The Ingredient That Will Change Your Ribs Forever

Are you a ribs fan? Whether your go-to cut is spareribs, baby-back ribs, or St. Louis-style ribs, you probably know that there are about a million and one ways to prepare this classic BBQ dish. Whether smoked or grilled, cooked sous-vide, or prepared in an Instant Pot, these porky delights take well to a variety of cooking methods as well as a seemingly infinite array of rubs, sauces, and marinades. 

It seems like every rib recipe out there has a "secret" ingredient, whether that's a cinnamon-spiced dry rub, a citrusy wet rub, or a tequila-spiked or pomegranate-sweetened BBQ sauce. Each of these ingredients pleases different palates for different reasons, but did you know that some of the seasonings commonly employed in rib cookery also often serve a technical function? One ingredient commonly featured in rib recipes brings both flavor and improved texture to the party. Read on to discover the secret ingredient sure to add some extra zing to your rib recipe.

A caffeine jolt for tender pork ribs

Have you ever marinated your meat in coffee? If you have, then you know that those flavor-packed beans pack a punch and are great at tenderizing meat. Strong brewed coffee is commonly found in marinades like this one from Taste of Home. If you've used this method and know that it turns out tender meat, why not try it with ribs?

According to the cooking blog Cleo Coyle Recipes, coffee is an excellent marinade addition because it is acidic — a quality central to tenderizing meat. It's a favorable option because unlike common marinade ingredients such as vinegar or lemon juice, it is not overly acidic and does not result in over-tenderized, mushy meat. Coyle writes, "Coffee contains just enough acidity to help the tenderizing process, yet preserve the meat's texture."

Coyle suggests a one-hour bath in cold coffee for baby back or spareribs. Afterward, you should season the ribs, basting them with BBQ sauce, and bake them in a hot oven for about an hour and a half. Epicurious recommends marinating bison short ribs in a cold coffee, followed by braising them in bacon, onions, and garlic. We're making a mental note to brew some extra coffee and head down to the butcher shop, stat.