How to Cook Ribs in the Oven

Karen Frazier
Oven-baked baby back ribs

Many people wonder how to cook ribs in the oven. Is it possible to have fall-off-the-bone, tender ribs in the dead of winter without having to stand shivering over the barbecue as you are pelted by rain or snow? Absolutely.

Step-by-Step Guide for Cooking Pork Ribs in an Oven

The best thing about pork ribs cooked in the oven is that, after minimal prep, you can put them in the oven and walk away for several hours. It doesn't get any better than that.

Learning how to cook pork ribs in the oven is really easy. To some extent, the ingredients you use don't matter (other than ribs). What matters is that you follow a series of steps that give you flavorful, juicy, tender ribs.

Step 1: Brining

Ovens tend to dry things out. The cure for this is brine. Typically, you brine the racks of baby back or pork spare ribs for one hour. If you've never brined before, this step is pretty easy.

Steps for Brining

  1. Fill a large container that fits in your refrigerator, but holds all of your ribs with cold water.
  2. Add 1/2 cup of salt (or 1 cup of kosher salt) and 1/2 cup of sugar.
  3. You may also add herbs and spices to the rub if you wish. Sage, rosemary, garlic and oregano are great with pork.
  4. Cover the container with plastic, and place it in the refrigerator.
  5. Let ribs brine for one hour.

Pork Brine Recipe

Simmer the following on the stove top for 10 minutes:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup sea salt
  • 8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons peppercorns

Add another 20 cups (five quarts) of water and cool completely. Add pork and refrigerate.

Step 2: Dry Rub

ribs

Dry rubs add flavor to your meat. Typically, it's best to rub the ribs and let the rub sit on the meat for several hours - preferably overnight - before cooking them. Dry rubs consist of a base of brown sugar with herbs and spices.

Pork Rub Recipe

  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper or white pepper

You may also use a commercially prepared dry rub. There are several excellent rubs available in the spice section of the grocery store.

Rub Instructions

  1. Once you have your dry rub, the word dry is the key. Remove the pork from the brine and dry it with paper towels. If you are using beef, dry the surface of the meat.
  2. Place the ribs on large slabs of foil and rub all sides of the meat with generous amounts of your rub.
  3. Wrap the ribs tightly in foil and stick them in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Step 3: Add a Little Moisture

It's almost time to stick the ribs in the oven. First, you need to add some moisture to further keep the ribs from drying out. Do this by making a braising liquid while the oven preheats to 250 degrees. The braising liquid is up to you, but a good rule of thumb is this:

  • Use a base liquid. You may use chicken stock, white wine, beer or something else - it's your choice.
  • Add in some smoke flavor. One of the flavors that is missing from barbecue to oven is smoke. Liquid smoke works great for this purpose. A little goes a long way.
  • Add something sweet. You may use orange juice or maple syrup for this, but you can also add in a little sugar or molasses.
  • Add some acid. Essentially this means to add vinegar. Any kind of vinegar works, especially apple cider vinegar or white vinegar.

Braising Liquid Recipe

Bring the following ingredients to a boil on the stovetop. Cool before adding to ribs.

  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 250.
  2. Place the ribs on a rimmed baking sheet (still wrapped in foil).
  3. Bring the braising ingredients to a boil on the stove.
  4. Cool the braising liquid.
  5. Open a corner of the foil packet for each rack of ribs and pour in about ¼ cup of cooled liquid.
  6. Reseal the packet tightly so that the liquid will not leak out.

Step 4: Low and Slow

The secret to really tender ribs from your oven is this: low and slow. What does that mean? Low temperature (250 degrees). Slow cooking time (2-1/2-4 hours.) This low and slow cooking method breaks down the collagen in the meat, giving you that fall-off-of-the-bone tenderness that you desire.

  1. Place the ribs in the oven.
  2. Cook ribs for 2-1/2 to 4 hours.
  3. After about 2-1/2 hours, open a corner of one of your foil packets and test the ribs with a fork. If they are tender, move on to step 5. Otherwise, allow them to continue to cook until they are fork tender. If in doubt, err on the side of leaving the ribs in the oven longer. In the moisture-rich, low temperature environment, it isn't going to hurt the ribs.

Step 5: Glaze

You have two options for your glaze. You can use a commercially prepared or homemade barbecue sauce, or you can use your braising liquid.

  1. Remove the ribs from the oven.
  2. Turn the oven on to broil.
  3. Open the foil packets and pour the juices back into the pan with the leftovers of your braising liquid.
  4. Tent the ribs with foil and set them aside on the baking sheet.
  5. Bring the liquid in the pan to a simmer.
  6. Allow the liquid to reduce and thicken.
  7. Brush the liquid on ribs. You can also use a commercially prepared barbecue sauce, or maple syrup for this step.
  8. Put the ribs back in the oven, meat side up, and place under the broiler until the glaze starts to bubble - about four to five minutes.

Best Way to Cook Beef Ribs in the Oven

Beef ribs come in two styles: short ribs and spare ribs. Both come from the same part of the cow, and have tough connective tissue and a lot of fat. Because of this, braising is one of the best ways to cook beef ribs in the oven. The method softens the meat, rendering it moist and tender.

Beer Braised Beef Short Ribs

Ingredients

  • 5 to 6 pounds beef short ribs
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 6 slices thick cut bacon, cut into pieces
  • 2 large red onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 cans stout beer, such as Guinness draught
  • 6-8 sprigs fresh thyme, removed from stems and chopped.

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Season short ribs with salt and fresh cracked black pepper.
  3. In a large pot with a cover that can be transferred to the oven, cook bacon to render fat. Remove crisped bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Working in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan, brown short ribs on all sides, allowing them to develop a caramelized crust. Remove and set aside.
  5. Add red onions and sauté 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add garlic and sauté until garlic releases its scent, about 30 seconds.
  7. Add flour and stir constantly until roux turns light blonde color, about three minutes.
  8. Add vinegar, stirring constantly and using your spoon to scrape any browned bits of meat and vegetables off the bottom of the pan.
  9. Add beer and stir to combine.
  10. Add beef, bacon and thyme.
  11. Bring liquid to a boil and cover pan tightly.
  12. Transfer the pan to the oven and braise for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until beef is tender.
  13. Remove beef from braising liquid and set aside, tented with foil.
  14. Use a large spoon to skim fat off the top of the braising liquid.
  15. If you desire a thicker liquid, simmer on the stove top until it reaches desired consistency.
  16. Serve braising liquid and vegetables over the top of the short ribs.

Delicious, Hearty Meals

Learning how to cook ribs in the oven is as easy as that. If you want some sides to go with your pork ribs, try an apple and celery salad recipe or some beans for a real taste of summer any time. Serve the beef ribs with smashed potatoes topped in your braising liquid. Both types of ribs make delicious, hearty meals no matter what time of year it is.

How to Cook Ribs in the Oven