Oven Smoked Ribs




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Even though these ribs are cooked in the oven, they still have a kiss of smokey flavor.  That's right, ribs can be "oven-smoked" indoors, right in your very own kitchen using wet wood chips and a smoking tent made of heavy duty tinfoil.

Just because it might be wintertime where you live doesn't mean that you have to give up your favorite smoked meats.  Sure, they're not exactly like real smoker-smoked ribs, but since I like ribs almost as much as I like pizza, it's at least something I can do to please the Rib Gods during the colder months.

This recipe is based upon Mark Bittman's article and recipe "For a Smoky Taste in Oven Ribs" that appeared in the The New York Times on 12/9/09.

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Step 1: Prep Smoking Chips

You can pick up smoking chips at your local hardware or specialty foods store.  My local ACE hardware carried Weber Cherry Wood Chunks, so I got those. 

Smoking experts have favorite types of woods for imparting specific flavors upon their meat - apple for a light sweetness, mesquite for a deep penetrating flavor, aromatic alder for a more subtle smoke on fish and seafood, and so on, and so on, but since this is already a bastardized indoor smoking operation I think any type of wood you can find will do just fine.

There isn't anything particularly special about pre-packaged smoking chips - if you live outside of a city and can access some nature that hasn't seen any pesticides, chances are you can collect some wood chips from the world right around you.

Break down the chunks of wood into small chips using a hammer and chisel or a hatchet.  If you don't want to mess around with this added step, make sure to get small smoking chips and not wood chunks.

Line the bottom of a heavy roasting pan with the chips and cover them with a rack so that the meat will be suspended above the smoky bed of chips.  Then, pour enough water into the bottom of the pan to moisten the chips, but not so much that you cover them.  Ideally, soak the chips in the water ahead of time and add in even less water into the bottom of the roasting pan.

Step 2: Prep Ribs

Go to the store and pick up a rack or two of your favorite type of ribs.  I prefer pork ribs to the dinosaur-bone style beef ribs, so that means either the St. Louis style ribs, or the fall off the bone tender baby back ribs.  The nicely marbled ribs that appear below are of the St. Louis persuasion.

The ribs themselves only need a little bit of attention. 

Flip them onto their backs and remove the thin membrane that stretches across the bones.  This isn't absolutely necessary, but it's a nice thing to do so that when you eat the ribs down to nothing but the bone, you don't have that persistent membrane hanging around waiting for you. 

Peel the membrane back using the tip of a knife or your fingernail, and then carefully yank the rest off with your hands.  It's easy to do this like you peel off an unwanted bumper sticker - slow and steady, and in one sheet if possible.

Step 3: Mix Rub

I follow the industry standard and rub my ribs with a mixture of spices and sugar before cooking them.  The longer the rub sits on the ribs, the better - overnight is best. 

Adjust the amounts of these different spices to your liking and quantity of ribs.  Every time I make up the rub, I'm sure it's a little different then the last.  Here's a good place to start if you're going to rub down one or two full racks...
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic granules
Mix thoroughly.

Step 4: Rub the Ribs Down

Apply copious amounts of the rub covering the ribs on both the front and the back.  Work as much of the rub into the ribs with your hands as possible, then shake off the excess. 

Store the ribs in large ziplock bags, or in a covered dish if you're going to let them sit overnight in the rub in the fridge (they'll get a bit moist as the sugar draws some of the water out of the meat).

If you don't have time, the ribs can also be cooked straight away at this point, the flavor just won't penetrate the meat as deeply.

Step 5: Make the "oven-smoker"

Place the ribs onto the rack in the roasting pan and proceed to wrap the entire package like a present in tin foil.  The idea is to create a closed system that will prevent the smoke/steam mixture from escaping.  The tighter and more sealed your tent, the stronger the smoke flavor. 

I went around the bottom of the pan and looped over the top in a few different directions just to be sure I had a tight seal.  See the photo progression below.

Step 6: Bake

Bake the ribs in the oven at 250 for 3 hours.  Even if they're tightly packaged in there, after an hour or two, the kitchen should begin to fill with their wonderfully sweet and savory aroma.

Step 7: Break the Seal

After 3 hours, break the seal on the ribs and unwrap all of the foil.  If all went to plan, smokey steam should rise from the tent as your first break open the seal.  Be careful - it's hot in there.

Now, you've got to make one of two choices - dry or wet ribs. I'm a sauce man, and as such, I chose to make wet ribs, but many people who I know and respect like a dry rib, including this recipe's creator, Mark Bittman. 

To walk the dry path, simply turn on the broiler and broil the ribs for a few minutes to crisp them up a bit. 

For the wet path proceed on to the next step.

Step 8: Sauce and Finish

Grab or make your favorite BBQ/rib sauce and paint the ribs on both sides with a thin coat. 

My favorite store bought sauce happens to be Bone Suckin' Sauce, and when making just a rack or two, I opt for convenience over customization.

Then, turn the oven up a bit to 425 F, move up to the top rack and bake 'em for a final 15-20 minutes.  During this time the sauce should start to get sticky, the edges of the rack should start to crisp and the whole rack should turn from a pale brown to a deep enticing red. 

Once they've crisped to your liking, remove them from the oven, chop them up into half racks or individual racks, and devour.

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  As I said before, it doesn't really hold a candle to real smoker-smoked ribs, but having baked ribs in the oven many times, I think the addition of the chips is a worthwhile, fun and creative addition.

