I rang up Uncle Sam of the famed Chicago Rib Joint to ask a silly question. “Sam, is it possible to make great barbecued ribs in the oven?” Sam was ever so diplomatic and replied, “I wouldn’t know how to make ribs in the oven”. Why would I even think of committing such a mortal sin, to ask a Famous Rib Master such an absurd question. I had no BBQ Grill, nor space for it to reside. I began reading everything about the multi-staged process of barbecuing baby back pork ribs. I learned about the preparation of the rack. I read about spice rub blends and their purpose. I got how slow cooking and smoke made for a tender flavorful rib. Smoke!!! How was I going to get smoke into my ribs without a smoker or a BBQ grill? I reviewed recipes for BBQ sauce and learned about complex flavor blends of more than 50 ingredients.
One day, I rolled up my sleeves and put all my research to the test. I went to my trusty butcher and purchased three racks of fresh locally raised pork ribs. Tis an ominous sight for sure, these racks of pork were nearly three feet long. It reminded me of a Nutra-trim Commercial I saw once, this almost prehistoric character saunters to the fridge, pulls out this enormous piece of meat and proceeds to devour it in seconds.
I brought the ribs home and removed them from the butcher paper wrapping and proceeded to remove the thin layer of iridescent tough tissue from the back side of the rack. It actually comes off all in one piece, simply separate from the meat/bone gripping with a paper towel. This accomplishes two things; it helps the rub season the pork evenly on both sides of the rib and makes for a more tender rib.
The Dry Rub
- Cut each rack in half for ease of storage and handling.
- Place two half racks in a one gallon freezer zip-loc bag. Sprinkling a copious amount of dry rub over the ribs in each bag to cover all the surfaces of the rack. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Massage the ribs with the rub inside the bag until the ribs are completely covered with rub. This step is clean and simple. Once complete, place the ribs in the fridge to marinate in the rub for 8-24 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 275.
- Take the ribs from the fridge, remove from the zip-loc bags and place each rack in a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil, fold well to create a tight package with any seams facing upwards. Place all packages in a sheet pan in the oven just in case they leak during the slow cooking process.
- Cook the ribs in their cocoons for 1.5 to 2 hours until the meat has pulled away from the bones slightly, but is still a solid rack (the rib tips will extend from the meat). Remove the packets from the oven. These ribs are now ready for their second trip to the oven. You can let the ribs cool and put in the fridge for a day or two or complete them immediately.
- Thai Chili Sauce
- Teriyaki Sauce (Soy Veh)
- Tomato Paste
- Soy Sauce
- Oyster Sauce
- Chili Sauce (Sriracha, Tabasco or Trader Joes)
- Brown Sugar
- Pineapple Juice
- Ground Ginger or Minced Fresh Ginger
- Orange Juice
- Japanese Seasoned Rice Vinegar
- Lemon Juice
- Chili Powder
- Hoisin Sauce
- Maple Syrup
- Fresh Berries
Combine your BBQ shellack inspirations into a sauce pan and heat on low. Stir occasionally and reduce until you’ve reached the thickness you desire
- Preheat your oven to 395. Remove the ribs from their foil cocoons. Line the sheet pans with foil and lay the racks of ribs on the foil convex side up without crowding them.
- If you like your ribs sauced, paint them liberally with sauce all over. If you’re like me and like the sauce on the side, simply let them do their thing and heat your sauce in a saucepan on the stove top.
- Bake for 30 minutes until browned and ready to eat. Remove from the oven and cut the ribs apart with a knife between each rib bone. Stack them up like Lincoln Logs on a plate and smile at your achievement.
- Serve extra sauce on the side in a bowl for each plate and an elegant roll of paper towels, because you’re not trashing my nice linens with those dirty hands. Silver finger bowl with lemon slices optional.