A Simple Sweet Sauce Is Enough For Country-Style Pork Ribs

Few things capture the essence of comfort and indulgence like country-style pork ribs. These "ribs," sold both boneless and bone-in, are cut from the shoulder section of the pig, with the name referring more to the shape than the point of origin. When cooked properly, country-style ribs feature tender, succulent meat that falls off the bone, with a rich tapestry of marbled fat enhancing every bite. So, when it comes to saucing them, aim for balance by providing a sweet, tangy, and possibly spicy counterpoint to the porcine goodness.

Slow cooking, whether in a smoker, on the grill, or in the oven, allows the connective tissue and fat in the meat to gently unwind and melt. The result is a deeply savory experience reminiscent of pulled pork and carnitas. Yet, with richness comes the need for equilibrium. There enters the magic of a sweet sauce, a classic pairing for meats fatty or lean, gamy or mild. The addition of sweetness not only counterbalances the umami but also elevates the overall taste profile.

While sauces can indeed be complex and persnickety-to-prepare — looking at you, Hollandaise — there is no need to be overwrought with country-style ribs. A simple sauce that pulls from the pantry and refrigerator works wonders on this cut, either as a dip, a glaze, or both.

Tons of tasty choices

When delving into the world of sweet sauces for country-style pork ribs, the options are as diverse as the cooking mediums. For those opting for the smoldering allure of a smoker, a kicked-up barbecue sauce is called for. Tasting Table recipe developer Petar Marshall recommends dosing store-bought sauce with a touch more brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce in his recipe for smoked country-style ribs. "You can certainly use plain barbecue sauce," says Marshall. "I love the tangy kick that adding the apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce gives to the final flavor."

If the oven is your preferred cooking arena, consider a sweet-hot honey mustard glaze. This golden elixir combines the mellow sweetness of honey with the zesty kick of potent mustard such as Dijon, creating a flavorful coating that caramelizes to perfection during roasting. The result is a succulent medley of sweet and savory that envelopes oven-roasted country-style ribs. 

For those who favor the fire of the grill, a tropical sweet-and-sour sauce with pineapple and ginger offers a fruity twist. This vibrant concoction balances the natural sweetness of pineapple with the warm, spicy notes of ginger. When used as a glaze, the sauce imparts a glossy finish, ensuring each bite is a symphony of tropical delights. As a finishing sauce, it adds pep to the deep undertones of the country-style ribs.