Food & Drink

Martha Hall Foose’s Mustard-Rubbed Ribs

A sweet and spicy recipe that does ribs some serious justice

Spice-rubbed, laid out on a smoking grill, basted and glazed to glistening, primal seductiveness—a rack of ribs is always a thing to behold. And the Mustard-Rubbed Ribs recipe from Martha Hall Foose’s book Screen Doors and Sweet Tea does ribs some serious justice. Her treatment marries the meat with a sweet and spicy rub and a mustard-infused mopping sauce for tender, glistening, succulent racks.

“Personality flavors barbecue as much as anything else,” Foose says. “Many chefs flambé with a look-at-me-flourish, but a pit master or grill man tends his offering with a more laid-back approach, as is appropriate to his craft. Character traits can be tasted.”


  • Mopping Sauce

    • 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar

    • 2 tbsp. ketchup

    • 2 tbsp. prepared yellow mustard

    • 1 tbsp. light brown sugar

    • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

  • Dry Rub

    • 2 tbsp. kosher salt

    • 2 tbsp. chili powder

    • 2 tbsp. hot or smoked paprika

    • 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

    • 1 tbsp. dry mustard

    • 1 tbsp. light brown sugar

    • 1 tbsp. ground cumin

    • 1 tsp. garlic powder

    • 1 tsp. onion powder

    • 1 tsp. ground allspice

    • 5 lbs. beef short ribs, or 1 slab spareribs, rinsed, cleaned, and patted dry


  1. To make the sauce, combine the vinegar, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes in a lidded jar. Shake vigorously and refrigerate overnight.


  2. To make the dry rub, mix the salt, chili powder, paprika, pepper, dry mustard, brown sugar, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and allspice in a small bowl.


  3. Rub the spice blend firmly into the surface of the ribs. Wrap the ribs in plastic and refrigerate overnight.


  4. Place coals on one side of a grill and set a drip pan on the other side. Set the rack 6 to 8 inches above the coals, and light the coals.

  5. When ready to grill, you should be able to hold your palm over the coals for about 2 seconds, and there should be a light ash coating on the glowing coals.


  6. Place the ribs on the grill opposite from the coals, and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, keeping the temperature at 200° to 225°F. Brush with the sauce, cover, and continue to cook, brushing with the sauce every 30 minutes, and covering between moppings, for 3 hours or until the bones move slightly when twisted.

  7. Slice between the ribs and serve with any remaining sauce.

Recipe from Martha Hall Foose, excerpted with permission from her cookbook, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea