Baby Back Ribs (Smoker, Oven, or Oven-to-Grill)

Baby Back Ribs (Smoker, Oven, or Oven-to-Grill)

By Jennifer Segal

Smoky, sweet, savory, and pull-apart tender – these baby back ribs have it all.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 4 Hours 30 Minutes
Total Time: 5 Hours
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1½ tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground mustard
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 racks baby back ribs
  • About 6 tablespoons homemade or store-bought BBQ sauce, plus more for serving

Make the Spice Rub: In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, oregano, ground mustard, and cayenne pepper.

Preheat the smoker to 225°F or the oven to 300°F. (If using the oven, set one rack in the middle position and one rack in the top position.)

Remove the membrane that coats the underside of each rack of ribs. Using a butter knife, loosen the membrane around one of the end bones, scraping it away from the ribs. Once you get under it, grab the membrane with a paper towel and peel it off. If you’re lucky, it will come off all in one piece. (Alternatively, ask your butcher to do this for you.)

Coat the ribs evenly on both sides with about half of the spice rub. Allow the ribs to sit for about 15 minutes to "sweat" and absorb the rub, then coat the racks with the remainder of the rub. It will seem like too much rub but it's not – use it all.

Smoker Method: Place the spice-coated ribs in the smoker and cook for 2 hours. Remove the ribs from the smoker and double wrap each rack in heavy-duty foil. Return to the smoker for 1½ hours. Remove the foil-wrapped ribs from the smoker (hot grease may drip out of the foil, so be careful). Carefully unwrap, leaving the ribs on the foil, and brush to the top of each rack with about 3 tablespoons of the BBQ sauce. Fold the edges of the foil around the ribs, creating a makeshift “pan” for each rack. Place the racks back in the smoker on the foil and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour more, or until the racks are tender. To determine if they're done, lift them from the center with tongs – if they bend easily and the meat “cracks” on top, they are ready. Let the ribs cool for about 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Oven or Oven-to-Grill Method: Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place the spice-coated ribs on the prepared pan, cover the pan tightly with foil, and bake until tender, about 2 hours. Turn the oven to broil. Remove the foil from the ribs and brush each rack with 3 tablespoons of the barbecue sauce. Broil until the sauce just starts to bubble and caramelize, 2 to 4 minutes. Keep a close eye on the ribs while they're under the broiler; because of the sugar in the rub and sauce, they will quickly go from nicely caramelized to burnt. (Alternatively, you can skip the broiling and finish the ribs on the grill. Preheat the grill to medium and grill the baked racks for 10 to 15 minutes, brushing occasionally with the BBQ sauce until charred in spots and heated through. Adjust heat as necessary to prevent burning.) Let the ribs cool for about 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Reheating/Freezing Instructions:The cooked ribs will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, or they can be frozen for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw the ribs overnight in refrigerator if necessary, then place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Brush the ribs with another layer of BBQ sauce and cover tightly with foil. Warm in a 250°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until warmed through. Remove the foil and continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the sauce to set and the bark to crisp up.

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