Cheryl Alters Jamison’s Spare Ribs Recipe Is a Barbecue Essential

EAST TEXAS SPARE RIBS recipe by Cheryl Alters Jamison
Gabriella Marks

Cheryl Alters Jamison’s newest cookbook, Texas Q, serves up a smoked spare ribs recipe that will take your barbecue to the next level.

WITH NEARLY 270,000 square miles of undulating hills, sun-scorched savanna, rushing rivers, and ocher desert, the Lone Star State is huge and varied. However, its kaleidoscopic culinary traditions are often represented by a single ambassador: the peppered barbecue of Central Texas. Absolutely nothing wrong with that iconic style, reared from 19th-century Czech and German settlers, but a new cookbook, Texas Q, shows a broader range.

“Texas is a place where a lot of big, bold flavors blend together to create a really special food destination,” says author Cheryl Alters Jamison, a James Beard award-winner who’s been writing about Southwestern cuisine and barbecue for more than four decades.

The book’s standout smoked pork ribs, for example, draw from East Texas traditions formed by the African-American community that migrated west from Louisiana and other Southern states.

Oak-smoked and slathered in a molasses-based sauce, the ribs are so different from what most think of as Texas barbecue, it will expand your food horizons wide as the Texas plains.

Texas is a place where a lot of big, bold flavors blend together to create a really special food destination.


From Texas Q • Serves 6

For the rub and ribs
3 tbsp finely ground black pepper
2 tbsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp packed light or dark brown sugar
2 tsp kosher or coarse sea salt
1⁄2 tsp ground cayenne
2 full slabs pork spare ribs, about 3 lbs each, cut St. Louis-style, trimmed of the chine bone and brisket flap, silver skin removed (ask your butcher)
1 cup choice of white or cider vinegar
1 tsp choice of Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, or fish sauce

For the barbecue sauce
1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
1⁄4 cup molasses
1⁄4 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp finely ground black pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Tabasco or other Louisiana hot sauce
1⁄2 tsp kosher salt or coarse sea salt

1. THE NIGHT BEFORE: Marinate ribs overnight. Combine black pepper, paprika, brown sugar, salt, and cayenne in small bowl. Apply rub evenly to ribs. Place ribs in plastic bag or on baking sheet covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

2. THE MORNING OF: Take ribs from refrigerator. Let them sit uncovered at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes. Prepare smoker, bringing the temperature to 225°F to 250°F and combine vinegar and Worcestershire, hot, or fish sauce in a spray bottle. Transfer ribs to smoker, placing them directly on grate.

3. FOR FIRST 3 HOURS: Turn ribs over and rotate every hour and spray with vinegar mixture. After 3 hours, wrap each rack in heavy-duty aluminum foil and return to smoker.

4. FOR NEXT 2 HOURS: The pork will steam and simmer in the foil. You don’t need to add wood to the smoker during this time unless the wood is your cooking medium, as with a log-burning pit. Unwrap ribs and return them to the smoker. Add enough wood for cooking 1 hour more, if necessary.

5. FOR THE FINAL HOUR: While ribs are cooking, prepare sauce. Combine sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes. In last 30 minutes, brush ribs thickly with sauce. Just before removing them from the grill, baste with sauce. The ribs should be very well done with meat that comes off the bone easily when tugged. Slice into individual ribs and serve with any additional sauce on the side.

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