How to Cook Baby Back Ribs in the Oven

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Who doesn't love ribs cooked low and slow?

Who doesn’t love ribs cooked low and slow?

Barbecued baby back ribs are a legend, but many shy away from making them out of fear. Roasting them in the oven makes the process long, but simple as sugar bread (buttered white bread with sugar).

Rib meat is tough, so a long cook time is essential to tenderize these ribs. The secret is a low oven temperature and very long roasting. “Low and slow,” the experts tell you.

What are the two methods for cooking ribs in the oven?

If your ribs still have the membrane on the inside of the ribs, remove it before roasting by loosening it with a thin, sharp knife, then pulling it away from the bone. You may have to use a cloth to get a good grip on it.

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There are two methods for oven cooking baby back ribs. They are similar, but different. You can roast them in a covered pan, or an open pan.

NOTE: Although the USDA suggests ribs should be done to 145° F, most rib experts cook to 185° to 190° F.

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Covered Pan Roasting

Move your oven rack to the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 275° F.

Rub the meat side of the ribs with a dry rub. There are plenty of prepared rubs, but a simple, effective rub, whether you’re going to use barbecue sauce or another sauce afterward, is salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, brown sugar, and ginger. Even simpler, salt and pepper makes a fine rub.

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Place the ribs in a roasting pan covered in aluminum foil. If they don’t fit, cut them into smaller pieces with a knife. Then, tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil.

Roast for three and a half to four hours, then remove the ribs from the oven, remove the foil, and check the ribs for doneness with a meat thermometer.

Move your oven rack near the top of the oven, and turn the temperature to broil. While your oven preheats, cover the meat side of the ribs with your sauce.

Place the pan in the oven and broil for just a few minutes, about three to five. You’re looking for a nice caramelization of your sauce. Some people like the ribs to have a slightly blackened look at this point.

Open Pan Roasting

For this method, you broil the ribs first. Place the rack near the top of the oven. Preheat the oven to the broil setting.

Cover your roasting pan with foil, then set a roasting rack on top of the foil. The ribs sit on the rack, creating a layer of air beneath them.

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Rub the meat side of the ribs with a dry rub. See the instructions above for some dry rub ideas. You might also want to hop on over to this post about the best brisket rub.

Broil for about five minutes, or until the dry rub is melted and even a bit bubbly.

Remove the ribs, then move the rack to the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 300° F.

Cover the ribs with your chosen sauce, then roast for about one and a half to two and a half hours then remove the ribs from the oven and check for doneness.

Sauces

Barbecue ribs are famous. You may have a favorite barbecue sauce recipe, but if not, there are a lot of barbecue sauces out there with varying degrees of “fire,” all waiting for your trial.

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For a delightful change of pace, mix peach or apricot preserves with your barbecue sauce or add a little peach nectar to the sauce.

If you’re looking for a different flavor, try hoisin sauce. This sweet Chinese sauce is similar, but not the same as barbecue sauce, and gives the ribs a very sweet flavor.

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If you want “drunken” ribs, use your search engine to look for recipes for baby back ribs using beer. Generally, you’ll marinate the ribs overnight in a beer and spice mixture. You can slice onions and chopped garlic to add to the marinade as well.

A neat trick is to use a brown sugar sauce for beans rather than a sauce made for meat. These might be thinner than you’re used to, but for slow roasting, you can slather it over the ribs before they go into the oven as well as before broiling.

You can never have too much sauce!

You can never have too much sauce!

Liquid Infusions

Something a little fancier way is to roast the ribs with a liquid sauce to infuse the ribs with flavor while roasting. You still glaze with a favorite sauce afterward, you’re just adding an extra layer of flavor. Your flavor layers would be the dry rub, the infusion, and finally, the sauce.

Beans and ribs just go together. Here’s my post on keeping pinto beans fresh.

For an infusion, dry rub the ribs first, then place the ribs on a rack in the roasting pan. Add your liquid to the bottom of the pan, making sure it does not come up to the level of the meat. You don’t want to poach or boil the meat, just give it some steam-infused flavor. Some flavorful liquids you can use are:

  • Beer (Who doesn’t want a good beer?)
  • Colas (Dr. Pepper is the favorite here)
  • Apple cider (Hint: glaze the ribs after roasting with an apple jelly, honey, and cider mixture before broiling for a sweet apple taste.)

Put a little meat on them bones!

Whether open or close roasting your baby back ribs, the low, slow roast will make these ribs a favorite for family gatherings. The ease of preparation makes them a favorite of the cook too. Depending on your family’s tastes, the various rubs, sauces, and infusions can custom create a family tradition.

For other great recipes for rib lovers, see this recipe for delicious baby back ribs. You might also want to add a few BBQ appetizers to go along with them!

For the best knife for carving prime rib, head on over here.

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Joao D. and Su-Lin.