Abi’s lip-smacking, finger-licking good ribs

By Abigail Donnelly, 25 March 2015

There are ribs, and then there are ribs: succulent, tender beauties that make you smack your lips and lick your fingers. Food editor Abigail Donnelly shares some tasty tips and a delicious marinade recipe.

Cooks seem to differ when it comes to the perfect way to cook ribs – boil, slow-roast, grill or braai? They agree on one thing, however: when you buy pork, beef or lamb ribs already smothered in a marinade, simply slap them straight onto the braai grid and cook over medium coals. To ensure they’re juicy when you serve them, keep some marinade on the side while cooking and baste the ribs with it.


That’s the easy part. It gets tricky when you buy a “naked” rack, as they call it, especially a nice thick, meaty one. Should you boil them before braaiing? If they are pork, yes. I do. It helps remove some of the fat, but not all of it – you always want some fat to remain because that's where the flavour comes from. If you buy pork ribs that are lean with not much meat on the bones, simply baste them and place them straight on the coals or under the grill – no pre-cooking is required, but do baste as you go.


Lean beef ribs need an entirely different approach. I cover them in foil and cook them over gentle coals (as far away as possible from direct heat) for about 45 minutes. Pork ribs done this way will take about an hour-and-a-half.


HOT TIP: Place a tin-foil container filled with water under the grid to help keep moisture in and ensure tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs. This also works well when you cook ribs in the oven.


Once the ribs are cooked, remove the foil and give them a good basting with your favourite sauce. Then pop them back on the braai to crisp them up.




Some people like hot and spicy, and others sweet and sticky. I like both, so I always add chopped or dried chilli to my sweet, sticky marinade.


In a saucepan, gently heat 1 cup apricot jam, 2 cups tomato sauce, 2 T Dijon mustard, 3 T brown sugar, 3 T vinegar and 1 t smoked paprika (add 1/2 t ground cumin if you like ). Use to baste your ribs, steaks and kebabs while braaing.


Abigail Donnelly

Article by Abigail Donnelly

Nothing excites Woolworths TASTE's Food Director quite as much as the challenge of dreaming up recipes with innovative new foods – or the thrill of creating deliciousness on a plate with the humblest of ingredients. With Abi by your side, you’ll be a cooking expert in no time at all.
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