Chinese barbeque spareribs are a great way to make a simple, but flavorful dish. The sugar caramelizes and gives the meat a rich flavor. You can follow this recipe to get the perfect Chinese barbeque spareribs, which is super easy to make but does require some preparation.
What are Chinese Barbeque Spareribs?
You probably think about “char siu” when you heard about Chinese pork ribs. Char siu is Cantonese-style roasted meat. Char siu is made with boneless pork shoulder or pork lion. Keep in mind that Chinese barbeque spareribs are a little different than char siu. They take longer than char siu because they are ribs with bone instead of pure meat.
Chinese BBQ spareribs are a popular dish in Southern China, and Hong Kong. It has also spread to North America, where it is sometimes known as “Chinese spareribs” or “Hong Kong-style BBQ pork ribs”. The dish consists of a slab of pork ribs that are marinated in all Chinese ingredients, like five spice powder and other seasonings, then baked in the oven or grilled over charcoal.
Chinese barbeque spareribs is a recipe that involves roasting pork ribs in the oven until they are fall-off-the-bone tender, then glazing them with a homemade Chinese barbeque sauce. This is one of my favorite Chinese dishes because it’s easier than other Chinese dishes, and everyone loves it!
The Sauce is the Key
The recipe for Chinese BBQ spareribs couldn't be easier. The trick to making Chinese spareribs is not to undercook them and to use a good sauce. The marinade for Chinese barbeque spareribs typically includes five main ingredients: a mixture of five spice powders, soy sauce, sugar, Shaoxing cooking wine, raw honey, dark brown sugar, ketchup, and sesame oil. Other spices may be added depending on personal preference.
The marinade should be thick enough to coat all surfaces of the meat when applied with a brush or spoon; however, some versions call for adding water to thin it out if it becomes too thick from standing at room temperature for too long before cooking begins. Vice versa, if you accidentally add up too much water, you can coat it with cornstarch to help thicken up the sauce, then roast it until it’s nice and browned on both sides.
You can also use honey instead of dark brown sugar if you want it to be sweeter than savory. The ribs are baked in an oven until they're tender and crisp on the outside. You can make your own Chinese barbeque sauce by following this recipe or you can find bottled Chinese barbecue sauce at any Asian grocery store.
p/s: I used two racks of spareribs as you see in all the pictures since I love to cook in batches for these mouth-watering ribs, so we have plenty of leftovers! However, the sauce recipe below in the recipe card is for 1 rack.
Remove the Pork Ribs Membrane
The pork ribs membrane is a thin sheet of connective tissue that runs along the backside of a rack of ribs. It's tough and rubbery, and sometimes it can be difficult to remove without tearing the meat. You want to get rid of it if you want to get the best results from your ribs. It's super easy to remove it once you know how. Here's how to do it:
With a sharp knife, cut through the membrane from one side of each rib to the other. Use your hand to lift one side of the membrane, the membrane should tear easily at this point and fall away from the bones. Peel it away from the ribs slowly. You can also use a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp pair of scissors to cut away the membrane that covers the bone side of the ribs. This method takes more time than using a knife, but it works just as well and doesn't require any special equipment. Sometimes, you can find a butcher to do this for you as well.
If you want, remove any excess fat and cartilage from around the edges of the rib bones. Use your fingers and a paring knife to remove as much fat as possible, but don't worry about getting every bit. The more you can remove, however, the more tender your ribs will be when cooked.
Removing the membrane before cooking, make it easier to eat the meat. Keep in mind that some people prefer ribs that are still attached to their membranes. If you are looking for ribs that have a little chew, you can leave the membrane on, it is totally up to you.
How to Cook Chinese Barbeque Spareribs
Start by sprinkling salt and pepper on both sides of the spareribs (membrane off), along with five-spice powders. Make sure both sides are covered by a good amount of seasoning. Meat side up into oven and bake it for up to 4 hours at 275°F (135°C). Brush a thick layer of Chinese barbeque sauce on both sides of the spareribs. Broil under the broiler for about 3-5 minutes depending on your desired sauce texture.
Cut up the ribs and serve warm. Enjoy!
The ribs have a unique flavor that goes well with rice and other dishes.
Storing and Reheating Barbeque Spareribs
Baked ribs can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in an airtight container. You can also Wrap it in foil or freezer paper and store it in the freezer for up to three months. It is best to thaw in the refrigerator and then reheat.
You can reheat the ribs in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes by wrapping them in foil or parchment paper. Warm some extra sauce over the ribs before serving if you have some leftovers.
Homemade barbeque spareribs are one of my favorite foods to prepare for my family. Barbeque spareribs are packed full of flavor. Give it a try, I promise you will be in love with them!
- 1 rack of St Louis-style pork spareribs 2-4 pounds is fine, mine was 3.43 pounds
- ½ tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
- Chili powder optional
Chinese Barbeque Sauce
- Set oven to 275°F (135°C). Meanwhile, remove the membrane slowly. See the article above for detailed instructions.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the spareribs, along with five-spice powders. Make sure both sides are covered by a good amount of seasoning. Add a little bit of chili powder if you want, it is optional, I did not.
- Place the rib’s meat side up into a baking pan. You can also line the pan with aluminum foil for easy cleanup later. Cover the spareribs with another large piece of foil loosely, to retain the moisture and juices. Bake the spareribs until fragrant, up to 4 hours. You want to check the ribs every hour so to monitor the progress. Adjust the baking time according to the spareribs size.
- While the spareribs are cooking, it’s a perfect time to prepare the barbeque sauce! Mix all Chinese barbeque ingredients together and stir until it’s well blended. Put in the refrigerator until it’s time to use.
- When the spareribs are done cooking, remove them from the oven. Brush a thick layer of sauce on both sides of the spareribs. Yes, a thick layer!
- Turn on the broiler and put back the ribs into the oven for a final touch. The Chinese barbeque sauce should begin to caramelize in 5 minutes or less. Keep in mind to always use the broiler on high to get a perfect finish texture! I personally enjoy the texture that is a little burned! You can adjust the broiling time down to 3 or 4 minutes if you want a milder cooking surface.
- Cut up the ribs and serve warm. Enjoy!
- Before you brush the barbeque sauce on, use a paper towel to wipe away any excess moisture that forms on top of the ribs after cooking them.
- If you prefer, you can add a few drops of red color to this dish to make the color more appealing. It is an option, I did not.
- When buying Chinese spareribs, make sure to pick out the ones that have a high meat-to-bone ratio. Avoid any bones that have a lot of cartilage on them.