Looking for a juicy and flavorful way to cook ribs year-round? In this guide, I’ll show you step-by-step how to cook ribs in the oven, from preparing the meat to adding the perfect seasoning and sauce. Get ready to impress your family and friends with restaurant-quality ribs cooked right in your own kitchen!
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You don’t have to be a pit master to make delicious, fall-off-the-bone ribs. These oven-baked ribs are easy to prepare and even simpler to cook. I’ll share my step-by-step process to ensure tender and flavorful results!
The oven is a great method to try for those just learning how to cook ribs or a little intimidated by the grill. I’ve definitely been there! For maximum flavor, I coat the meat with my homemade rib rub and a thick layer of barbecue sauce. This recipe is so tasty that you are going to want to make it year-round!
- Ribs: Select a 2 to 3-pound rack of pork baby back, spare ribs, or St. Louis-style ribs. This recipe is for one rack but can easily be doubled if feeding a crowd. Beef ribs can also be used and may require more seasoning if larger than 4 pounds.
- Rib Rub: For a sweet and savory Kansas-style seasoning blend, I use my go-to rib rub recipe. It blends brown sugar, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, dry mustard powder, cayenne, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. If you prefer a more savory seasoning, try this Memphis-style rib rub.
- Barbecue Sauce: My homemade BBQ sauce is a must-try that you can prepare as the ribs bake. Alternatively, use your favorite store-bought sauce for convenience.
Make the seasoning
To make the oven-baked ribs have layers of flavor, don’t skip the dry spice rub. In a medium bowl, combine light brown sugar, paprika, salt, pepper, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg. If you prefer a stronger molasses flavor, use dark brown sugar.
This recipe makes a little over ½ cup of seasoning mix, which is plenty for a 3-pound rack of ribs. If making ahead of time, store the rib rub in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. It stores well, up to 6 months, if you want to make a big batch for future cooking.
Prepare the ribs
Make sure to remove the membrane, or silverskin, from the bottom side of the rib rack. Some cooks leave it on, but I prefer to take it off. The chewy protein elastin doesn’t break down with cooking, so taking it off makes biting effortless.
Run a paring knife between the stretchy membrane and the meat to loosen it a bit. Once you’ve got a hold of it, just pull the long and thin membrane off. Dry the ribs with a paper towel to remove the excess moisture. This helps the seasoning stick on.
Season the ribs
Place the prepared rack of ribs on a large rimmed baking sheet. I use a half-sheet size. Start with seasoning the underside of the rib. Apply enough so that it coats the surface, rubbing it in. Flip and generously season the other side.
Stop the process when it starts to fall off and no longer sticks to the meat. You can use any leftovers to season chicken or wings or on grilled pork chops.
Cover and bake
Tightly cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil, and bake in a preheated oven at 275ºF (135ºC). Cook the ribs using a low and slow process, just like on a barbecue. However, the cover and pan will trap the juices as the meat cooks, creating a moist and steamy environment.
This helps the tough connective tissues like collagen dissolve and transform into soft gelatin. The result is very tender, falling off the bone ribs. The process takes about 2 to 3 ½ hours, depending on the size and type of ribs.
Add the sauce
Carefully uncover the baking sheet. You want the steam to exit away from you. There will be a lot of juices at the bottom. Discard it, use it to baste the ribs, or make gravy. Place the cooked ribs on a clean sheet pan, brushing both sides with barbecue sauce. Broil the ribs until the sauce concentrates and caramelizes on the surface, about 5 minutes. Rest for 10 minutes, slice, and enjoy.
The ribs can also be placed on the grill over medium-high heat to sear it while infusing more of a charred, smokey taste. This is a great shortcut if you don’t have a lot of room on the grill and you want to finish the ribs on the barbecue right before serving.
There are different ways to switch up the flavor of oven-baked ribs. Try these tasty options:
- Sweetness: Try other types of sugar, like granulated sugar or coconut sugar. Use honey or maple syrup. This will give a paste-like consistency, so brush it on the ribs. The sugar can be reduced by half for a more savory taste or omitted.
