A BBQ Snob’s Guide to Easy Oven-Baked Baby Back Ribs
In the mood for bbq? Get the scoop on how to bake your ribs in the oven for an easy meal of baby backs.
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I confess: In the past, I’ve been a bit of a bbq snob. When friends have told me they’re thinking of buying a propane grill, I’ve said unkind things: “Why not grill over your gas stovetop, ya lily-livered convenience addict? Lump charcoal or death!” You’re thinking of amping up your pulled pork with a dose of liquid smoke? You might as well douse it in potpourri and kerosene. And hyper-tender “fall-off-the-bone” ribs? I might’ve called them “meat jello” and I might not have meant it as a compliment.
But in my old age, like a long-braised brisket, I’ve softened. I concede that not everyone has the time or wherewithal or interest or equipment to smoke meat over lump charcoal and chunk hardwood. I’ve even started to appreciate some of the charms of meat jello style bbq — it helps if I think of it as a pot roast. Smoked or baked, I can’t really help but eat rib after rib when they’re put in front of me.
So consider this article my official permission (not that you needed it) to bake your ribs in the oven. I’ll even provide some tips and tricks to guarantee that your baby backs will be extra delicious. With this handy-dandy bbq guide at your disposal, and our Yummly-developed, video-guided recipe for Oven-Baked BBQ Baby Back Ribs, you’ll be loosening your belt and wiping sauce off your chin in no time.
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Good to know before you start
Read the FAQs below for the hottest topics on hot meat
How do you make ribs in the oven?
Our approach to oven-baked pork ribs follows the same low-and-slow principle as bbq ribs cooked over hardwood smoke. Season your slab assertively with a brown-sugar based spice rub and bake them, covered tightly, in a low oven. Finish them off with a bbq sauce glaze and a few minutes under the broiler to develop the bark.
What temperature do you cook ribs in the oven?
We’ll stick with a low and slow 250°F — just hot enough to render the baby-back fat and to dissolve the connective tissue that can make your ribs tough instead of tender. Higher temps can cause the meat to dry out before the ribs are fall-off-the-bone.
How long do you cook ribs in the oven?
At 250°F, it’ll take 2-3 hours total time to bake your baby back ribs.
How can you tell when your ribs are done cooking?
A meat thermometer inserted between the ribs in the thickest section should register a minimum internal temperature of 180°F. You can also use the bend-test: Pick up the slab from one end with a pair of tongs and observe how it flexes. If the slab barely bends, then it needs more time; if it bends in a gentle arc and the top layer of meat starts to crack a bit, it’s just right; if the ribs fall apart and splotch onto your countertop, you may have gone a little too long. You can also just cut off the last rib (which is your right as pitmaster) and try it to see if it’s cooked to your liking. The meat should be fork tender and the tips of the rib bones should be exposed.
What’s the best way to reheat ribs in the oven?
I recommend reheating the same way you bake them the first time — in a covered roasting pan or baking sheet at low heat, with a little liquid added to provide moisture and a quick blast under the broiler at the end to add some crispy bark.
What’s the difference between baby back ribs and spare ribs?
Baby back ribs and spare ribs come from different spots on the pig. Baby backs are the ribs attached to the tenderloin; they are less fatty and more meaty than spare ribs, which are a little larger, fattier, and tougher. Both are delicious when prepared properly; baby backs cook more quickly so they can be a good option if you’re pressed for time.
Step-by-step instructions for Oven-Baked BBQ Baby Back Ribs
Follow the steps outlined below for perfect baby back ribs every time.
Step 1: Get your “mise-en-place” en place!
Take a moment at the outset to pull your prep together. Get your meat out of the fridge. Get your roasting pan and rack together and tear off a large sheet of tin foil. Grind pepper into a little bowl with salt so you’re ready to season. Get out a whisk and measure your garlic powder and cayenne pepper and other spice rub ingredients so you don’t have to rummage around with porky hands later. A little prep time now will save a lot of hassle later.
Step 2: Preheat the oven
We’re going low and slow for these ribs, so preheat the oven to 250°F.
