it.
How to Serve Braised Spare Ribs
- Once the ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender remove them from the braising liquid, allow to rest a bit and while gently holding with kitchen tongs slice each section into individual ribs.
- You can then serve them brushed with BBQ sauce or simply season them with your favorite pork seasoning blend.
- You can also prepare a gravy from the braising liquid and once it is done, return the spare ribs to the braising pan with it for a family style presentation. Alternatively, simply drizzle it over the ribs as you serve them.
- Fresh herbs such as chopped parsley, oregano or thyme make a nice garnish.
To Make a Gravy
It requires minimal effort to convert the braising liquid into a flavorful gravy for the spare ribs. To do so, simply:
- Remove the spare ribs from the pan and set aside. Scoop the veggies and herbs from the pan and discard. Skim the fat floating on top of the braising liquid with a spoon and discard it. Strain the remaining liquid through a sieve (optional) and add it back to the braising pan or a small sauce pan.
- Heat the pan containing the braising liquid over medium heat. Bring to simmer.
- Make a slurry by mixing cornstarch & cold water. Add the Dijon mustard and the slurry to the simmering liquid, stir to incorporate. The sauce will thicken quite fast. Remove from heat.
Add the spare ribs (cut in individual pieces first) back to the pot and smother them with the gravy. Serve family style with mashed potatoes or rice as a side.
Other Recipes You Might Enjoy
- 1 rack of pork spare ribs (about 3 lbs, 10 to 13 ribs)
- 1 1/2 tbsp coarse salt
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 yellow onion, medium
- 2-3 carrots, medium
- 2 celery ribs
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp flour
- 18 oz dark beer (porter, schwarzbier, etc)
- 2 cups beef stock
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (for gravy, optional)
- 1 tbsp cornstarch + 2 tbsp cold water (for gravy, optional)
- Preheat your oven to 275 F*. Clean and rough chop the onion, carrots, celery and garlic cloves. Set aside.
- Prepare the spare ribs - pat dry the full rack with paper towel. Turn it over with the meatier side facing down. Using the tip of a knife lift the ends of the translucent membrane that runs across the length of the rack, pinch it using a paper towel and peel it off. Trim any excess fat and cut the rack into 3 or 4 sections, each containing 3 to 4 ribs**. Liberally season with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Heat the braiser (or a pan) over a stove burner on high. Add the cooking oil and sear each section of the seasoned spare ribs rack for about 2 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Work in batches and remove the seared ribs to a plate. Set them aside.
- Lower the heat to medium, add the chopped veggies, stir and cook to soften them for about 5 minutes. Add the flour and tomato paste, stir and cook for another minute.
- Deglaze the bottom of the braiser/pan with the beer and scrape down any brown bits. Add the beef stock, brown sugar, bay leaves and thyme. Stir, then add the ribs - arrange them so they fit the bottom of the pot (there will be overlaps).
- Cover with the lid of the braiser and carefully transfer to the oven. Alternatively, transfer the braising liquid to a roasting pan, place the ribs in and tightly cover with foil. Let cook for 2 ½ to 3 hours - the meat should be very tender. If using a braiser and the ribs are a bit tight, you can move then around about 90 mins in, then continue braising.
- When satisfied with the tenderness of the spare ribs, carefully remove them to a plate or a cutting board and let them rest for a few minutes, before you slice into individual ribs (optional: cover loosely with foil).
FOR GRAVY (Optional)
- Remove the veggies from the braiser/pan, skim the fat floating on top of the braising liquid with a spoon and discard it. Strain the remaining liquid through a sieve (optional).
- Heat the liquid over medium heat and bring to simmer.
- Make a slurry by mixing the cornstarch with the water. Add the Dijon mustard and the slurry to the simmering liquid, stir to incorporate. Remove from the hear as soon as it has thickened.
*You can do 300 F instead, but lower and slower is better with spare ribs.
**The typical spare ribs rack has 10 to 13 ribs. Be sure to bring spare ribs to room temperature before you begin cooking, otherwise it will take longer to braised them to perfect tenderness.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 514Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 73mgSodium: 3283mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 3gSugar: 17gProtein: 19g