I have cooked racks of ribs for many, many years and I’ve tried all different kinds of methods. From boiling the ribs and finishing them on the grill to starting them on the grill and finishing them in the oven. None of them gave me quite the texture I was looking for. I wanted the same texture and flavor of slow-cooked ribs over fire, but without the hours of monitoring.
I thought I was making decent ribs. They tasted good but were kind of dry and a little tough. It turns out I was doing it wrong.
It wasn’t until I read about a different technique that I realized what needed to be changed. Suddenly it made total sense to me. With a little modification in my cooking technique, now I am making ribs that my friends and family beg for!
This technique combines the use of the oven (or indirect heat on the grill), ribs wrapped in foil to contain heat and moisture (a trick pro grillers use in competition after starting them on the grill), and finishing them with a cooked-on glaze. Man, oh man, these are some amazing ribs that any home cook can make – all year round!
So I used my regular dry rub, some Stubb’s BBQ sauce (gluten-free), used the new technique and invited some friends over for dinner. Everyone was mesmerized. I know, that sounds like an exaggeration, but it isn’t. We picked up the ribs, took a bite and there was total silence at the table. It wasn’t until we were each a few bites in that the murmurs of pleasure started, and then we were all talking at once!
The meat came off the bone with the barest pull, giving a delightful “bite” as our teeth sank in. The meat cleanly pulled away from the bone just as I had hoped it would. The flavor of the dry rub, cooking juices, and the sauce was delectable. And most importantly, the ribs were moist and tender. Complete success!
These can be finished either on the grill or in the oven. This round I glazed them on the grill, but you can also use your broiler. It is wonderful to know that we can enjoy “barbecued” ribs all year long, even when the weather is miserable, without having to fight the elements. My friends who live in snow country will be thrilled. 🙂
The Artist, our friends, and I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner and I know you will too!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Be really careful as you open the foil packet with the ribs in it. Cooking creates a lot of liquid from the steam and meat juices. I set a second baking sheet next to the one the ribs were on and used tongs to carefully open the tightly sealed packets. Then I used tongs to carefully transfer the ribs to the clean tray and poured the liquid into a saucepan for reducing.
Seasonings from Penzey’s and McCormick, and the entire Stubb’s line of products are gluten-free. Always read the labels and if in doubt, contact the manufacturer.
- 4 lb baby back pork ribs (about 2 racks)
- 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ancho chile powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground Cayenne (optional)
- 2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce (all Stubb’s sauces and rubs are gluten-free) or homemade (here is my favorite recipe)
- Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 300°F (325°F if you are stacking two racks on top of each other). Or you can heat your grill. Set out two sheets of aluminum foil longer than the racks of ribs, one on top of each other. Set another two sheets of foil to the side.
- On the underside of the ribs, look for a whitish membrane called the silverskin. If your butcher hasn’t removed it, you need to because it is very tough. Cut a slit in the center of the ribs just through the membrane. Open the slit and work your fingers or a dull knife underneath, loosening it from the meat. Work from the center out to the edges until you can grasp the silverskin. Use a paper towel to give you more traction and pull it off the ribs. Repeat with the other half of the silverskin. Fine Cooking has a nice series of photos demonstrating another method of removal.
- In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, garlic and onion powders, paprika, chile powder, and cumin. Add the cayenne if using. Mix together with a fork, breaking up any clumps of sugar, until well blended.
- Rub the mixture on both sides of the racks of ribs. Lay the seasoned ribs, meaty side down, on one of the double layers of foil. You can stack the racks one on top of the other if you have two to cook. Set the second two sheets of foil on top of the ribs. Press the top layers of foil snugly around the ribs and then pinch the edges of the bottom and top layers of foil together and roll upwards toward the ribs, sealing them tightly. You want to trap as much steam as possible to help make the ribs moist and tender.
- Place the rib packet on a baking sheet to protect your oven (or grill) in case it leaks and put into the hot oven. Bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours (2-1/2 to 3 hours for full-sized, St Louis-style ribs) or until the meat shrinks back, exposing more of the ends of the bones. Go for the low end of the time frame if only cooking one rack. When opening the packet to check on the ribs, be very careful not to get burned by the trapped steam. Remove rib packet and pan from oven. Preheat the broiler or heat up your outdoor grill.
- Very carefully open the foil packet, avoiding the steam. Remove ribs from the foil packet and cut each rack into 2 or 3 pieces. Transfer the cooking liquid from the foil packet into a saucepan and reduce until slightly thickened over medium-high heat, stirring often. Add the prepared BBQ sauce to the pot and whisk together to enhance the store-bought sauce.
- To glaze ribs in the broiler, place ribs back on baking sheet, meat side down. Brush with the BBQ sauce and broil for 1 to 2 minutes or until the sauce is glazed and bubbly. Remove from the oven, turn the rib pieces over with tongs, brush the meaty side with the BBQ sauce and return to the broiler. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes or until done.
- To finish the ribs on the grill, brush the hot grates lightly with a paper towel with olive oil on it. Brush the bony side of the ribs with BBQ sauce and place on the grill, meaty side up. Brush the sauce on the top, close the lid and cook on medium-high until the glaze is cooked on, about 2 minutes. Flip the ribs over so the meaty side is down and finish cooking until glazed.
- Serve hot ribs with extra sauce passed at the table.
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