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Easy Oven-Baked Baby Back Ribs Recipe Cooks Up Fall-of-the-Bone Tender

Learn how to prep them and customize your flavor

Summer nights call for delicious food, good company and maybe a little mess. And you can’t find anything messier than a pile of perfectly cooked ribs. That fall-off-the-bone tender meat slathered in a sweet and sticky glaze delivers finger-licking flavor. But sometimes you don’t want to fire up the grill, or maybe you don’t own a smoker. Well, I recently tried oven-baked baby back ribs, and they came out just as delicious. This recipe is so easy to prep ahead and let your oven do the work without any attending. I also spoke to the experts who share their tips on choosing your ribs and getting that “grilled” effect. Here’s your guide to oven-baked baby back ribs.

How are oven-baked baby back ribs different?

Baking, grilling and smoking ribs all give delicious results, but they offer distinct experiences. Grilling and smoking impart a smoky flavor and beautiful char but require close attention. Baking allows a more hands-off approach, perfect for beginners (or busy nights). They may lack the smoky depth of other methods, but don’t worry, we have some tricks for that below.

Have a grill? Try our Barbecue Pork Ribs recipe!

How to choose the best baby back ribs

“When choosing good baby back ribs, look for a fresh pinkish-red color versus browning or pale spots to indicate freshness,” says Chef Kat Lieu, creator of Modern Asian Baking. “You also want to look for an even thickness across the rack, which will ensure uniform cooking on the grill.”

Chef Albert Nguyen at the Culinary Institute of Education adds that “the meat on the ribs should be in good proportion to the bones. For example, there should be a decent amount of meat left on the bones and the bones should not be exposed (too much got cut off).” Finally, he recommends “good marbling in the flesh, which is the amount of fat within the meat itself. This will ensure that it has a good flavor and that it won’t feel dry when cooked for a long time.”

Expert tips for perfect oven-baked baby back ribs

I admit I was a bit nervous making ribs in my oven at first. But after learning these expert tips, they turned out perfect when I had some friends over for dinner. Below, you’ll find some key steps to remember.

close up of oven-baked baby back ribs glazed in barbecue sauce
mphillips007/Getty

1. Keep it low and slow

For fall-off-the-bone tenderness, Chef Lieu says, “I think low and slow gets you the best results, tender and juicy meat. So let’s say around 275°F (135°C) for approximately 2.5 to 3 hours, until the meat pulls away from the bones.” This allows the connective tissues in the ribs to break down naturally. Think of it like a slow simmer, so everything stays juicy.

When it comes to cooking ribs, Chef Nguyen says to “prep ribs early…The sooner you do this, the more time the ribs will have to absorb the flavors.”

2. Make it smoky

My first attempt at these ribs tasted like I had been at the grill for hours. First, use smoked paprika in your rub. It adds a deep, smoky essence without the actual smoke. Many spice blends also include smoked ingredients like chipotle peppers or smoked chilis.

Additionally, Chef Nguyen suggests “resting the ribs thoroughly after you have achieved the doneness of your liking. After it has rested and the meat is still warm, place it under the broiler in your oven and let it get a little charred and ever so slightly ‘burnt’ which will give you that grilled flavor effect.”

3. Wrap it well

Wrapping your ribs tightly in foil halfway through cooking helps retain moisture and keeps them from drying out. This creates a mini steam chamber within the foil, allowing the ribs to cook evenly and stay tender.

4. Glaze it up

Brush your ribs with a sweet and savory glaze during the last 30 minutes of cooking for an irresistible sticky finish. It also creates a nice, caramelized crust.

After glazing, Chef Nguyen says to “rest the ribs for at least 10-15 minutes after they come out of the oven. This will help the meat retain most of its juices before being cut into.”

Easy oven-baked baby back ribs recipe

I followed this easy recipe from Inspired Taste and it didn’t disappoint. After 15 minutes, I popped them in the oven! It also includes a homemade spicy barbecue glaze to coat the ribs.

Oven Baked Baby Back Ribs

overheard shot of oven-baked baby back ribs with knife on blue background
Danielle Wood/Getty

Ingredients

  • 2 to 2½ lbs. baby back pork ribs
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • ¼ cup finely diced onion
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 1 Tbs. hot chili sauce like Sriracha
  • 2 Tbs. light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and ground pepper, to taste

Directions

  • Active Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  1. Preheat the oven to 275°F. Set aside a large roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet and foil.
  2. Season both sides of the ribs generously with salt and pepper. If you are using a spice rub, rub it over the ribs.
  3. Place the ribs, meatiest side up, in a large roasting pan. You may need to cut the ribs in half to fit them into the pan. Cover the pan or baking sheet tightly with aluminum foil.
  4. Bake the ribs until the meat falls easily from the bones, 2½ to 3½ hours. Ribs are ready to come out of the oven when the meat is cooked through and tender. To check, pierce them with a sharp knife. There should be little to no resistance.
  5. While the ribs bake in the oven, make the barbecue sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, 5 to 8 minutes.
  6. Stir in the cumin and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Then, add the ketchup, hot chili sauce, brown sugar, and apple cider vinegar. Stir to combine, season with salt, then cook for 2 minutes. Set aside while the ribs finish baking.
  7. Remove the ribs from the oven, discard the aluminum foil, and generously brush both sides with barbecue sauce.

Cutting the sliver skin

“You want to trim off that silvery skin from the back of the ribs because it’s a tough and chewy membrane,” says Chef Lieu. If your ribs don’t come with the sliver skin removed, follow this easy video tutorial below before cooking for more tender meat.

Storing tips

Even the most dedicated rib lover might have leftovers. “After cooking, store the ribs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. For longer storage, wrap them tightly in foil and place them in a freezer-safe bag to freeze indefinitely. While the meat won’t go bad, the quality and taste will decline after prolonged freezing,” says Chef Lieu.

See also: How to Reheat Ribs in the Oven, Microwave, or on the Grill — So They’re Juicy Every Time

Customize your oven-baked baby back ribs

Newsflash: you can use more than just barbecue sauce on your ribs. You can customize your oven-baked baby back ribs with various combinations of rubs and spices. Below, I put together some exciting flavors to inspire you.

1. Honey garlic glaze

This simple combination is a crowd-pleaser. Create a rub with brown sugar, garlic powder and onion powder. Then, during the last hour of cooking, baste the ribs with a mixture of melted honey and soy sauce.

2. Spicy kick

Love some heat? Add a kick to your rub with chipotle pepper flakes or cayenne pepper. For the glaze, combine your favorite barbecue sauce with a dollop of hot sauce for a fiery finish.

3. Herb heaven

For a lighter touch, skip the glaze and opt for a fresh herb topping. After the ribs are cooked, sprinkle them with chopped fresh cilantro, parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice for a vibrant and refreshing finish.


For more meat lovers’ recipes, try these at your next summer barbecue:

How to Grill Hot Dogs — Chef’s Secret Makes ‘Em Crispy + Juicy for Your Memorial Day BBQ

Shortcut Beef Shepherd’s Pie Recipe Is Pure Cozy Comfort — Oven-Ready in 30 Minutes

Dutch Oven Carnitas Recipe Cooks Up Crispy + Tender Shredded Pork — No Searing Needed

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