BBQ ribs are one of my favorite meals, and like many things I enjoy I’ve invested some time in trying to perfect my craft. Ribs are, in my opinion, an easy dish to make and one that’s hard to mess up provided you add a sufficient quantity of the most important ingredient – time.
Going along with my theory that recipes should include mandatory and optional ingredients so as to be more accessible to the novice cook or those of us without obnoxiously well stocked pantries, I’ve identified both the mandatory and optional ingredients, as well as the mandatory and optional steps. A significant portion of what I’ve learned came from the site Amazing Ribs, which has a wealth of different recipes – especially for the serious smoker.
Optional ingredients are in italics.
- 1 rack of ribs
- BBQ sauce of your choice
- Aluminum foil
- Rub of your choice. (There are specialty rib rubs out there, but any pork-friendly rub will do fine. If you read the ingredients, you’ll discover a lot of rubs are similar.)
- Balsamic vinegar
The Easy Way
These are the basic steps – everything else is extra. These will get you passable ribs that you can prepare with less than 30 minutes of actual labor and proudly serve on your dinner table.
- Lay out a piece of foil slightly longer than your rack of ribs. Place the ribs bone side down (meaty side up) on the foil.
- Cover the ribs in BBQ sauce. Place another piece of foil (slightly smaller than the first) over the ribs and fold both pieces of foil up over the ribs like so:
- Place your ribs in the fridge overnight.
- Heat oven to 225. Place ribs in oven inside foil packet. Bake for 3 – 4 hours.
- 20 minutes before finishing open the top of your foil packets; add BBQ sauce over the ribs and put your oven on broil.
- Remove and serve.
The Oven + Grill Method For Optimum Deliciousness
This method increases prep time by perhaps 20 minutes, as well as makes the cooking slightly more complex by forcing you to use both the oven and your grill. Either a gas or covered charcoal grill will work; we all know that gas is easier while charcoal tastes better. In my opinion it’s well worth it. Remember that virtually all of the additional steps here are optional, so you’re welcome to simply skip any added steps you think are too hard or not worth the time.
- Lay out a piece of foil slightly longer than your rack of ribs.
- Place the ribs bone side up and remove the membrane on the back of the ribs. You may not be able to see it immediately, but if you slip a knife underneath the back of the ribs you should be able to feel a membrane connecting the back of the rib tissue. Starting from one end, grasp the membrane (after using your knife to cut a bit loose) and peel it off the back of the ribs.
- On both sides of the ribs apply a slight amount of vinegar (I think balsamic works well, but any vinegar is fine) and then liberally spread rib rub throughout the ribs. The vinegar is completely optional, but helps tenderize the meat and increase rub absorption.
- With the ribs bone side down on the foil, place another piece of foil (slightly smaller than the first) over the ribs and fold both pieces of foil up over the ribs.
- Place your ribs in the fridge overnight.
- If you’re using a smoky or sweet BBQ sauce you can add a little kick to it by adding a little whiskey. Pour the whiskey (about a shot will do fine) directly into the BBQ sauce bottle and shake well.
- If using a gas grill – pre-heat your grill to maximum temperature. Remove your ribs from the foil packets and sear the ribs on both sides on the grill to lock in the juices. Place ribs back in the foil packets. Alternately, you can accomplish the same thing by opening or removing the top off your foil packet and broiling the ribs in the oven for 10 or so minutes. (The optimum method would use a gas grill for this step, and then a charcoal grill to finish the ribs at the end below.)
- Place a pan with 1/2 inch of water on the bottom rack of the oven. This will create a nice sauna that helps prevent your ribs from drying out.
- Place your ribs in the oven at 225. Cook for 3.5 – 4+ hours (I never pre-heat my oven, so take timing with a grain of salt). You can use the bend test below to test when done.
- Pre-heat (or light) your grill. With the grill at a medium temperature, remove ribs from the oven and place meaty side down on the grill. As you’re doing this you can take your serving tray (a nice big platter, or a wooden cutting board if you’re going rustic) and place it in the oven to warm it up.
- On the grill, cover the bone side with BBQ sauce and grill with the cover closed until the sauce starts to thicken and stick to the bone. Turn over and repeat, saucing the meaty side of the ribs with a delicious covering of BBQ sauce.
- Remove and serve. If you want to make things easy for your guests, you can use kitchen scissors to cut into 1-2 rib pieces. Serve with a bowl of warm BBQ sauce on the table.