This smoked pork ribs recipe is seasoned with Chinese Five Spice and sugar, cooked in the 3-2-1 method of smoked pork ribs, and then finished with a Thai Sweet Chili Sauce. These Asian ribs are packed with flavor.
Barbecue can be a very subjective experience, especially if your lens for barbecue is heavily influenced by one of the classical regions like the Carolinas, Memphis, or Texas. That said, the technique for getting tender meat and smoky flavor can be an incredible canvas when looking for flavor inspiration from around the world.
For these Smoked Pork Ribs with Asian Spice we were inspired by a combination of Chinese five spice and a Thai sweet red chili sauce to create some delicious sticky ribs. We piled on sweet and savory flavors to the rub and sauce for a delicious, if not messy, flavor to go along with the rich, smoky and tender ribs.
Which Ribs Should I Use?
We use St. Louis style spare ribs which are a full spare rib rack, trimmed down removing riblets and excess cartilage. They are meaty and can handle the long cooking time.
You can substitute baby backs, but they will cook in about 4 hours versus 5 – 6.
For any pork rib recipe, it’s important to start by removing the silver skin (or membrane) that is on the bone side of the ribs. Leaving it on makes for an unpleasant paper like texture when it cooks.
Using a sharp knife, gently pull off a small corner of the silver skin on one end of the ribs. Use a paper towel to then pull and remove the silver skin. The paper towel gives more hold so it doesn’t slip out of your hands.
Chinese Five Spice Seasoning
Five spice powder typically has cinnamon, fennel seeds, Sichuan peppercorn, cloves, and star anise. We balance that with sugar, salt, ginger powder, garlic, pepper, and dry mustard to give a very savory mouthwatering flavor. It smells amazing and can be used for a pork butt too. Make a large batch to use down the road and store in a mason jar.
For seasoning the ribs:
- Coat the trimmed ribs with mustard. This will allow the dry rub to stick.
- Liberally apply the rub to both sides of the ribs.
Smoked Pork Ribs
We follow the 3-2-1 method of smoked pork ribs and you can check out the details there. It’s three stages to smoked ribs that is a great and easy way for tender ribs.
- Smoke – This is where the sugar and caramelization happens with the ribs. We also spritz, which is adding moisture to get more smoke flavor into the ribs. This takes about 3 hours.
- Wrap – After smoking and spritzing, wrap the ribs with honey and butter to allow the ribs to baste as it continues cooking. This takes about 2 hours.
- Unwrap – The final step is removing the wrap and allowing the ribs to firm up. This takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
Thai Barbecue Sauce
The sauce is served as a glaze as the ribs come off the smoker. To prepare the sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir to incorporate. As the ribs come off the smoker, glaze both sides of the ribs with a brush.
Reserve some of the sauce in case anyone wants to dip.
To add heat just add a 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne.
More Smoked Rib Recipes
- Competition Style Pork Ribs
- Sugar Free Smoked Pork Ribs (Keto and Paleo Friendly)
- Sweet and Savory Honey Dijon Glazed Smoked Ribs
- Blueberry Bourbon Rosemary Smoked Ribs
- Smoked Ribs with Spicy Mango BBQ Sauce (low sugar)
- Pellet Grill Ribs
Other Rib Glazes and Variations
Juicy, bold, red wines that are fairly low in tannins work best.
- Syrah from Washington State is our preferred recommendation
- Zinfandel from California
- Malbec from South America
You want a fruity wine that’s strong enough to stand up to the bold flavors of the sauce, but you don’t want strong tannins since most the fat in the ribs have rendered. The flavor is tender meat with a mix of smoke, sweet, savory, and mildly spicy flavors.
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**This post was originally published in 2015, and edited in November of 2020 with updated process photos and recipe details.
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Asian Smoked Pork Ribs Recipe
For the Pork Ribs
- 2 racks St. Louis style pork ribs
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 4 tablespoons Chinese five spice dry rub see below
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 cups spritz see below
- 1 cup sauce see below
For the Dry Rub
- 1 cup cane sugar
- ¼ cup Chinese five spice
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon dry ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
For the Spritz
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
For the Sauce
- 6.57 oz bottle of sweet red chili
- ¼ cup soy sauce low sodium
- 1 teaspoon red curry paste adds heat
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon roasted red chili paste
- 3 drops fish sauce go light, this stuff is potent!
- ½ lime juiced
- Preheat smoker to 250 degrees, using fruit wood.
- Prep the ribs by trimming excess fat and removing the silver skin on the bone side of the ribs. Use a sharp knife to separate the silver skin and a dry paper towel to get a good hold and pull off. Rinse with cold water and pat dry.
- Apply the mustard to the ribs as the base coating for dry rub, and then liberally apply your rub to the ribs on both sides.
- Place the ribs in the smoker. After 90 minutes begin spritzing the ribs every 30 minutes.
- Around the 2 ½ hour mark start looking for the bone to start poking through the rib meat. When you have roughly ¼ inch of bone showing, that is a good time to wrap the meat.
- Place each rib rack in its own aluminum foil wrap. Before enclosing, place 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of honey on each rack and then tightly seal the foil.
- After 90 minutes gently open the foil (caution – it’ll be hot, use oven gloves), use a toothpick or slender sharp knife to poke at the meat, you’re looking for it to go in like butter or to gently move the bones around, but not come out. If the meat is still not tender, re-wrap and check every 30 minutes. If tender, then open the foil completely and let cook for another 30 minutes. The moisture should cook out slightly.
- Remove and then apply the sauce to both sides of the ribs, while reserving some to add as desired. Slice and serve (with a lot of napkins).
For the Dry Rub
- Combine all ingredients, store in an airtight container, like a mason jar. Will last a few months.
- In a clean, food safe spray bottle combine juice and vinegar.
For the Sauce
- Combine all ingredients and stir. For heat, add cayenne.