Pressure cooker, Weeknight dinner
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Instant Pot Spare Ribs with BBQ Rub and Sauce

Spare ribs brushed with sauce on a red plate with a bowl of barbecue rub in the background
Instant Pot Spare Ribs

It felt like cheating. I held out against liquid smoke in my Instant Pot Spare Ribs, but…everyone else kept using it. I had comments singing its praises. Liquid smoke? Really? I had to try it out, so I could say “Ha!. It’s not worth it!”

Instead, I’m asking myself: why did I wait so long to use liquid smoke?

What is liquid smoke?

Liquid Smoke is made by burning wood in a low-oxygen environment and distilling the water vapor that is produced. That’s right; liquid smoke is actually condensed wood smoke. It’s a side effect from making charcoal, and “wood vinegar”, as everyone else calls it, has been around for centuries. (Pliny the Elder mentions it back Ancient Rome. See, Latin class was worth something!)

Testing liquid smoke with Instant Pot Spare Ribs

I made two batches of Instant Pot Spare Ribs, one with a tablespoon of liquid smoke in the water, the other without. I expected a strong woody flavor, kind of like over-smoked meat; instead, I got a flavor enhancer. It’s a terrible description, but the liquid smoke ribs taste “meatier,” not smokier. I’m a liquid smoke convert, and I’m going to update all my pressure cooker ribs recipes to recommend it.

Blasphemer!

I know, I know. I was once a One True BBQ fanatic myself. And I still pull out the grill when I can. But, when time is short, I take the easy way to tender Instant Pot spare ribs.

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Individual spare ribs brushed with sauce on a red plate with a bowl of barbecue rub in the background

Instant Pot Spare Ribs


  • Author: Mike Vrobel
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 1 slab of ribs
  • Category: Weeknight Dinner
  • Method: Pressure Cooker
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Instant Pot Spare Ribs – quick and easy, pressure cooked with liquid smoke for a big meaty flavor, brushed with barbecue sauce and glazed under the broiler.


Ingredients

  • 1 slab spare ribs, membrane peeled off
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke

Barbecue Rub (2 tablespoons of my Homemade Barbecue Rub), or use your favorite store bought rub

  • 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt (or 2 teaspoons kosher salt)
  • ¾ tablespoon paprika
  • ¾ tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder

Barbecue sauce (1 cup of my Easy BBQ Sauce), or use your favorite store bought sauce

  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (or cheap yellow mustard)
  • ½ teaspoon soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Remove the membrane from the ribs: On the bony side of the slab of ribs, work a butter knife between the membrane and one of the bones. Grab the membrane with a paper towel and pull gently but firmly to peel the membrane away from the ribs. If the membrane tears while you’re pulling, work the knife under the remaining pieces and pull them off as well. Trim the flap of meat from the bone side of the slab. You can discard it, or sprinkle it with rub and add it to the pot with the ribs as a cook’s snack.
  2. Make the rub and sauce: In a small bowl, stir the barbecue rub ingredients, breaking up any clumps of brown sugar with your fingers. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the barbecue sauce ingredients until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Season the ribs and put them in the pressure cooker: Cut the rack of ribs into 4 pieces, cutting between every 3rd bone. Sprinkle both sides of the ribs with the rub. Pour the cup of water into the Instant Pot (or use the minimum liquid amount for your pressure cooker), and then add the liquid smoke. Stack the ribs in the pot in a loose pile, bone side down.
  4. Pressure cook the ribs for 30 minutes with a Natural Pressure Release: Lock the lid and pressure cook on high pressure for 30 minutes in an electric PC (“Manual” or “Pressure Cook” mode in an Instant Pot.), or for 24 minutes in a stovetop PC. Let the pressure come down naturally, about 15 more minutes.
  5. Sauce and (optional) broil the ribs: Transfer the ribs to a rimmed baking sheet, bone side down. Brush the meaty side of the ribs with barbecue sauce, then put the sheet under a broiler set to high. Broil the ribs until the sauce is bubbling and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the broiler, brush with another layer of sauce, and serve.

Notes

  • Want super-tender ribs? Pressure cook for 45 minutes in an electric PC or 36 minutes in a stovetop PC. I did a slab for that long, and they were falling apart when I tried to lift them out of the cooker. I prefer a little bite to my ribs, but if you want ultra-tender ribs, go longer.
  • Finesse the sauce – stir 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid from the pot into the sauce before brushing on the ribs. It will take some of the porky goodness from the liquid and add it back to the recipe.
  • The liquid smoke is optional…but as I found out, it’s worth finding it. Look near the barbecue sauce at your local grocery store.

Tools

Keywords: Pressure Cooker Spare Ribs, Instant Pot Spare Ribs

What do you think?

Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

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Pressure Cooker St Louis Cut Spareribs with Espresso Chipotle BBQ Sauce
Pressure Cooker Baby Back Ribs
Pressure Cooker Beef Back Ribs Texas BBQ Style
My other Instant Pot and Pressure Cooker Recipes

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1 Comment

  1. George R Hooper Jr says

    I REALLY appreciate your efforts, especially as regards using the Instant Pot (I/P). Growing up in Anniston, AL, in the 50s I have a great & abiding interest in all things BBQ & find this Rx to be worth trying – as for supper tonight, 9/11/18.
    QUESTION – It’s long been my “opinion” that beer, being a complex substance, brings a great deal of flavors to the foods to which it’s added. I have noticed, however, that the use of beer/wine is not suggested for use in the I/P. This is purposely done, I assume – for either reasons of incompatibility w/pressure cooking OR the author’s preference to avoid alcohol. Can you enlighten me, Good Sir?
    Thanks again!

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