Step 3: Unwrap the ribs
If you’re like me, a big box store is your easiest source for baby back ribs. They come shrink wrapped in sets of three. A single slab (as our recipe calls for) is usually 3-4 lbs. You’ll want to flip the shrink-wrapped slabs so they’re meaty side down and slide a knife across the top of the plastic. Lift the slabs out of the plastic just right and the juices will collect in the plastic wrap and you can toss the wrapper right in the trash without spilling pork juice on the counter.
Step 4: Pat dry and trim any excess fat or silver skin
Use paper towels to dry off your baby backs and a sharp paring knife to remove any excess fat or tough bits of silver skin.
Step 5: Season your slab with salt and pepper
Did you grind your black pepper while you were getting your mise-en-place together? If so, you’re golden. Give both sides of the slab a generous sprinkling. If not, then wash the pork juice off your hands and get your life together!
Step 6: Give the rack of ribs a rub down
Barbecue hounds each have their own signature spice rub formulas. This is a great place for you to express your own bbq personality. You can stick with the brown sugar mix specified in our Yummly original recipe — with onion powder, garlic powder, a hint of cumin and a little cayenne pepper kick, it’s a classic. Or go off in your own dry rub direction with a little more chili powder or some celery seed. Don’t be shy — you want your ribs to be assertively seasoned! Whisk the rub ingredients together in a small bowl and apply liberally with your hands. Don’t forget to rub the sides of the ribs and the back of the ribs too!
Applying the spice rub on the baby back ribs; photograph by Olga Ivanova
Step 7: Prep your roasting pan for steam
Baby back ribs get tender when the collagen, fat, and other intramuscular fibers soften in the gentle heat of the oven. A moist heat will get your slab from tough to fall-off-the bone more quickly than dry — so we’ll create a steamy environment within the oven. Pour some chicken stock (store-bought is fine) into the bottom of your roasting pan, position the roasting rack in the pan, and throw down your seasoned slab on top of the rack.
Step 8: Wrap it all up!
Take a wide sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and cover your roasting pan tightly. The goal is to trap the steam from your pool of chicken stock to accelerate your ribs down the road to tenderness.
Oven-Baked BBQ Baby Back Ribs, covered in foil
Step 9: Bake for a while!
Every slab is different, but in general, your ribs will be fully cooked after 2-3 hours of cook time.
Step 10: Uncover and glaze with bbq sauce
If you’re satisfied with the cook, then it’s time to glaze. Carefully remove the tin foil cover — watch out for hot steam. Then, use a pastry brush to slather an even layer of your favorite barbecue sauce (either store-bought or homemade). This will add even more barbecue flavor and lay the foundation for a crispy bark — my favorite part of the rib.
Step 11: Broil on some bark
Now that they have a slather of your favorite barbecue sauce, return the tender ribs to the oven, uncovered, on the first or second rack. Turn on the broiler and let the top crisp for 4-6 minutes, checking frequently to avoid burning. If it starts to color more than you want, move down a rack and keep going. This is your chance to add some texture and caramelization to your perfect slab.
Step 12: Rest, slice, and serve
Remove your ribs from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes on the countertop. Then, transfer them with tongs to a cutting board and slice into portions. Use the ends of the bones as your cutting guide and separate off each rib with a sharp chef’s knife. Garnish with rosemary if you’re fancy and let your dinner guests go to town. Party tip: Steer clear of the topic of cholesterol.
Oven-Baked BBQ Baby Back Ribs resting
It’s true that these oven-baked ribs may not have the inimitable smoke flavor that comes from a long slow session in a charcoal-fueled smoker, but what they lack in smoke, these ribs make up for in tender, juicy, fall-off-the-bone goodness.
Get the recipe: Oven Baked BBQ Baby Back Ribs
Now that you’ve previewed the process, check out the recipe, a Yummly original by Sara Mellas. With clear videos of each step, your baby back pork ribs will be a hit and you’ll be a hero. Plus, setup and cleanup are a breeze when you use your oven instead of a smoker to cook up this bbq meal.
Now that you’ve got these baby backs under your belt, expand your meaty repertoire or pick out some side dishes from these other great bbq recipes on Yummly.