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Famous Montreal Back Ribs

Years ago I discovered this copycat recipe of the famous Montreal back ribs we loved. Sweet, sticky, tender and delicious. We included three ways to make them, but make no mistake, it’s the glaze that is unique and awesome.

Baby back Ribs cut up on a wooden cutting board

Yes, this is a copycat recipe that I’ve unabashedly been making for years. And it’s delicious! The recipe is based on the mouth-watering famous Montreal ribs restaurant recipe we loved when living in Montreal. My husband and friends who have eaten there agree that it’s pretty close to the original.

How to cook baby back ribs (3 ways)

There are many methods of cooking back ribs – oven baked ribs, grilled, parboiled, slow cooker, sous vide ribs. instant pot or a combination of these.

The 3 methods I’ve included in the recipe instructions are cooking methods that require finishing with a glaze or sauce on the grill or under the broiler. They all make juicy, succulent ribs when done right. I’ve included the approximate time the entire recipe would take with each of the 3 methods.

  1. Parboiling method (1 1/2 hours): This is the method used in the recipe below (and in the original 2016 post). Purists may be cringing now, but for the rest of you, the ribs turn out great. One of the secret ingredients used in the parboil method helps to amp up the flavor. Don’t judge. It works.
  2. Instant Pot (1 hour): With the appearance of  the instant pot (which makes fabulous ribs by the way), I’ve included instructions for this method in the recipe notes section. What a time saver! You can pretty well be feasting in about an hour.
  3. Baking method (2 1/2 hours). You’ll also find instructions in the recipe notes for this method which is probably the most commonly used of the three.

So which method is best? Well, it all comes down to preference and time.

  • If you have time to marinate the meat overnight, the baking or instant pot methods infuse the most flavor. The baking method has a bit of an edge because the ribs are slow cooked with the seasoning.
  • If you’re short on time, definitely go with the Instant Pot if you have one. The next best is the parboil method.
  • Regarding tenderness, all methods produce soft, tender meat.

3 Secret Ingredients

The 3 secret ingredients in this recipe are not very common with rib recipes. The first two are part of the glaze – applesauce and cinnamon. The third – and slightly more weird – is pickle juice used in the parboil method or instant pot.  Don’t worry – they all work really well.

The glaze requires no cooking and takes a just a few minutes to put together. It’s sweet and tangy and sticky with a unique flavor. Feel free to add cayenne pepper for some heat.

Whichever way you choose to cook your ribs, slather on that glaze, pass some extra and dig in! And pass those sides – here’s a few good ones: grilled coleslaw, grilled corn salad, crispy oven-roasted potatoes or crispy smashed potatoes with gremolata.

Make Ahead

  • After parboiling, baking or pressure cooking, the cooked ribs can be refrigerated, covered, for a day or two. I suggest bringing the ribs to room temperature for an hour or so before the final cooking stage. Then, to heat and add the sauce/glaze, either grill on medium heat or broil 10 inches from the heat source. This will give the ribs a chance to fully heat through.
removing silver skin from ribs
Remove silver skin from back of ribs
rib seasoned with rib rub on cutting board
Season ribs with a rub
ribs in instant pot ready to cook
If using Instant Pot method, add liquids and onions at bottom, place trivet on top, and sit ribs on top, wrapped around. Two racks would overlap into the center – that’s ok.
back ribs ingredients - ketchup, applesauce, lemon, brown sugar, garlic powder, paprika, cinnamon
Gather glaze ingredients: apple sauce, ketchup, lemon, brown sugar, cinnamon, paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper
glaze in bowl for famous montreal back ribs
Stir glaze ingredients together. No cooking needed
one back ribs cut in 3 pieces with glaze brushed on ready to grill or broil
When ribs are cooked, slather glaze on ribs, then grill or broil. to finish

cut of ribs with glaze on cutting board d1

Baby back Ribs cut up on a wooden cutting board f
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Famous Montreal Back Ribs

Years ago I discovered this copycat recipe of the famous Montreal back ribs we loved. Sweet, sticky, tender and delicious. We included three ways to make them, but make no mistake, it's the glaze that is unique and awesome.
Prep Time14 mins
Cook Time1 hr 6 mins
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 -5
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 3.5 lbs -4 lbs baby back ribs (about 2 large racks)

