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Apple Cinnamon Brined Baby Back Ribs

baby back ribs recipe featuring brine and rub with apple cinnamon flavors

I’m always looking for easy grilling recipes.

To me, most grilled rib recipes found online seem to be mostly the same: St. Louis-style ribs or baby back ribs cooked low and slow (or hot and fast) and then slathered in store-bought barbecue sauce.

This style of ribs is totally acceptable, but it gets sort of tired after a while. They’re certainly a step up from the ribs I grew up eating that were, shall we say, less than stellar. 

You may have read in my other blogs about my dad boiling St. Louis-style ribs to a slow and painful flavor death before dunking them in barbecue sauce and burning them to a crisp on the grill—not great, to put it mildly.

You may ask yourself, how do I prepare pork ribs that are both easy to make and delicious?

sliced and ready to eat meat

The answer is simple: Make a brine for pork ribs. It’s definitely something fun and different. Follow this easy rib brine recipe and say hello to your new best friend.

I developed this brine for pork ribs that’s not only easy to make but will give you consistently juicy and delicious results every time. 

One of the great things about this brine is that it works as well for St. Louis-cut ribs (spare ribs) as it does for baby back ribs, pork loin, pork chops, etc.  

Anyway, I digress. This blog is about brining ribs. If you want to learn more about ribs, my blog about the difference between spare ribs and baby back ribs outlines the differences.

Over the years, I have experimented with many different flavor profiles. This recipe is a favorite of mine and perfect for something slightly different than the typical BBQ rib. 

Today, I am using a barrel-style cooker, but you can use any grill or smoker. Just be sure to use indirect heat. I’ve done these plenty of times on a Kamado-style grill, a kettle grill, and an offset cooker.

grilling ribs

Many people ask me, at what temperature are ribs done? I wrote this blog about how you know your ribs are done as a general guideline. 

For me, baby back ribs’ internal temperature should range between 193 °F and 203 °F when read with a reliable quick-read thermometer. This is a matter of personal preference. 

A lower temperature will have meat more firmly attached to the bone. This allows for a bite-through texture on a rib.

close up showing perfect "bite through texture

But as the internal temperature increases, collagen—which helps keep the meat attached to the bone—melts and the rib meat becomes softer and much easier to bite through. 

Typically, rib meat cooked to an internal temperature between 200-203 °F will be almost falling off the bone and you’ll spend less time flossing your teeth after dinner. 

Just keep in mind that cooking times may differ slightly with each style of cooker. Slight temperature variation can change the cooking time dramatically.

close up of sliced ribs

Apple Cinnamon Brined Baby Back Ribs

Serves: 6 | Prep time: 25 hours (inactive) | Cook time: 3.5 hours

Ingredients:
2-3 racks of baby back ribs

Brine:
6 cups water
3 cups apple cider or apple juice
1 cup white sugar
⅓ cup kosher salt
6 cinnamon sticks
2 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp whole cloves
2 bay leaves

Rub: 
½ cup light brown sugar
⅓ cup paprika
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dry mustard

How to Make Apple Cinnamon Brined Baby Back Ribs

Step 1: Combine water and apple cider in a large pot and bring to a rolling boil, then add remaining brine ingredients. 

TIP: If you don’t have apple cider, apple juice will work as well.

Cover the brine and let boil for 10 minutes. Remove the brine from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Pour one cup of brine into a spray bottle.

brine in a pot

Step 2: Remove the membrane from the backside of the ribs. Think of this membrane as an impenetrable flavor barrier. 

Neither your rub nor your brine can get through this membrane, so removing it will make all the difference in the world to your finished ribs.

removing the membrane

Step 3: Submerge ribs into the room-temperature brine, making sure they are completely covered. I find it’s easiest to use a cheap disposable aluminum chafing pan for this, but use what you have.

Step 4: Place ribs in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Step 5: While the ribs are brining, combine rub ingredients and put into a shaker bottle—set aside. 

You can make more of this if you like, I use this rub on other things as well; the cinnamon brings a unique flavor to various meats.

TIP: If the brown sugar is clumping together, use a fork to break it up.

Step 6: Light your grill and set up for two-zone cooking, establishing temperature at 285–300 °F.