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    26 Discussions


    1 year ago

    I made made this yesterday, the ribs were so tender and tasty. I will be making my ribs like this a lot. Thanks a ton.


    2 years ago

    "I follow the industry standard...", "To walk the dry path..." - this is a great 'ible!


    9 years ago on Step 8

    Before starting this whole process, put the chips in the oven at 450 degrees until they turn brown/black and start to smoke (takes about 30 minutes). It makes the ribs WAY smokier, and much closer to real smoker ribs. Also, bake the ribs at 220 for 8 to 12 hours. Make these two changes, and you'll be amazed by what you can create in your oven. They really do come out smoky, and fall-off-the-bone tender, just like real smoker-cooked ribs. People will not believe they came fro my your oven and not a smoker. Be warned though - your smoke alarms will probably go off when you get those chips smoking, so you might want to remove the batteries in them before starting. Also, your house will smell a bit smoky for a couple of days. It's totally worth it though, trust me!

    5 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Shiftlock, Do you cover the chips at 450 or leave them uncovered? Also are they in water or just dry?

    Thank you,


    Reply 4 years ago

    As a chef and someone who loves to smoke food... NEVER wet the chips when you do that it prevents the wood burning at the proper temp, as well as adds too much moisture. When you burn wood at the improper temp/ with too much moisture you pose two problems.

    1) acrid "smoke" (yuck! And truly it isn't even a true smoke, its a foggy steam) which is made from acetic acid and formic acid. Acetic acid is the main compound in vinegar, while formic acid occurs naturally in ant venom. (Yum!) Both can make for unpleasant, sour-tasting food. Also it prevents the best smoky flavors which come from phenolics.

    2) Too much moisture can result in a lack of bark (the drying of meat with a dry rub and key #1 sign of good smoked meat) as well as a "watered down" flavor. That being said you also don't want a bone dry surface cause it wont have that "sticky" surface for the smoke to hold on to. Typically as your food that you are smoking warms in the smoked there is just enough humidity to allow that stickiness to form allowing the smoke to adhere to it and start the bark process. It's not uncommon to have to mop the meat with a wet sauce every now and again.

    Your best bet is to apply dried wood and start the smolder with either an oven or a torch. If it blazes take your food away and spritz it with some water then go at it again.

    I hope this helps anyone looking to smoke either outside or indoors.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, Snowcat60. I just happened upon this site while searching for a way to smoke in the oven-I've only smoked using a smoker or grill. I have never tried to smoke with dry wood, but I would think that Shiftlock soaked the wood for 15-20 minutes before putting them in the oven. They were also most likely uncovered, but of course I have no way of knowing for sure. I have read some recommendations to make a tent of foil with a hole in the middle so that is the first one that I will try (easier to contain if there is a problem). I'm going to start with only 1/2 cup of chips to see how much smoke is released first, and if everything goes right, I'll move on to the method used by noahw and incorporate Shiftlock's tips. I live in an apartment and I want to make sure that there won't be too much smoke, and definitely no fire. Hope this helped a little. BE SAFE and happy smoking!!


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

    I've changed my mind. I just saw the step-by-steps and the tent that noahw made has no hole, so there should not be too much smoke escaping. Therefore, I've decided to go all in. And thinking about it some more, Shiftlock probably did cover the wood, but again, I don't know. I'm going to cover them and wait for the smell, and then I'll know that they're smoking good. Be sure to post your results because I want to know how it works out for you. I'll post mine, too. Here's to hoping that it turns out perfect...


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

    I will let you know how it goes. I will be smoking some baby back ribs this Saturday.
    I agree with on covering them. I am going to use dry chips and see what happens. Wish me luck I don't end up burning down the house. LoL.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Tip for removing the membrane from the back of the ribs - work up an edge with the point of a knife, then use a paper towel to grab the membrane and pull it up. The towel makes it much easier to grip!

    Any idea how well this would work with one/a couple of those disposable tin roasting pans they have a a lot of grocery stores? Or do I simply need to experiment with it?

    1 reply

    I've read several postings about making a tent using tin foil, so I would assume that a tin pan should suffice-shouldn't hurt to try. Just be sure to keep the oven light on so that you can see what's happening and be able to react quickly if anything goes wrong. Good luck!


    8 years ago on Step 5

    that's called papillot (at least, how it sounds) and is a french technique to cook with steam, you can use soup, the self steam of the meat, or, your wood chips!

    great 'ible i'll check it out


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Nice instructable man !!!

    This would probably be good with chicken also ?

    Gives me lots of ideas !!!

    Most ovens have both bake and broil settings. With Bake, the heat comes from the bottom. With broil, heat comes from the top. With bake, the heat rises and is transferred through the pan to the meat. With broil, the heat is radiated directly down on the meat.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the Instructable! Its exactly what I was looking for. I do not have a BBQ or a Smoker right now so this is perfect. I have a bunch of beef ribs thawing and will put the rub on tomorrow to be cooked for a party Saturday. I will let you know how it goes. I cannot wait!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I never tried wood chips (my wife would kill me if I tried)  I have always just used smoked paprika. No fuss no muss. Definitely not as good as an outdoor barbeque smoker but they taste pretty good when you are hankering for some smoke.

    I get my smoked paprika at an Italian food center for $3 per bottle and lasts all winter.