Although you may think the grill is the best way to cook ribs, it's possible — and extremely easy — to make fall-off-the-bone ribs without foil in the oven. All you need is your rack of ribs, a baking sheet and a wire cooling rack that nestles right inside that baking sheet.
Of course, like any rib-cooking method, the key to cooking juicy ribs in the oven is to cook them low and slow — or for an extended length of time at a low temperature. This allows their flavors to develop and prevents them from losing any of the moisture that comes from the fat in the meat, even if you don't trap it in aluminum foil.
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Cook Ribs Without Foil
Whether you ran out of aluminum foil or you're avoiding it because of a May 2012 report in the International Journal of Electrochemical Science that connected using aluminum foil during cooking to serious health risks like Alzheimer's disease, you may be looking for a solution to bake ribs without foil. The good news is: you can do it with excellent results as long as you cook the ribs slowly and choose the right cut of meat.
If you're cooking ribs without foil, you may want to choose baby back ribs, which are among the most tender of the cuts. Since you might lose some of the juices in the pan, it's a good idea to start out with tender meat since you'll likely have a little more wiggle room, but the choice is up to you. You can also go for spare ribs or country ribs.
To cook the ribs, preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Set a wire cooling rack inside of a baking sheet and set aside. Season the meat however you'd like. Dry rubs that contain a combination of smoked paprika, celery salt, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder are a great choice. Many spice companies pre-make these dry rubs for you so all you have to do is coat the ribs evenly and you're ready to go.
Once the ribs are seasoned, arrange them in a single layer on top of the wire rack in the prepared baking sheet. If you're cooking baby back ribs that weigh two to four pounds, you'll need to cook them for about one and a half to two hours. If that sounds like too much time, try our recipe for Under-an-Hour Instant Pot BBQ Baby Back Ribs with Vinegar Slaw instead.
Whichever type of ribs you choose, follow proper food safety guidelines and cook them to an internal temperature of 145 F, as recommended by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. When measuring the temperature of the meat, make sure you insert your meat thermometer into the meaty, fleshy portion of the rib and not directly into the fat to get an accurate measure of the actual rib meat.
Nutrition Facts for Ribs
Although they're known for being a fatty cut of meat, baby back ribs are also naturally free of any carbohydrates. As long as you don't add any sugary barbecue sauce or meat rubs with added sugar when you bake ribs without foil, they fit in really well with a ketogenic or low-carb diet regimen.
While the exact nutritional facts of your ribs will vary based on what you top them with, if you stick to herbs and spices without any added sugars or artificial ingredients, the USDA lists the nutrition facts for a 4-ounce serving of baby back ribs as:
- 183 calories
- 21 grams of protein
- 11 grams of fat
- 4 grams of saturated fat
- 75 milligrams of cholesterol
- 29 milligrams of calcium
- 300 milligrams of potassium
- 105 milligrams of sodium
- USDA FoodData Central: "Baby Back Ribs"
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Fresh Pork From Farm to Table"
- International Journal of Electrochemical Science: "Risk Assessment of Using Aluminum Foil in Food Preparation"
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: "Meat and Poultry Charts"
- Village Meats: Chart for Roasting Prime Rib (Standing Rib Roast)