There’s something about the flavor of grilled meat that makes our primal instincts kick in. Fire and meat equals wonderful flavors. With summer cooking and grilling ahead, certain dishes capture the essence and enjoyment of summer. Oven baby back ribs, coated with a caramelized Chinese-inspired barbecue sauce, is one of them. Best served with plenty of napkins.
Oven Baby Back Ribs
With smoky flavor and a finger-licking barbecue sauce, pork ribs are an irresistible summer treat. By adapting my mom’s recipe, starting ribs in the oven and finishing them on the grill, you can have delicious, easy to prepare baby back ribs in under an hour and a half.
For folks in some parts of the country barbecue is practically a religion. Doing ribs anyway but “low and slow” on a smoker would be unthinkable. I don’t have a smoker to do the traditional slow-cooked style and not often the hours it may take, but my adapted recipe tastes terrific in a relatively short time frame. No matter if you have a big oven and grill or a small oven and grill on an apartment balcony, you can make tasty ribs.
Citrus, Lemon, Onion and Spices
My mom started her pork spareribs in an electric skillet. She covered them with thinly sliced onion and lemon and finished them on the grill. For my version, I prefer leaner, baby back ribs and season them with kosher salt, smoked black pepper and granulated garlic. I top the ribs with orange, lemon and onion slices and squeeze on any extra juice.
Wrap and Bake
Wrapped in a heavy foil packet and placed on a sheet tray, the ribs bake for about an hour. They come out tender and juicy, ready to be finished on the grill, slathered in barbecue sauce.
As a note, when you unwrap the ribs from the foil there will be delicious juices accumulated. Pour them into a cup and save them in case you need to thin the barbecue sauce.
Barbecue Sauce: Bottled or Homemade
You can use your favorite bottled or homemade barbecue sauce. Most bottled sauces are very high in sugar and salt so I usually make my own.
My rib sauce is based on Chinese Hoisin sauce, adding orange juice, garlic, ginger, smoked spices, espresso powder and spirits – either dark rum, Bourbon or whiskey. If you don't do spirits, just skip it. No espresso powder? Skip it too. It's still delicious.
Smoked spices are available at many grocery store, and online at specialty spice shops and Amazon. They add to the smoky flavor. If you don’t have smoked spices use the regular version of the spices.
Grill Finish & Enjoy
After baking in the oven, finish your ribs on a hot grill over low heat for about 20-25 minutes. Turn your rib racks about every 5-7 minutes, brushing with barbecue sauce. You want a good coating of sauce to caramelize on the ribs. Remove from the grill, slice and enjoy. Tip - it's easier to slice them on the back side where you can see the ribs.
How Much to Buy
On quantity, I buy ¾ - 1 pound per person of baby back ribs. It will depend on the size of the appetite and what you are serving along side. Anyway, just enjoy. And be sure to offer plenty of napkins. These really are finger-licking good.
- 3-4 pounds baby back ribs
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 large onion sliced thin
- 1-2 large oranges sliced thin
- 1-2 lemons sliced thin
Hoisin Barbecue Sauce (or use your favorite bottled)
- 1 cup Hoisin sauce: homemade or bottled for homemade Hoisin see my recipe
- ¾ cup orange juice fresh squeezed
- 2 large garlic cloves finely chopped
- 2-3 teaspoons ginger puree or finely zested fresh ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoons espresso powder
- ½ cup bourbon, whiskey, dark rum, or cognac OPTIONAL
- ⅓ cup ketchup
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon smoked black pepper or regular black pepper
Prep the Ribs
- Remove baby back ribs from the refrigerator about 45 minute ahead of baking time come to room temperature (really just getting the chill off). If not already done, remove the silverskin (tendon) from the underside of the rib rack. Lift an edge of the silverskin with a table knife, then pull the piece with a piece of paper towel. It will come off either in 1 long piece or a few pieces. Pre–heat oven to 350 degrees.
- On a half-sheet (13” x 18”) size rimmed baking sheet, place a large piece of heavy duty foil. Place rib racks in a single layer. Two racks will fit on one half sheet baking pan. Sprinkle ribs liberally with salt, garlic, and pepper. Top ribs with the onion slices, lemon and orange slices. Squeeze any extra orange pieces over the ribs. With more heavy-duty foil, enclose the ribs in a foil packet.
- Place the ribs in a 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes. When ribs are done, open the foil packet carefully, releasing the steam away from you. Drain the juices into a container and reserve if needed to thin sauce. If not, discard.
Make the Hoisin Barbecue Sauce (or skip and use bottled)
- While the ribs are baking, make the sauce or use your favorite bottled barbecue sauce. Combine Hoisin, orange juice, garlic, ginger, espresso, spirits, ketchup and spices in a small saucepan. Simmer on low heat until combined and a bit reduced, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
To Finish the Ribs
- Brush ribs with sauce on the top side (rounded side). Place ribs on a hot grill turned down to low and allow to cook for 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally with brushing with additional sauce until the ribs are thickly coated with caramelized sauce. Remove ribs from the grill, slice between the bones, serve with extra sauce on the side. For easier slicing, turn the ribs over and slice from the under side where you can see the ribs.