Campfire Ribs

Sam Richards — 22 October 2018

The secret to these melt-in-your-mouth ribs is an all-day cook over a campfire, so be sure to get started early in the day. To keep it simple, you can make the sauce ahead of time. And don't forget the napkins – getting stuck into these mouthwatering morsels is going to get messy.


3 Tbs oil
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups tomato sauce
700g bottle tomato passata
1 3/4 cups red wine vinegar
2/3 cup molasses
1 3/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
2 baby back rib racks

Optional extra

2 tablespoons hickory liquid smoke

Liquid smoke is, quite literally, smoke particles suspended in water. It is added to food to give it a smokey flavour – for example, pulled pork, sausages or ribs often have liquid smoke added during the cooking process. You're unlikely to find it at your local supermarket, but most barbecue shops sell it. Alternatively many butchers have it on hand for their own use, so ask nicely and they might fill up a jar for you – just make sure to keep the lid tighly closed. For this recipe, you would add the liquid smoke when making the sauce.


You can make the sauce in advance, to avoid transporting a lot of ingredients, and to get those ribs cooking nice and early in the day. To make the sauce, saute the garlic and onion in the oil until soft. Add all other ingredients except the ribs, and simmer until your sauce reaches its desired thickness. Remember, a little more water will disappear as you cook the ribs, so don't go too thick too early. If you prepare the sauce at home, you can either refridgerate it for up to a week before cooking your ribs, or freeze it and let it defrost on the road out to camp.

On rib day, make sure you get the campfire going nice and early, so you've got some coals to work with. When you're ready to start cooking your ribs, if the silverskin is still attached remove it from the back of the racks. Cut the racks into sections to fit into your dutch oven. Place the ribs into the dutch oven, and cover with sauce. Simmer over the coals for four to six hours (six is better), and remember to shovel some coals on top of the oven for even heat distribution. Be sure to monitor the heat in your oven to keep the ribs at a simmer. Serve with veggies of your choice and get stuck in.

Note: In order to keep the ribs tender, they need to be covered with sauce throughout the cooking process, so if you don't have enough you'll need to rotate the ribs from the bottom of the oven to the top every half hour or so.


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