Asian Sticky Baby Back Ribs Sous Vide

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I have been thinking about doing this recipe for a couple of months after having some Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs during my Asian cooking boot camp at the Culinary Institute of America.  There are tons of recipes out on the web for Asian Sticky Ribs and, of course, none of them agree on how to do anything.  That’s okay, because I only use them for inspiration. I always end up taking my own road.

I kept my ingredients simple since this was the first time making Asian Sticky Ribs.  Next time, I may start it venture out a little.  I used commercially available Chinese Five-spice.  You can experiment with the flavor profile by actually using the base spices (star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, fennel, clove, and cinnamon) and varying the amounts. 

Ribs need a low and slow cook to become tender.  I chose to do the basic cooking Sous Vide since I can control time and temperature precisely.  The other thing that nobody agrees on is time and temperature for ribs.  The Sous Vide community seems to fall into two camps: The ~140F group and the ~165F group.  The former tend to cook their ribs for 24-48 hours and the later for 4-12 hours.  This is my first time with Baby Backs Sous Vide so I went with 160F for 12 hours in the dry rub and then finished them on the grill with the sticky sauce.  You can chose your method, time and temp of cooking.  The important point is having tender ribs that melt in your mouth and, of course, stick to your fingers. 

I wanted to maximize the surface area for the sticky sauce so I cut the rack into individual ribs before coating the ribs.  For ease of grilling, the two half-rack pieces can be left whole until ready to plate. 

I served my ribs over a Spicy Asian slaw (recipe that I picked up at the CIA and tweaked) and Japanese Potato Salad (recipe in the May/June issue of Milk Street magazine).  [As a side note, I run hot and cold on Cook’s Illustrated; however, I love Chris Kimball’s new effort.  He has taken on international cuisine and it doing an excellent job of bringing it into the American kitchen.  If you don’t already subscribe to the magazine and podcast, you are truly missing out on a fantastic culinary discussion. . . . Free advertisement complete.]

Wow, this is a keeper.  The meat was moist and tender and easily pulls away from the bone leaving it totally clean.  The sauce was not really sticky, but the flavor profile is definitely there.  You can taste the anise, the soy sauce and Hoisin.  The savory flavors of the ribs played well with the insane crunchiness and heat of the slaw and the cool, crunchiness of the potato salad.  Every bit was an explosion of flavor and texture.


  • 1 rack of Baby Back Ribs
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Dry Rub:
  • 1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Chinese Five-spice
  • 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
  • Sticky Sauce:
  • 1/3 cup Soy Sauce
  • 1/3 cup Honey
  • 1/4 cup Hoisin Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
  • 3 tsp Chinese Five-spice


  1. Prepare the Baby Back Ribs by removing the membrane from the back of the rack.
  2. Cut rack into two pieces for ease of Sous Vide bagging.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the Dry Rub ingredients and mix well.
  4. Slather ribs generously on both side with yellow mustard.
  5. Coat both sides of the ribs with the dry rub and rub to evenly coat.
  6. Place ribs into a the Sous Vide bags and vacuum seal.`
  7. Refrigerate ribs for 8 hours or overnight.
  8. Prepare your Sous Vide cooking vessel and preheat water to 160F.
  9. Remove the ribs from the refrigerator and place into the Sous Vide bath for 12 hours.
  10. Near the end of the Sous Vide cooking time, combine the Sticky Sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
  11. At the end of 12 hours, remove the ribs from the Sous Vide bath, remove ribs from the bags and place on paper towels on a cutting board. Let ribs dry for 15 minutes.
  12. Meanwhile, fire up the grill for high heat cooking.
  13. When the ribs are somewhat dry, cut the rack into individual ribs and place in a large bowl.
  14. Pour the Sticky sauce into the bowl with the ribs and gently toss to thoroughly coat.
  15. Place the ribs on the grill and cook until the sauce has thickened and become sticky.  Recoat the ribs with the left-over sauce until it is gone.

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