Who says you need a grill to cook good ribs? The lack of outdoor space for a grill at my apartment led me to pass up a good many recipes for barbecued ribs over the years. Now I'll be making up for lost time — I do believe I've finally cracked the code to making perfectly tender and mouth-watering barbecued ribs in the oven. This is one of those recipes that you almost have to try in order to believe. Rib meat is fairly tough, and it needs a long time to break down and become tender. The oven is actually an ideal environment for this kind of slow and steady cooking. Lifting the ribs above the baking sheet on a rack also lets the heat circulate on all sides. After a few hours, the meat is nearly falling off the bone and you'll be licking your fingers in no time.
Go ahead and adapt this oven-roasting technique to any recipe for barbecued ribs that you take a fancy to. I love them simply brushed with mustard and sprinkled with a favorite spice rub. When I'm feeling fancy, I'll make my own barbecue sauce and brush that on in the last half hour of cooking.
One thing that you don't get with this method is the smokey barbecue flavor. Sad, but true. To capture a bit of that delicious flavor, add some extra smoked paprika to your spice rub or mix some liquid smoke into the mustard before brushing it on.
How to Cook Ribs in the OvenMakes 6 to 8 servings
What You Need
1. Prepare the Baking Sheet: Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set the cooling rack on top. Lay the ribs on top of the rack in a single layer. This arrangement allows for heat circulations on all sides of the ribs.
2. Season the Ribs: Mix the mustard and the liquid smoke, if using, and brush the ribs on both sides. Sprinkle the ribs with the dry rub and pat gently to make sure the rub adheres to the rib meat. Note: This step can be done the day ahead for a deeper flavor. Wrap the seasoned ribs in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
3. Broil the Ribs: Heat the broiler and place an oven rack a few inches below the heating element. Make sure the meaty side of the ribs is facing up. Broil the ribs for about 5 minutes, until the sugar in the dry rub is bubbling and the ribs are evenly browned.
4. Cook the Ribs: Set the oven to 300°F. Move the ribs to an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours for spare ribs or 1 1/2 to 2 hours for baby back ribs. Halfway through cooking, cover the ribs with aluminum foil to protect them from drying out.
5. Brush with Barbecue Sauce: About 30 minutes before the end of cooking, brush the ribs with barbecue sauce, re-cover with foil, and finish cooking.
6. Finish and Serve the Ribs: The ribs are done when a knife slides easily into the thickest part of the rib meat. Let them rest, covered, for about ten minutes, and then cut between the bones to separate the individual ribs. Serve immediately with extra barbecue sauce for dipping.
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(Images: Emma Christensen)