Step 7: Remove ribs from the brine and discard brine. Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel.

two racks patted dry, with view of top of one rack and bottom of the other

Step 8: Rub a very thin coat of vegetable oil onto the ribs. This will act as a binder for the rub. 

Step 9: Sprinkle the rub generously onto the racks of ribs. Ensure you cover the front, back, and sides of each rack.

baby back ribs coated by rub

Step 10: Place the racks on a cutting board and gather your meat hooks. I like to use two hooks when I am hanging ribs. You can get away with one, but two just keeps things more secure.

meat hooks and a rack of ribs on a cutting board

Step 11: Place the first meat hook onto the rack of ribs. I usually go about two bones deep on the first hook.

placing the first hook about two bones deep in the ribs

Push the hook all the way through the meat, and ensure it lays flat against the ribs.

 the hook lays flat in the meat

Step 12: Note where the curvature of the first hook is when placing the second hook.

adding the second hook

I have cooked ribs with a single hook but I just feel better about the extra support.

connecting the two hooks in the meat

After inserting the second hook, connect it to the first hook for extra support and peace of mind.

connected hooks before hanging baby back ribs

Step 13: Add apple wood chunks to hot coals and hang the ribs inside the barrel. Cook for about 3 hours.

 ribs hang in a barrel grill

If you’re using a Kamado-style grill or kettle grill, just ensure you place the ribs over indirect heat.

ribs on a grill over indirect heat

Step 14: Remove the ribs from cooker using a hook. Do not grab the hooks with bare hands! Allow to rest for about 10 minutes uncovered before slicing and serving.

smoked and brined baby back ribs hanging to cool

baby back ribs recipe featuring brine and rub with apple cinnamon flavors

Apple Cinnamon Brined Baby Back Ribs

4.41 from 166 votes
Prep Time: 1 day 1 hour
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 day 4 hours 30 minutes
Course: Entree, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 3 racks baby back ribs

Brine

  • 6 cups water
  • 3 cups apple cider or apple juice
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • cup kosher salt
  • 6 sticks cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves

Rub

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • cup paprika
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dry mustard

Instructions

  • Combine water and apple cider in a large pot and bring to a rolling boil, then add remaining brine ingredients. If you don't have apple cider, apple juice will also work.
    Cover the brine and let boil for 10 minutes. Remove the brine from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Pour one cup of brine into a spray bottle.
  • Remove the membrane from the backside of the ribs. Think of this membrane as an impenetrable flavor barrier. 
    Neither your rub nor your brine can get through this membrane, so removing it will make all the difference in the world to your finished ribs.
  • Submerge ribs into the room-temperature brine, making sure they are completely covered. I find it’s easiest to use a cheap disposable aluminum chafing pan for this, but use what you have.
  • Place ribs in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  • While the ribs are brining, combine rub ingredients and put into a shaker bottle—set aside. 
    You can make more of this if you like, I use this rub on other things as well; the cinnamon brings a unique flavor to various meats.
  • Light your grill and set up for two-zone cooking, establishing temperature at 285–300 °F.
  • Rub a very thin coat of vegetable oil onto the ribs. This will act as a binder for the rub. 
  • Sprinkle the rub generously onto the racks of ribs. Ensure you cover the front, back, and sides of each rack.
  • Place the racks on a cutting board and gather your meat hooks. I like to use two hooks when I am hanging ribs. You can get away with one, but two just keeps things more secure.
  • Place the first meat hook onto the rack of ribs. I usually go about two bones deep on the first hook.
    Push the hook all the way through the meat, and ensure it lays flat against the ribs.
  • Note where the curvature of the first hook is when placing the second hook.
    I have cooked ribs with a single hook but I just feel better about the extra support.
    After inserting the second hook, connect it to the first hook for extra support and peace of mind.
  • Add apple wood chunks to hot coals and hang the ribs inside the barrel. Cook for about 3 hours. If you’re using a Kamado- style grill or kettle grill, just ensure you place the ribs over indirect heat.
  • Remove the ribs from cooker using a hook. Do not grab the hooks with bare hands! Allow to rest for about 10 minutes uncovered before slicing and serving.

Tried This Recipe?

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2 thoughts on “Apple Cinnamon Brined Baby Back Ribs”

  1. I’m enjoying just reading about them ! I’m trying this brine today, hubby smoking tomorrow, I’ll be back to tell how yummy I’m certain this will be ! Thanks in advance

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