Why It Works
- A balanced spice rub with a touch of liquid smoke produces plenty of smoke flavor in the meat, with no need for an actual smoker.
- Wrapping the meat initially speeds cooking and increases tenderness; finishing in dry heat develops a crust and deeper flavor.
Want smoked ribs, but don't have a smoker? No problem. This recipe produces tender and juicy pork ribs with real smoked flavor, even though they're cooked start to finish in the oven.
- For the Spice Rub:
- 1/3 cup paprika (2 1/4 ounces; 65g)
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar (2 ounces; 55g)
- 1/4 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt (1 1/2 ounces; 40g); for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
- 2 tablespoons whole yellow mustard seed (1/4 ounce; 8g)
- 2 tablespoons granulated garlic powder (1/4 ounce; 8g)
- 1 tablespoon onion powder (1/8 ounce; 4g)
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano (1/8 ounce; 4g)
- 1 tablespoon whole coriander seed (1/8 ounce; 4g)
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- For the Sauce (if using):
- 1 medium yellow onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater
- 1 1/2 cups (350ml) ketchup
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) spicy brown mustard
- 1/3 cup (80ml) dark molasses
- 1/4 cup (60ml) Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup (60ml) apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon (4ml) Wright’s or Colgin liquid hickory smoke
- For the Ribs:
- 2 whole racks St. Louis–cut pork ribs (about 2 1/2 pounds/1kg each)
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) Wright’s or Colgin liquid hickory smoke, plus more if needed
For the Spice Rub: Working in batches, combine paprika, brown sugar, salt, mustard seed, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, coriander seed, cumin seed, red pepper flakes, and black pepper in a spice grinder and reduce to a fine powder.
For the Sauce (if using): Combine 3 tablespoons spice rub, grated onion, ketchup, mustard, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and liquid smoke in a medium saucepan and whisk thoroughly. Bring to a bare simmer and cook until reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
For the Ribs: Remove the papery membrane on the back of the ribs, using a paper towel or kitchen towel to grip it, pulling it away in one piece. Rub ribs generously on all sides with spice rub mixture. (Set aside 3 tablespoons of spice rub if making dry-style ribs.)
Sprinkle ribs all over with 1 teaspoon liquid smoke, then rub in with hands for even coverage. If ribs don't smell smoky enough, sparingly rub in more liquid smoke. Wrap each rib rack in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 8 hours.
Preheat oven to 250°F (120°C) and set rack in center position; set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Remove and discard plastic from the rib racks, then wrap each rib rack in foil, sealing it tightly, and set on prepared baking sheet. Bake ribs for 2 hours. Remove and discard foil. Return to oven, meaty side up, and continue to cook until a toothpick or skewer can be pushed into meat with minimal resistance, about 1 1/2 hours longer. (Cooking times can vary quite a bit depending on the exact size of rib racks and the oven being used.)
To Finish: Increase oven to 500°F (260°C). Meanwhile, rub racks with remaining 3 tablespoons spice rub (if making them dry-style) or brush with sauce (if using). Return to oven and cook, meaty side up, until well browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Divide ribs between bones, if desired; serve, passing additional sauce at the table, if using.
Rimmed baking sheet, wire rack, spice grinder