Recipe Review

Is the Internet’s Most Popular Ribs Recipe Too Good to Be True? I Tried It to Find Out.

updated May 31, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

For this week’s celebrity recipe showdown, we’re turning our attention to one of summer’s greatest hits: ribs! When it came time to pick our contenders, a quick internet search revealed that a recipe from the blog Steamy Kitchen might just be the most popular oven-baked ribs recipes there is. Originally published in 2017, it has since been shared by the website Inspired Taste, where it has a five-star rating and almost 700 comments (and shows up as the top Google result).

It’s easy to see why the recipe has gotten so much love: It calls for just two ingredients, takes five minutes to prep, and promises tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs slathered in sauce. Would this incredibly simple recipe make for the best ribs I’d ever eaten? I took to the kitchen to find out.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

How To Make Steamy Kitchen’s Tender Baby Back Ribs

You’ll begin by removing the membrane from the underside of five pounds of baby back rib racks. Arrange the racks in a roasting pan, overlapping if necessary, and season both sides with salt and pepper (I used 2 teaspoons each Diamond Crystal kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, which resulted in well-seasoned ribs). Cover the pan with two layers of aluminum foil and bake at 275°F for four hours.

Transfer the ribs to a rimmed baking sheet and brush with a generous amount of bottled Thai Sweet Chili Sauce. At this point, my ribs were very tender, so I had to be very careful to keep them intact. Arrange the rack in the upper third of the oven and heat the broiler. Broil the ribs for five minutes, watching to make sure they don’t burn.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

My Honest Review of Steamy Kitchen’s Tender Baby Back Ribs

These ribs were the easiest of all of the recipes I battled off for this showdown. With the exception of salt and pepper, this recipe really is just two ingredients: two racks of baby back ribs, and a bottle of Thai sweet chili sauce. With no rub to mix or meat to marinate, the ribs went from the fridge to the oven in less than five minutes.

The sauce was the highlight of this recipe. I used the same brand as pictured on Steamy Kitchen’s site, and it browned and bubbled under the broiler, caramelizing into a candy-like chili crust. I’ll definitely use this pairing again.

Unfortunately, the texture of the ribs was where this recipe came up short. The ribs were literally “fall-off-the-bone,” and although this is the holy grail for many rib lovers, they were too tender for me. Instead of being able to pick up a rib and pull the meat cleanly off of the bone with a little resistance and chew, these ribs were falling apart even before they left the baking sheet. While this recipe earns high marks for flavor and ease, the too-tender texture is where it falls flat.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

If You’re Making Steamy Kitchen’s Ribs, a Few Tips

  1. Generously season the ribs. The recipe gives no specific measurements for salt and pepper. I used 2 teaspoons each Diamond Crystal kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to season all sides of the ribs.
  2. Roast the ribs on a rimmed baking sheet. Instead of dirtying a roasting pan, place the ribs on a baking sheet from the get-go, then cover with foil per the recipe instructions. The baking sheet will catch any drippings during the initial bake, then be used again under the broiler.
  3. Lower the temperature to 225°F. The winner of this recipe showdown (to be revealed later this week!) also roasts the ribs for four hours, but at a lower temperature. Reduce the oven’s heat to 225°F to keep the ribs from overcooking.
  4. Check the ribs after 3 hours. Peek under the foil after three hours to check if the rib bones can twist in place or if the ribs bend to near breaking when held with tongs. Every rack of ribs is different and at the lower temperature, the ribs should be ready after three to four hours of cooking.
  5. Use your favorite sauce. The Thai Chili Sauce was a welcome change of flavor in this recipe showdown, and one I’ll use again. If traditional barbecue sauce is more your speed, it’s easy to swap the chili sauce for a smoky sauce instead.

Rating: 5/10

Have you tried Steamy Kitchen’s recipe? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.