How to Make Baby Back Ribs the Easy Way
Ribs can seem like one of those foods beyond reach for a typical home chef. Turn on the Food Network, and you'll see shows & contests, featuring massive slabs of meat, stacked up into smokers the size of a large car, like Jenga pieces. The Pit Master, gets in front of the camera and discusses his blend of various hardwoods, and how he's been up since 5am getting the fire to exactly 200 degrees; and how he's never stepped more than 5 feet away so he can maintain the perfect smoke & temp.
Admittedly, I'd be first in line to taste those ribs. But equally, I'd be last in line to sign up for the constant care & attention, and the shear time, that those guys put in. Yet, I still love me some baby back ribs, and I want to make them at home - the easy way.
So, all we do, is come up with an easy to do "home version", that is admittedly, not QUITE as good as the pro's, but will still fully satisfy. My version of ribs is still insanely tasty, takes about 1 hour of active time, and about 2.5 hours of cooking time, and is simple enough that anyone can make them. Check out the steps below, and let me know what you think by puting your tips in the comments!
Three Keys to Great Baby Back Ribs
There are a ton of variations on the steps that I outline below, and you can take your version in almost any direction you want. There are however, three things that are going to help them come out great every time:
- Flavor: A rub is one of the best ways to get flavor on ribs. Most rubs have a sugar component (typically brown sugar), a salt component, and a spice component (you can get very creative here). Adding a rub to the meat 5+ hours (up to 24) will help give the meat extra flavor & help get the outside nice and crispy
- Temp & Time: Ribs like to be cooked slowly, at low temp. It takes both of those things to break down the connective tissues in the meat, making the ribs nice & tender. Plan for a slab of ribs to cook for at least 2 - 3 hours at about 200 degrees
- Crispy Outside: IMO, the outside of ribs should be a bit sticky with BBQ sauce; and a bit charred with yummy brown crispy bits. That char comes naturally when ribs are cooked in a smoker for hours; but with my method you need to finish them on a grill, or under a broiler
How to Cook Baby Back Ribs
- Obviously the first step is to buy a good quality set of baby back ribs - I'll typically do 2 slabs at once, and I'll cut each slab in half to make them a bit easier to work with
- Unwrap and dry the ribs, as you make the rub
- Make dry rub consisting of sugar, salt, and spice. My favorite rub is brown sugar, kosher salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, chili powder, garlic powder In a ratio of 4:2:1:1:1:1:1
- Spread the rub liberally on both sides of each slab of ribs, gently rubbing it into the meat
- Wrap the ribs individually in aluminum foil, place them on a baking sheet, and put back into the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours
- When ready to cook, pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees
- Make sure the wrapped packages are seam side up, and while still on the baking sheet in a single layer, put them into the oven
- Allow them to cook at 200 degrees for 2 - 3 hours - I would check one package at about the 2 hour mark
- When you see the meat pulling away from the ends of the bones, and the meat can easily be pulled off the bone, they are fully cooked through and tender
- Remove the ribs from the oven. At this point (as I do in the video), you can put the ribs in the fridge, and finish them the next day. Or if eating right away, I like to let them rest/cook for about an hour; they become easier to handle and to char on the grill.
- As the ribs rest you can drain off the fat/liquid that has come off; and remove the fat. The remaining broth can be reduced down or added to a BBQ sauce for extra flavor.
- I like to finish the ribs on the grill; so while the ribs rest, turn it on medium heat; you can do the same in the broiler, if you don't have a grill available.
- Lay the cooled ribs (meat side down) on the grill (you may want to lightly oil them) and let them sear for about 2 minutes
- Turn the ribs, and then brush with your favorite BBQ sauce
- Close the lid and allow them to cook for another 2 minutes or so
- Turn the ribs over, and coat the other side with sauce.
- Repeat as often as you'd like, but make sure the browning/charring doesn't turn into burning
- After a few coats the sauce will start to dry out and form a nice crust on the ribs - you just want to make sure they don't burn
- Once complete you're ready to serve. You can put whole slabs on plate, of cut them up into individual/double cut ribs.