If you love ribs but you don't have a smoker or grill, it's super easy to make them in the oven!
I've been making these ribs for about four years now and I think I've finally got it down to a science. My first version of the ribs can be found here. If you like a less spicy rub, you might want to check that one out! It's really really good, but Tyler and I wanted to go spicier and spicier as time went on.
These ribs are rubbed with a spicy dry rub and then left to marinate for a bit in the fridge. After that, you cook them in low heat for 3-4 hours in the oven until they're tender and perfect.
They don't require any fancy tools or expensive equipment, either, so they're a perfect way to make ribs cheaply at home. :D
Step 1: Ingredients + Tools
- a rack of ribs (3-5 pounds)
- 3 tablespoons sucanat or brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon mustard powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika (I'm using sweet here)
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- pinch of celery seed (optional, but I like the flavor! It's very strong, so go easy.)
- 1-2 teaspoons cayenne, habanero, chipotle, smoked poblano powder - whatever you have on hand!
- splash of liquid smoke & 1/2 cup water (optional but awesome!)
Note: If you're using an electric oven, you will want to add the water to the pan while the ribs cook. Electric ovens produce very dry heat, while gas ovens are more moist.
I ended up using sucanat for these ribs just because I had run out of brown sugar, but I really like the flavor. I have a feeling it will be making its way into more of my dry rub recipes! It's like a really earthy molasses.
I found this rub here originally. I just altered it to make it more spicy, really. It's a solid recipe though my method of cooking the ribs is totally different. :D
- large rimmed baking sheet
- cooling racks (I use two to cover the whole baking pan)
- aluminum foil or plastic wrap
- sharp knife
Step 2: Make the Rub
Combine all the ingredients together in a small bowl - but at first only add a teaspoon of whatever peppers you're using. I'm using a mix of chipotle, smoked poblano and habanero. Once everything is combined, wet a finger and dip it into the spice rub to get a taste.
If it's hot enough you're good to go. If it's not spicy enough for you, add more!
Step 3: Dry and Clean Up the Ribs
Lay some paper towels down on your baking sheet.
Remove the ribs from their packaging and lay them on the paper towels. Blot with more towels until the ribs are nice and dry.
Now, flip the ribs over and have a look. Is there a silvery membrane on the back? If so, you need to remove it! Use your fingers and/or a sharp knife to separate the membrane from the ribs and pull it away. Remove as much as you can. Use paper towels to grab it if you can't get a good hold on it. :)
Also trim away any huge pockets of fat on the surface. I had a couple big ones on this rack! There will be enough fat in the ribs to keep them juicy, and the big pockets of fat really just render off and smoke up the house instead of adding to the flavor of the ribs.
Step 4: Rub the Ribs and Then Put Them in the Fridge
Remove all the paper towels from the baking sheet and lay the ribs down. Cover them generously in the rub - I use the whole bowl of rub every time. :)
Rub it in well on both sides and don't forget the edges too!
Once they're covered in the rub, cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and pop them in the fridge. I normally just let them hang out for an hour or two these days, but overnight works great too! Just do whatever you have time for.
Step 5: Cook for an Hour at 300 F
Preheat your oven to 300 F.
Remove the ribs from the fridge and brush all the excess rub off the baking sheet. (or transfer them to a new one!)
Assemble your cooling racks on the tray so that the ribs are on the racks and not extending over the edge of the baking sheet anywhere. (Though if the ribs are huge and extend over, you can always lay aluminum foil down on an oven rack below to catch any drips!)
If you have an electric stove, you'll want to do this next step involving adding water to your pan.
The optional but awesome bit: pour a splash of liquid smoke into 1/2 cup of water. The water should just be slightly tinted yellow. Pour that into the bottom of the baking tray. I do this nearly every time, but I have forgotten it a couple of times and haven't seen a huge difference.
Once the ribs are nicely positioned, put them in the oven and cook at 300 F for an hour.
Step 6: Lower the Heat to 275 F and Keep on Cooking
photos above show the ribs after about 2 1/2 hours in the oven - see the bones starting to peek out?
Once the first hour is up, turn the oven down to 275 F and rotate the pan so the back side is now facing the front of the oven. Cook for another 45 minutes.
Once that 45 minutes is up, rotate the pan and keep on cooking. After this 45 minute block, you should start seeing the bones peeking out of the ribs and the bark beginning to form as the fat in the ribs bleeds into the rub.
Keep on doing 45 minutes + rotations until they're done!
P.S. You can continue to add water to the pan in 1/2 cup increments if you're worried about the ribs drying out or if the rub looks to be getting too dark too fast. If you have an electric stove, keep on adding it. It's normally not necessary but doesn't hurt either. :)
This rack is about four pounds and it took about 3 1/2 to 4 hours to cook. (I kinda lost track of time since I was doing three things at once. :P)
How to tell if they're done? Check the next step.
Step 7: How to Tell When the Ribs Are Done
I always check two things when deciding if they're done:
Are the bones protruding?
If they're about 1/4 inch out, it's a good sign that the ribs are done or very close! (Though if you cook at a higher heat than I recommend in this instructable, this will not be true - high heat causes the meat to shrink very fast!)
Are the ribs flexible?
As you probably noticed when rubbing the raw ribs, they can be VERY bendy. During cooking, the meat tenses up and then releases again. If you can pick up one end of the ribs and nearly bend them in half, they're nice and tender.
I like to pick up one end and fold it in towards the center instead of folding it back towards the underside. If you bend it towards the underside, you can crack the bark on the top of the ribs. Not a big deal but I think the bark is beautiful and don't want to harm it. ;)
There's one more way to know, too, but only for fixing them the next time.
If you're eating your ribs and the meat doesn't completely come away from the bone you need to cook them longer next time. Straggly meat stuck to the bone is a sure sign of undercooked ribs. :D (see the photo above for what a good clean bone should look like!)
Step 8: Rest the Ribs and Enjoy!
Resting is optional, of course, but I am a creature of habit so I keep doing it. :D
Loosely tent some foil over the ribs and let them sit for about 15-20 minutes. That's normally enough time to make a quick potato salad, corn or a green salad, so it works out pretty well.
Once they're rested carve them up and try not to eat the whole rack!