If you want to learn how to make BBQ ribs in the oven, you will love my simple two-step process: First bake the ribs in the oven till tender, then broil the sauce till it caramelizes. These are the best oven baked ribs you will ever have.
Tis the season. Grilling tools are being replaced with snow shovels and the hammock is being traded in for the overstuffed chair in front of the fireplace. However, that does not mean you still can't enjoy the spoils of the grilling season, indoors. During the cold winter months you can still savor finger-licking BBQ pork ribs without dashing through the snow to your favorite smoker. You can make great BBQ ribs in the oven.
How to Make Ribs Tender
Making ribs in your oven can quickly lead to disaster for many home cooks. Ribs by nature are tough pieces of meat. The best ribs transform only through a long, slow, cooking process that they begin to melt into that tender summer treat we crave to slather with succulent sauces. Inexperienced home cooks will find that the baby backs have come up to a safe serving temperature and take them out of the oven well before they are actually done.
Unlike many pieces of meat, just because the ribs have come to the proper temperature does not actually mean they are done cooking. Instead, they need to continue to cook so the collagen (connective tissue) breaks down, rendering a much more tender piece of meat.
There is a household phrase that continues to be a misnomer of ideal BBQ ribs: "Fall of the bone." You do not want "Fall off the bone" ribs. These have been overcooked and feature a mushy texture - more reminiscent of a lazy crock-pot cook than a seasoned pit-master.
When Are Ribs Done
Properly cooked rib meat should threaten to crack when held up with tongs, and the bones should be able to be pulled away fairly cleanly with a firm twist. However, the meat should not come separated from the bone without assistance and should not lend itself to be described as "falling off the bone." A properly cooked rib should be soft and tender but yet still have a slight chew to the meat, much like a very tender steak.
How to Remove the Membrane
To begin making the best BBQ ribs in your oven start by removing the tough membrane from under your rack of ribs. This is the silver skin on the bone side of the ribs. Removing it is tricky for some, but it is pretty easy with this trick. Simply slide a spoon between the membrane and a bone to loosen it up, then I use a napkin for grip and pull it off the slab in one strip. The napkin prevents your fingers from slipping off. You can also use a butter knife, just be careful not to puncture the thin membrane.
Once this is done the meat can be seasoned with your favorite spice rub or simply some salt, then they are ready to cook in the oven. My personal preference is my dry rub recipe containing brown sugar, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard, and cayenne pepper.
How to Make Ribs in the Oven
When cooking ribs outdoors I adhere to strict traditionalism. I use a smoker and I do not take shortcuts in their preparation. The best way is a very common slow and slow '3-2-1 rib method', figuring if it is good enough for competition pit-masters, it is the method I should get acquainted with. However, when I make BBQ ribs in the oven I don't prefer utilizing the 3-2-1 method.
The best way to make ribs in the oven is a simple two-step process: First bake the ribs at 350 degrees for two hours until tender, then broil the sauce till it caramelizes. For this simple method, the ribs are wrapped in aluminum foil and set on a sheet pan on the middle oven rack while baking in the oven. The foil wrap helps significantly reduce the cooking time.
Why Wrap Ribs?
Wrapping the ribs in aluminum foil helps speed the cooking process while ensuring they are melt-in-your-mouth tender. This is also referred to as the Texas Crutch. However, after two hours of cooking, we will unwrap the ribs to apply the sauce.
Baking wrapped ribs at 350 degrees is the best temperature because at this point, the internal temperature of the ribs will be safe to eat long before it ever is perfectly tender. For this reason, I typically don't bother with a meat thermometer if the unwrapped ribs are nice and tender.
Tip: You can do the bend test to see how tender your ribs are. Lift the rack of ribs from one end so it begins to bend. If it is sufficiently tender your rack of ribs will crack and threaten to break.
How to Make Sticky Ribs
When the tender ribs are finished cooking we are going to paint them in BBQ sauce and then caramelize the sauce under the higher temperature of your broiler until they are delectably sticky. You will place the ribs under the broiler lacquer with additional sauce every few minutes until a hot sticky bark is formed. This will take 30-60 minutes total, depending on how thick you want the sauce.
Broiling the ribs coated in sauce is the secret to this easy recipe. Broiling BBQ sauce will quickly cause it to boil, releasing moisture and causing it to thicken into a finger-lickingly delicious sticky jam. Not only will this thicker sauce adhere to the meat better, the flavor becomes more concentrated as well. You can use this recipe with my homemade BBQ sauce, or buy your favorite barbecue sauce from the grocery store.
BBQ sauce is high in sugar so carefully watch the ribs under the broiler as the high temperature can burn it easily. They should never be left under the broiler for more than a few minutes at a time without being moved around or adding additional sauce or you will be awoken to your mistake by smoke alarms.
Tip: You obviously want to cover the meaty side of the ribs with sauce but also make sure to cover the sides of the ribs and the underside as well.
What to Serve with BBQ
- Homemade Baked Beans - a BBQ classic staple!
- Macaroni Salad - Creamy and delicious!
- Classic Coleslaw - Tangy and crunchy!
- Hand-cut French fries - Great to pair with this recipe because you won't need the oven for the French fries, just the stovetop.
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How to Make BBQ Ribs in the Oven
- Preheat the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
- Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs using a spoon to slide between the membrane and a bone to loosen it up and then pull off the membrane with a napkin in your hand for grip.
- Once this is done the meat can be patted dry with a paper towel then seasoned with your favorite dry rub or simply some salt and black pepper.
- Wrap the ribs in aluminum foil, place on a rimmed baking sheet, and set in the oven for two hours with the rack in the middle position.
- After two hours, unwrap ribs, discard the juice and foil.
- Flip ribs upside down and slather the bottom generously with BBQ sauce. Turn on the broiler and set BBQ ribs underneath until the sauce has thickened.
- Flip ribs back upright and add a generous amount of sauce to the top of the ribs and place back under broiler. Continuing to lacquer with additional sauce every few minutes until a hot sticky bark is formed to your liking. Approximately 30 minutes (but feel free to do it longer)
- Once lacquered, let the ribs rest for 15 minutes prior to slicing and serving.
This recipe was originally published on FoxValleyFoodie.com December 9, 2012.