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 cracked the code to making perfectly tender and mouth-watering barbecued ribs in the oven.
Perfect Ribs in the Oven: Watch the Video
Why Cooking Ribs in the Oven Works
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.
The One Essential for Easy Ribs
Don't even think about making oven ribs without foil. You need foil to line the pan and cover the ribs, so it should be thin enough to line the pan yet slick enough not to tear your lovely finish off the ribs. This is the stuff we swear by.
Best Glazes and Rubs
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 smoky 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.
Clouded by the smoke of mystery and lore, it is no wonder barbecue ribs seem so intimidating. So while fiddling with a smoker might make for an interesting weekend project, the oven and a few hours time are all you really need to serve ribs for supper.
- On the liquid smoke: Do not be put off by the idea of adding liquid smoke; despite sounding completely artificial, it is a natural ingredient made from the smoke of burning hardwood. I like a mild smoke flavor, so I added just 1 teaspoon.
- Knowing when they're done: It seems that we've all been fed the line that ribs are not done until they fall off the bone, when really, if these ribs reach that point they are overcooked. Cook until a knife slides easily into the meat.
— Patty, May 2018
How To Cook Ribs in the Oven
Serves 6 to 8
Prep time: 20 minutes ; cooking time: 2 hours to 3 hours
What You Need
Rimmed baking sheet
Wire cooling rack
Prepare the baking sheet. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Fit a wire cooling rack on top. Lay the ribs on top of the rack in a single layer. This arrangement allows for heat circulation on all sides of the ribs.
Season the ribs. Stir the mustard and the liquid smoke together, 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.)
Broil the ribs. Arrange an oven rack a few inches below the heating element and heat the broiler. Make sure the meaty side of the ribs is facing up. Broil until the sugar in the dry rub is bubbling and the ribs are evenly browned, about 5 minutes.
Bake the ribs. Set the oven to 300°F. Move the ribs to an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Bake 2 1/2 to 3 hours for spareribs 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.
Brush with barbecue sauce. About 30 minutes before the end of cooking, brush the ribs with barbecue sauce, re-cover with foil, and continue cooking.
Rest the ribs and serve. The ribs are done when a knife slides easily into the thickest part of the rib meat. Let them rest, covered, for about 10 minutes, and then cut between the bones to separate the individual ribs. Serve immediately with extra barbecue sauce for dipping.
Make ahead: The ribs can be seasoned, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated overnight before baking.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
This post was originally published July 2012.