When is a rib not a rib? As Hamlet might say, "that is the question!" According to Cooks Illustrated, pork spareribs are butchered from the belly, and baby back ribs come from the loin near the backbone. Both are succulent and have bones to nibble on after you’ve ripped off the meat. But country-style ribs are cut from the loin that connects to the pig’s shoulder, also known as the blade, which is cut into chops. The bone is often removed, so the meat can be sold as boneless "ribs" (per The Kitchn).
Recipe developer Angela Latimer of Bake It With Love is a big fan of cooking with the air fryer, and it works especially well with her recipe for country-style ribs. "I love using the air fryer for this recipe," she told us, "because I can get the outside nice and crisp, but the ribs are still wonderfully juicy." If you don’t have an air fryer, Latimer’s recipe works with grilling or oven-baking them, but the timing would be different. In the air fryer, the country-style ribs take an unexpectedly short amount of time.
Gather the ingredients for your country-style ribs
You’ll need two pounds of country-style pork ribs for this recipe, which will give you about eight ribs. Because of the way the ribs are cut, you may have a couple that still have the blade bone. These will cook exactly the same, so there’s no need to slice the pork off of the bone. You’ll notice that the ribs have quite a bit of marbled fat, which you want, because it will melt during cooking and then crisp up when they’re done.
You’ll also need three-quarters of a cup of your favorite barbecue sauce and two tablespoons of pork seasoning. Latimer uses Grill Mates Honey Hickory, but you can make your own if you prefer. Combine half a tablespoon of sweet or smoked paprika, one teaspoon of ground mustard, one teaspoon of garlic powder, one teaspoon of onion powder, one teaspoon of salt, and half a teaspoon of ground black pepper in a small bowl. But Latimer has a recommendation about the seasoning: "Ground sage was also made to combine with pork, so swap that out for the ground mustard if you like!"
Preheat the air fryer and season the ribs
Preheat the air fryer to 370 degrees Fahrenheit for five minutes. While it’s heating up, rinse the ribs off, and pat them dry with paper towels. Fat adds flavor and juiciness to pork, but there may be an excess amount attached to the meat, so trim that off. If you have ribs that are larger than the others, cut them to approximately the same size as the smaller ribs so they’ll all cook evenly. Lay the ribs in a baking pan or on a large cutting board. Sprinkle the pork seasoning over the ribs, and massage the seasoning into all the surfaces of the pork. Turn the ribs over and repeat the seasoning/massaging process.
Cook your ribs in the air fryer
Spray or coat the bottom of the air fryer basket with oil. Place the seasoned ribs in the basket in a single layer. Make sure to leave space between each rib. For best results, don’t try to squeeze all of the ribs into the basket. "The quality of cooking really does go down if you load too many ribs in your air fryer," Latimer said. "The juices that accumulate in the bottom pot of the air fryer will end up ‘steaming’ your ribs rather than ‘frying’ them." For this recipe, Latimer cooked eight ribs in three batches. Once you’ve arranged the ribs in the basket, cook them for 10 minutes.
Turn the ribs over, cook for 10 minutes, then brush on BBQ sauce
When the ribs have cooked for 10 minutes, turn them over with tongs and cook them for 10 more minutes. After the second cooking, brush the ribs with three-quarters of a cup of barbecue sauce. Turn up the air fryer to 400 degrees and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the ribs have caramelized and crisped up to your liking. Wrap the ribs in aluminum foil and cook the remaining ribs in the same manner. "Oven-warming will likely dry these out," Latimer told us. She has a convection air fryer that allows her to handle a few more ribs than the usual basket-style air fryer.
Serve the country-style ribs with BBQ sauce on the side
When you’ve finished air-frying all of the ribs, sprinkle a little chopped parsley over them, and serve with additional BBQ sauce on the side. Latimer told us that you could cook the ribs in larger batches and achieve that coveted caramelized crispiness by searing them with the sauce on the grill or under the broiler. It’s possible to try Latimer’s recipe with beef ribs instead of pork, but they’re usually larger and on the bone, so it might be tricky fitting them in the air fryer’s basket. This recipe has become a new family favorite for the Latimers, and we’re betting that you and your family will love them too.
- 2 pounds country-style pork ribs
- 2 tablespoons pork seasoning
- ¾ cup barbecue sauce
- Preheat the air fryer to 370 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes while you rinse, pat dry, and trim off any excess fat from the two pounds of country-style pork ribs.
- Cut any particularly large pork ribs into smaller portions so that they are all relatively the same size.
- Season the pork ribs with seasoning, sprinkling, and massaging the rub into the surface of your ribs.
- Spray or coat the bottom of the air fryer basket with oil, then place the seasoned ribs into the basket. Arrange the ribs in a single layer with space between the ribs for even cooking. (You will likely need to cook in batches for best results.)
- Cook the ribs for 10 minutes, then turn them and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes.
- Brush the air fryer ribs with ¾ cup of your favorite barbecue sauce, and return them to the air fryer.
- Increase the temperature to 400 degrees, and cook the ribs for 8 to 10 minutes or until caramelized and crisped to your desired level.
- Remove from your air fryer, repeat as necessary, and serve with additional sauce on the side if desired.