- Spices: For an earthy taste, add cumin or coriander. Try cinnamon or cardamom instead of nutmeg, or skip the warm spices.
- Herbs: Add dried herbs like celery seeds, oregano, thyme, or parsley.
- Spicy: Add chipotle, hot paprika, chili powder, or crushed chili flakes.
- Sauces: Add a honey mustard glaze combining equal parts of honey and mustard or teriyaki sauce.
- An ice-cold lemonade
- Potato salad or macaroni salad
- Classic coleslaw or Kentucky Fried Chicken coleslaw
- Grilled corn on the cob or Mexican street corn salad
- Grilled pineapple
- Fruit salad or fruit pizza
Frequently asked questions
Covering the ribs when baking provides several advantages. The foil traps the steam, creating a moist-heat cooking environment. This helps to soften the tough connective tissue in just a few hours. This also prevents the meat from drying out. The ribs can be cooked without covering for a more concentrated flavor and crust but may require a longer cooking time.
When baked at 275ºF (135ºC) and wrapped in foil, the ribs will take 2 to 3 ½ hours to cook. This is dependent on the type and size of the rib rack.
Ribs are tough and packed with tough connective tissue and fat. Even though pork is safe to eat at 145ºF (63ºC), it will be chewy. Collagen breaks down into gelatin between 160 to 180ºF (71 to 92ºC). However, for full conversion, it needs to be held for at least an hour at this temperature or above. After cooking for several hours, it should reach around 200 (93ºC) to ensure a fall-off-the-bone texture.
Baby back vs. spareribs
Pork ribs come in two cuts, either back ribs (baby backs) or spare ribs. Baby back ribs are smaller, from the upper loin portion, yield shorter bones with leaner meat. They also cook faster than spare ribs. Spare ribs are cut from the lower portion, near the belly, which gives fattier and juicier pieces. St. Louis-style spare ribs have the cartilage and breastbone trimmed for a uniform shape. It has less meat than baby back but more fat for extra flavor.
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Oven Baked Pork Ribs
- ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, or sweet
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne powder, or chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3 pounds pork spareribs, or baby back ribs
- ½ cup barbecue sauce
- Heat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the center position. Heat it to 275ºF (135ºC).
- Make the Seasoning – In a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar, paprika, salt, pepper, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and nutmeg.
- Season the Ribs – Remove the silverskin from the ribs if still attached. Dry the surface with a paper towel. Evenly apply the dry rub to the underside and then to the top of the ribs. Add just enough so that it sticks to the ribs, and stop once it begins to fall off. A single rack needs about ½ cup of rib rub.
- Cover – Transfer the seasoned ribs meat-side up to a rimmed baking sheet. If needed, cut the rack in half to fit the pan. Tightly cover the pan with foil. There will be a lot of juice at the bottom of the pan after baking.
- Bake – When baking is complete, carefully remove the foil, opening it so that the steam exits away from you. Bake until the meat falls off the bone, and the thickest part of the ribs reaches at least 200 (93ºC), about 2 to 3 ½ hours.
- Broil – Carefully transfer the ribs to a new sheet pan. Brush the barbecue sauce on the underside, then flip and brush the sauce on the top. Broil in the center of the oven until the sauce is caramelized, about 5 minutes.
- To Serve – Rest the meat on a cutting board for at least 10 minutes. Slice and serve.
- Serving Size: About 3 ribs
- Pork Rib Selection: Pork Spare ribs are meatier, juicier, and have more fat. St. Loius-style Spare ribs are more uniform and fattier with less meat than baby back ribs. Baby Back Ribs have smaller bones, are leaner, have less meat than spare ribs, and cook faster.
- Rib Rub: Makes about ½ cup. Use for a 2 to 3-pound rack of ribs. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
- Storing: Cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Cover and microwave on high setting in 15 to 30-second increments until hot. Alternatively, cover and reheat in the oven at 350ºF (177ºC) until hot.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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