We do love our ribs here at the farm. And, without a doubt, we love Memphis-style barbecue ribs with a dry rub, mop and slow smoking over applewood and hickory. Toss in some hot, vinegary Carolina barbecue sauce and Nirvana awaits. But we just made it into spring, the rains come and go, it’s still cold and the smoker needs to be set up (and we are tired from working in the garden). Time to turn on the oven.
And there is nothing wrong with making ribs in the oven. In fact, some would argue that it may be a better place to cook ribs, assuming you use the right tools/technique and choose the right seasoning and sauce. The one thing that is really hard to do is get the deep smokey flavor and “smoke ring” color from the oven. But you can get very flavorful, tender ribs.
As for the tools and technique, the main thing you need is some time, sauce (we will get there) and aluminium foil. The big thing with ribs is that they need to cook low and slow and, preferably, in a moist environment so they don’t dry out. This is particularly true for baby back ribs, which don’t carry much extra fat. But if you season and sauce the ribs and then wrap in a packet of foil, you can trap the juices from the ribs and gently steam the ribs for a few hours until they reach the desired temperature of 185 F. You need the temperature to get at least to 185 so the collagen in the meat turns to gelatin (that luscious texture) and the ribs get tender. Then you open the foil packets, add some more sauce and finish the ribs under the broiler for a few minutes to get a nice crispy, caramelized crust. Easy, but like most good things, you need a few extra steps.
And now for the sauce. Since we don’t feel we can get a southern-style smokey flavor, we look more to Asian flavors. Instead of a base of ketchup, cider vinegar, Worcestershire and hot sauce, we go with ketchup, onion, garlic, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and Sriracha. You get a familiar texture of barbecue sauce but the more Asian-inspired notes and some heat. And you can control the heat to your liking by just adding or subtracting Sriracha and/or some red pepper flake. Good stuff and good fun.