We’re in the supermarket meat section. Smartly Dressed Cool Guy in pressed khakis and tassel loafers eyes the ribs. He picks them up, cradles them, and sadly, puts them back.
Why does Cool Guy do this? Why hesitate? After all, we’re in Tennessee where any one of us should be banging out better than competition ribs, on a whim, even in khakis.
He’s not alone. We’ve seen this fear of commitment too often. Could it be the mental scarring left after that last rib effort of bitter blackness and stringy meat petrified to the bone? Never heard the end of that, did you? Or, those rubbery, undercooked racks hinting of sweaty gym sweatshirt?
Guess what? Those days are behind you. From now on anyone and everyone can make perfect ribs for the rest of time. Yes, the rest of time.
Great ribs need just a few things: a simple dry rub, natural smoke flavor, low steady heat, and a sauce, if you like.
We’re here to tell you that a 300°F oven, your own quick dry rub seasoning, and your barbecue sauce made from basic pantry staples, a small bottle of liquid smoke, and some heavy-duty aluminum foil will consistently solve your rib anxieties. All we’re doing is replacing the wood chunks with liquid smoke (stay with us here) and using the consistency of the regular kitchen oven instead of the more finicky backyard smoker which is probably full of soccer balls anyway.
Hey, guys with bruised egos here’s the best part: you can still use your clunky grill kit tongs, dull cleaver, and goofball “stay back men cooking” apron when you finish the ribs with sauce on your fancy stainless grill. We guarantee not only a drop-dead-gorgeous glazed finish but the surest way to the best party you ever threw with the least hassle. An oven full of foil-wrapped racks of ribs is a beautiful thing to behold.
Basically, our Cheater BBQ Oven Ribs kick ass. Here’s what to do:
Cheater Oven Ribs Cheat Sheet
Dry Rub—The three basic components of a dry rub are salt, pepper, and paprika—it’s really the smoke you want to taste. Make up your own mix or buy one all ready to go. We like to add a little brown sugar to a rub for ribs to add a little caramelized flavor to the meat.
The Ribs—Baby back loin ribs are short, spares are long. Meatiness depends on the rack. Both are good and get what you like. We usually buy them at Walmart or Costco. Open the ribs, flip them over bone side up, and look for the silvery membrane covering the meat and bones. If it’s still on there (sometimes they take it off), take your finger or a spoon handle and, holding the ribs with a paper towel, lift up the membrane and pull it off. It might take a few tries but you’ll quickly get the hang of it and your ribs will taste better without the chewy layer.
The Smoke—The all-natural smoke that will bring these ribs to life comes in a handy four-ounce bottle parked near the Worcestershire and barbecue sauces. Without a lengthy dissertation, know that liquid smoke is real smoke (from actual wood) captured in water and filtered. Even Whole Foods carries it if that’ll help. We’ve all been enjoying liquid smoke since the 1960s in bacon, cold cuts, sauces, hot dogs, pizza crusts, and anything that lists “natural smoke flavor” on the label. It’s not a weirdo chemical.
A tablespoon of liquid smoke per pound of meat is a good rule of thumb. No, that is not too much. Trust us. We’re cheaters, not liars.
The Saucing–No matter how you get your rib meat cooked to doneness, ribs do not need sauce until just before you eat them. Divide the racks into 3 or 4-bone sections and dip them into a pot of warm sauce. Place the sauced ribs on the grill over medium heat and don’t walk away. Let the sugars caramelize but not burn. Flip the ribs and watch for hot spots. In about 10 minutes the ribs will have a beautiful sauce crust and are ready to eat. They will not look like someone dumped a bottle of sauce on them at the last minute.
Finally, a little help around here! Young guys LOVE making Cheater BBQ Oven Ribs because they can make them on their own and their buddies devour them.
- 6 pounds (3 racks) pork loin (baby back) ribs, membrane removed
- 1/4 cup Cheater BBQ Dry Rub (or your favorite rub)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 small bottle (about 4 ounces) liquid smoke
Heat the oven to 325°F.
Mix the dry rub with the brown sugar in a small bowl.
Place each baby back rack on a large (24 to 30-inch long) sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Brush each rack with a light coating of liquid smoke. Spread the sweet rub on all sides of each rib rack.
If time allows, wrap up the ribs in foil and refrigerate them for a few hours or overnight. If not, keep going.
Place the sealed racks on a couple of baking sheets and put them in the oven.
While the ribs are cooking, make some barbecue sauce and set it aside.
After 1 3/4 hours, remove a rack from the oven and carefully unseal the foil. The escaping steam will be hot.
Cut into a rib or two and check the meat for doneness. We like the rib meat to feel cooked and not rubbery or tough, but not so loose that the meat falls off the bone when picked up. If you prefer more tender meat that pulls away from the bone with less resistance, reseal the foil and put the ribs back in the oven for 15 to 30 minutes. After a couple of batches of these, you will be able to tell if the ribs need more time just by lifting one end with tongs.
Unseal the foil, pour off the meat juice and discard it.
Lay the ribs on a cutting board and separate them into one-to-three or four-rib sections.
Heat the grill to medium-high. Or, turn on the broiler and set an oven rack at least 4-inches below the broiler.
Dip the ribs (or rib sections) in warm barbecue sauce and grill, turning frequently until well caramelized, about 10 minutes. Do not let the sauce burn and do not leave your post.
Serve ribs with additional warmed sauce on the side Makes 6 servings.