Parboiling method ingredients

  • 1 onion cut in half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4-5 peppercorns
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 cup pickle juice i.e. liquid in jar that pickles sit in (optional, but great for flavoring ribs)

Glaze for any cooking method

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp EACH: salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne (optional) or more to taste

Instructions

  • PREPARE RIBS: Remove the silver skin on the back of the ribs by sliding the tip of a knife under the skin at the small end of the rack. Loosen the skin from the bone, then grab it with a paper towel and peel the skin off the entire rib. It should peel away in one large sheet. If it doesn't, try again. Cut each rib into 2-3 pieces. 
  • PARBOIL RIBS: Place ribs in a large pot. Add onion, bay leaf, salt, peppercorns, garlic and pickle juice if using. Fill pot with water to cover ribs by one inch. Slowly bring ribs to a boil by heating the stove to medium-high. Skim surface with a ladle. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour or until a knife easily pierces the meat. If you have time, let the meat sit in the water until the water cools. If not, remove the ribs and discard the water. Note 1 for Instant Pot method. Note 2 for baking method.
  • MAKE SAUCE/GLAZE: In a large bowl, mix all glaze ingredients well. Set aside 1/2 cup to pass as extra sauce. Add the ribs to the bowl and mix to coat well.
  • GLAZE AND FINISH:
    To broil: Place ribs on a pan lined with foil and sprayed with oil. Baste the ribs with the glaze. Heat oven to broil, On a rack close to the heat, broil ribs for about 3 minutes on each side until bubbly and charred in spots. (I often just broil the meat side and not the bone side)
    To grill: Use a paper towel dipped in oil to grease the grill. Or spray it with oil. Heat grill to medium high. Grill for about 3 minutes per side, basting with extra glaze. Cut into serving portions and serve with additional glaze.

Notes

  1. Instant Pot Method to cook ribs: After removing the silver skin, rub ribs all over with a good rub (about 6 tbsp). Buy it or make your own (see note 4). If you have time, marinate for several hours or over night.
Place 1 cup broth, a few chunks of onion and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or pickle juice) in bottom of Instant Pot (IP). Lay trivet over broth (if you have one), then wrap ribs around the side of the IP, standing ribs on trivet, bone side facing toward the center. Wrap the second rib inside the first in the same way.
Close Instant Pot lid and set valve to 'SEALING', then set PRESSURE OR MANUAL button on High for 24 minutes. If ribs are very meaty, set for 25-26 minutes. The Instant Pot will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure before beginning the 24 minute countdown. When finished cooking (it will beep), do a 5 minute natural pressure release, then turn valve to VENT to release remaining pressure. When button drops, you can open the lid. Turn Instant Pot to OFF. Remove ribs and proceed to glazing/finishing step. 
2. Baking Method: After removing the silver skin, cut ribs horizontally in two. Rub on your favorite rib rub (buy it or see Note 4 for rub recipe). If you have time, marinate for several hours or over night.
Wrap ribs well in foil, place on pan, then place another layer of foil over pan. Bake at 300F for 2 hours. Uncover, test for doneness and proceed to glazing/finishing step. 
3. Make Ahead: Once the ribs are cooked (boiled, baked or pressure cooked), at this point, you can refrigerate the ribs and continue to the next step the next day. I suggest bringing the ribs to room temperature for an hour or so. Then, to heat and add the sauce/glaze, either grill on medium heat or broil 10 inches from the heat source. This will give the ribs a chance to fully heat through.
4. Rub recipe: Per rack of ribs - Combine 1 tbsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tbsp EACH of chili powder, garlic powder, brown sugar.
Nutrition value estimates include about 1/2 rack of ribs per person using the parboil cooking method. They do not include the pickle juice which would add additional sodium unless you reduce the salt in the water used to boil the ribs.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Famous Montreal Back Ribs
Amount Per Serving
Calories 726 Calories from Fat 369
% Daily Value*
Fat 41g63%
Saturated Fat 14g88%
Cholesterol 173mg58%
Sodium 1953mg85%
Potassium 811mg23%
Carbohydrates 42g14%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 37g41%
Protein 49g98%
Vitamin A 209IU4%
Vitamin C 7mg8%
Calcium 114mg11%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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