A chef at Key West's The Elks Lodge cooking up some of Van Aken's 4th of July Ribs.
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Born on The Fourth of July Baby Back Ribs

Norman Van Aken, My Key West Kitchen: Recipes and Stories , Justin Van Aken / July 18th, 2013

I made this spice rub for the first time on a July the 4th. But we have been barbecuing ribs since childhood in our families. The most typical way we do the sauce part is a derivation of my Father-in-Law’s recipe and called “Irv’s Sauce.” Each of his 8 children (along with Mom in Law Millie) have renditions of their own. Janet’s is the spiciest of course… She is not letting that recipe out just yet… so please use our second favorite…

Serves 4 to 6 (advanced preparation required)

Spice rub:
Yields about 1 cup

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsps. dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin (best when freshly toasted and ground, as most spices are)
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. allspice
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cayenne
  • 1 tsp. ground chipotle chile pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. smoked pimentón
  • 1 tsp. ground anise seed
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger

Combine all the ingredients; separate about 1/4 of the mixture above and reserve the other 3/4 cups for other rubbing occasions.


  • 3 to 4 lbs. baby back ribs
  1. Lay ribs on a cutting board or other large surface; season with rub on both sides (more so on the meaty side); allow to stand on the ribs up to four hours.

  2. Prepare grill; heat to moderate-high heat and sear meaty side of ribs until brown; flip; apply layer of sauce; turn heat down to 160˚F to 175˚F; flip; apply sauce again; cook ribs for 90 minutes or more, continuing the flip/sauce technique.