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.
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)
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Famous Montreal Back Ribs
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Other rib recipes you might like: