Alton Brown's Baby Back Rib Dry Rub Uses A Specific Formula

A dish as delicious as it is messy, ribs are a meat-lover's dream. Ribs range in style and seasoning, from pork spare ribs to short ribs to lamb riblets. And, of course, there's baby back ribs, which Smoked BBQ Source characterizes as leaner and more tender than spare ribs.

Just as ribs range, rib cooking styles vary: Making barbecued baby back pork ribs can be an all-day undertaking. But it doesn't have to be, so long as you bake your ribs prior to grilling. And if you'd rather a slow-cooked approach, you can sous vide ribs for 24 hours. 

Yet no matter how you make your ribs — or the kind you choose — the key to a mouthwatering dish ultimately lies in its seasoning. For ribs, this often takes the form of a dry spice rub, which, again, comes down to personal preference. Simply Recipes recommends a dry rub that consists of dark brown sugar as a sweetener, as well as mustard, cayenne, and onion powder, among other spices.

Certain spice levels may suit certain palates, but there's one particular spice ratio you'll want to keep in mind. Celebrity chef Alton Brown suggests a tried-and-true formula for mastering your next dry rub; His rib seasoning method is all about the numbers, guaranteeing perfectly seasoned ribs.

Alton Brown employs a brown sugar-dominant ratio for seasoning ribs

Cooking isn't a science — but the art of cooking meets the precision of math in Alton Brown's rib formula. Per a Food Network video and recipe, Brown's ribs utilize what he refers to as an "8:3:1+1" ratio. "What we're talking about here is parts," Brown says. He breaks the spice rub recipe into eight parts brown sugar, three parts kosher salt, and one part chili powder. Then, after shaking to combine the three ingredients, he turns to the last part. 

The final element — the "+1" in the formula — isn't just one part. Rather, it consists of multiple spices. Brown's rub recipe requires a half teaspoon each of black pepper, cayenne pepper, jalapeño seasoning, Old Bay seasoning, thyme, and onion powder. Collectively, these spices amount to one part in the seasoning ratio. 

Once the rub comes together, Brown generously pats it onto both sides of his baby back ribs (via Alton Brown's website). Once properly flavored, he folds tin foil over the meat. Brown recommends refrigerating the spiced ribs for at least an hour, though the longer, the better. Once the spices have had time to merge with the ribs, you'll be ready to start cooking them, whether that means baking, grilling, or some combination of the two.