Raspberry Java Ribs

By Ryan McKay

My love for the Sunday pastime that has become football was a fire that burned slowly before resembling the inferno that it is today. Many recent changes have added fuel to that fire. First and foremost is my young son’s involvement in youth football. Seeing his passion for the sport grow with every weekend has been a real joy. He has seen that his hard work and dedication pay dividends. It is a special moment for a parent.

Living in a city that has a professional football team has contributed as well. Growing up in Southern California, we witnessed a myriad of pro teams sweep in, then sweep away. It was hard to establish roots with both the Rams and Raiders as they jumped from city to city, the Chargers were in San Diego, and the 49ers were in San Francisco. Having a pro team in town and one that is successful, like the Falcons, has given me a vested interest in watching on Sundays. And I thank you in advance for not mentioning last year’s Super Bowl ….

Which brings me to the topic of today: how best to feed yourself and those who stand beside you as they lament the day’s losses? My go-to meal for football is ribs. “Football food” should be of the finger variety, fulfilling the meat quotient, and requiring mostly unattended cooking. Ribs do this in spades. Rain or shine, on the grill or in the oven, dry vs. wet? All these questions are arbitrary but allow me to direct you to what I consider football “nirvana” with this deep and complex raspberry java barbecue sauce. Indulge!

A few after the fire critiques: This recipe suggests an oven, which has more control over temperature fluctuations than the grill or smoker, which is exposed to the outside weather. But feel free to make the ribs using either. If you have a Trader Joe’s anywhere near you, do yourself a favor and use the raspberry jam for this recipe; it’s amazing. Don’t want the coffee grounds? Replace with 2 Tbsp. strong coffee.


Ribs and Dry Rub

Baby Back Ribs (3 medium racks)

Brown Sugar  (½ Cup)

Salt (¼ Cup)

Pepper (2 Tbs.)

Barbecue Sauce

*Rib Juices (1 Cup)

Orange Juice (2 Cups)

Ground Coffee or Espresso Powder (2 Tbs.)

Chipotles (3-4 Minced)

Raspberry Jam (1 Jar or 16-18 ounces)

Brown Sugar (½ Cup)

* see recipe for directions



Baking Sheet

Dutch Oven

Fine Mesh Strainer

Aluminum Foil

Various Bowls





  1. Preheat oven to 275°F.
  2. Mix dry rub ingredients in a bowl and reserve.
  3. Rinse ribs under cold running water. Dry with paper towels, clean of any loose meat/skin, and then apply the dry rub liberally to all sides of the racks.
  4. Wrap the racks tightly in foil, meat-side down, ensuring the seams rest on the top of the racks.
  5. Place the racks on the baking sheet, place in the middle of the oven, and cook for three hours.
  6. Remove the racks from the oven, open one foil packet, and drain the juices into the Dutch oven (roughly a cup’s worth).
  7. Remove the other two racks from their foil, discard the juice, and place the racks side-by-side back onto the sheet and place in the oven for an additional hour.
  8. Meanwhile, place the Dutch oven over medium heat and add the coffee, chipotles, orange juice, raspberry jam, and brown sugar and mix to combine.
  9. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat and pour the sauce into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer. Repeat, ensuring that all chipotle and raspberry seeds have been removed. Note that most, but not all, coffee grounds will be removed, which is to be expected.
  11. Bring the sauce back to a boil and reduce to a cup and a half. Quickly place the sauce into a chilled bowl and stir the sauce until cooled and thickened.
  12. Remove the ribs from the oven and apply a coat of sauce to all sides.
  13. Place back into the oven and cook for 15 minutes or until the first coat sets. Repeat for a total of four coats an additional hour.
  14. Remove the ribs from the oven and allow them to cool to the touch. Once cooled, slice the racks into individual ribs; place in a flat single layer on the sheet, exposing the sides; and apply a coat of sauce.
  15. Place under the broiler set to LOW and caramelize (5-6 minutes). Flip, apply, and broil. Serve immediately. You’re welcome!


Ryan McKay is a 13-year fire service veteran and a firehouse cook from Atlanta, Georgia. His goal is to bring the fast-paced lifestyle of the fire service with the slow-paced art of cultivating family and crew through the tool that is food. He has made an appearance on NBC’s primetime show “Food Fighters,” is a co-founder of the Metro Atlanta EMS Conference, and works intimately with the SafePath Child Advocacy Center.

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