Tony Roma's World Famous Original Baby Back Ribs copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur
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Tony Roma's World-Famous Original Baby Back Ribs

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Tony Roma had already been in the restaurant business for many years when he opened Tony Roma's Place in North Miami, Florida in 1972. This casual diner featured food at reasonable prices, nightly live entertainment and the house specialty: baby back ribs. Soon, customers were traveling from miles away to get a taste of the succulent, mouth-watering ribs. One rib-lover came from Texas in 1976: Clint Murchison, Jr., a Texas financier and owner of the Dallas Cowboys. After sampling the baby backs, and claiming they were the best he'd ever tasted, he struck up a deal with Tony to purchase the majority of the U.S. rights to the company and planned for a major expansion. 

The famous barbecue ribs served at the restaurant have been judged the best in America at a national rib cook-off and have won more than 30 awards at other state and local competitions. The secret to the tender, melt-in-your-mouth quality of the ribs at Tony Roma's is the long, slow-cooking process. Here is the Top Secret Recipes version of the cooking technique. 

The sauce cloned here is the sauce the made the chain famous—Tony Roma's serves it on their Original Baby Back Ribs. This version of the sauce uses a ketchup base, vinegar, dark corn syrup and a bit of Tabasco. The chain uses their sauce on baby back ribs and has started selling it by the bottle in each restaurant. Now you can make a version of your own that is less costly than the bottled brand, and can be used on any cut of ribs, or even chicken. Check out my clone recipes for these other 3 sauces: Caroline Honey SauceBlue Ridge Smokies Sauce, and Red Hots Sauce.

Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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Barbecue Sauce
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco pepper sauce
  • 4 pounds baby back pork ribs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Do This
    • Restaurant/Brand
      Tony Roma's
    • Instructions
      1. Combine all of the ingredients for the barbecue sauce in a saucepan over high heat. Use a whisk to blend the ingredients until smooth.

      2. When the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered.

      3. In 30 to 45 minutes, when the sauce thickens, remove it from the heat. If you want a thicker sauce, heat it longer. 

      4. Cut the full racks of ribs in half (about 4 to 6 rib bones per rack).  Remove the silverskin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

      5. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

      3. Tear off 4 pieces of aluminum foil that are roughly 6 inches longer than the ribs.

      4. Coat the ribs, front and back, with barbecue sauce. Place a rack of ribs, one at a time, onto a piece of foil lengthwise and wrap it tightly. Place the foil-wrapped ribs in the fridge to marinate for 24 hours (see Tidbits) or follow the directions in step 6 to begin cooking.

      6. Place the foil-wrapped ribs onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and pop them into the oven with the seam of the foil wrap facing up. Cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until you see the meat of the ribs shrinking back from the cut ends of the bones by about 1/2 inch. This long cooking time will braise the meat so it's fall-off-the-bone tender.

      7. Toward the end of the cooking time, preheat your grill to high.

      8. Remove the ribs from the foil and smother them with additional barbecue sauce. Be sure to save some sauce for later.

      9. Grill the ribs on the hot grill for 2 to 4 minutes per side, or just until you see several spots of charred blackened sauce. Watch for flames and do not burn.

      10. When the ribs are done, use a sharp knife to slice the meat between each bone about halfway down. This will make it easier to tear the ribs apart when they are served. Serve the ribs piping hot with additional sauce on the side.

      Tidbits: If you've got time to marinate these ribs in advance, do it. I've found these ribs are extraordinary when they've been soaking in barbecue sauce for 24 hours before cooking. Just prepare the ribs in the foil as described in the recipe and keep them in your fridge. Toss them, foil and all, into the oven the next day, 2 to 2 1/2 hours before you plan to pig out.
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Score: 5.00. Votes: 1
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Mar 1, 2014, 22:00

Followed the recipe and the ribs are fabulous. This is my go to barbeque sauce. Why spend $25.00 on a slab of ribs at a restaurant when you can make these at home!

I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker

For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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