How to Smoke Ribs in the Oven

Grilled pork ribs
You can give ribs a smoky flavor even when cooking in a oven. (Image: AlexPro9500/iStock/Getty Images)

It's possible to cook ribs in your oven to give them the type of smoky flavor usually only associated with outdoor grills or smokers. But you'll need to use a different method than what typical oven-baked rib recipes call for, says "New York Times" food writer and cookbook author Mark Bittman.

You can oven-smoke baby back ribs or spare ribs; baby back ribs are more tender, but spare ribs have more flavorful meat. Whichever you choose, be aware that ribs are high in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. To include them in a balanced diet, eat them infrequently.

Things You'll Need

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • Additional seasonings, such as herbs, spices and sugar

  • Small bowl

  • Spoon

  • Rack of baby back ribs or spare ribs

  • Plastic wrap

  • Oak or hickory wood chips

  • Large roasting pan with removable rack

  • Aluminum foil

  • Liquid smoke

Preparing the Ribs

Step 1: Season the Ribs

Place salt, pepper and your choice of seasonings in a small bowl, choosing from flavorings such as cumin, regular or smoked paprika, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder or powdered herbs like rosemary. Stir thoroughly to combine.

Step 2: Marinade or Rub

Coat the entire rack of ribs with the seasoning mixture. Lightly wrap the rack with plastic wrap.

Step 3: Let Rest

Place the ribs in the refrigerator. Allow them to rest, undisturbed, for one hour to overnight.

Tip

If you prefer, use your favorite brand of commercial rib rub instead of a homemade mixture.

When time is short, rub the seasoning mixture onto the ribs and proceed directly to cooking, skipping the refrigeration step.

Option #1: Using Wood Chips

Step 1: Spread Wood Chips

Place an even layer of oak or hickory wood chips into the bottom of a large roasting pan. Add enough water to barely cover the chips.

Step 2: Set Up Roasting Pan

Put the roasting pan's rack in place over the wood chips. Remove the ribs from the refrigerator, discard the plastic wrap and position it on the rack.

Step 3: Make a Pseudo Smoker

Make a tent around all sides of the roasting pan using aluminum foil, leaving enough space over the ribs to allow steam to circulate. Crimp the foil's edges together tightly to seal the tent.

Step 4: Put in Oven and Bake

Bake until the meat is tender, planning on approximately three hours for 2 to 3 pounds of ribs cooked at 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

Warning

To ensure that the ribs are fully cooked and safe to eat, check that the internal temperature of the meat has reached 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Option #2: Using Liquid Smoke

Step 1: Add Water

Fill the bottom of a large roasting pan with several cups of water. Add liquid smoke, using about 3 tablespoons for every 2 cups of water used. Stir to combine thoroughly.

Step 2: Set Up Roasting Pan

Put the pan's rack over the water. Place the prepared ribs onto the rack.

Step 3: Bake the Ribs

Cover the top of the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until the rib meat is tender: Allow around four hours for a full rack of ribs cooked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tip

To get a crispy, browned crust on the top of your ribs, broil them for approximately five minutes after they have finished smoking in the oven.

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