Ribs. Juicy, fall-off-the-bone, delicious ribs. This post tackles a food I didn’t think I could make on a grill, let alone inside a one bedroom apartment. Did I mention it will cost you less than $4 for a half rack and only requires 20 minutes of hands-on time?
Ingredients (2 Servings):
- approximately 3 lb rack of pork baby back or St. Louis style ribs
- 1/4 cup of apple juice or water
- 2/3 tbsp of kosher salt
- 2/3 tbsp of spicy paprika
- 2/3 tbsp of sweet paprika
- 1 tbsp of mesquite black pepper
- 1/2 tbsp of black pepper
- 2 tsp of garlic powder
- 1 tsp of onion powder
- 1 baking sheet lined with aluminum foil
- Extra sheets of aluminum foil
- Mix all spices together in a small bowl to create dry rub
- Place ribs bone side up on a cutting board and remove thin layer of see-through skin on top of bones
- Place ribs on the baking sheet, brush with olive oil and cover all sides completely in spices
- Cover with cling wrap and place in refrigerator for 1-2 hours or overnight
- Preheat the oven to 235F
- Remove cling wrap, bake the ribs bone side down on the baking sheet for 4 hours
- Wrap the ribs completely in aluminum foil and add apple juice before closing off and creating a liquid-tight seal
- Bake the ribs bone side down for another 3-4 hours
- Unwrap and enjoy!
Total time = 8 hours and 20 minutes (20 minutes to prep, 8 hours to cook)
If you’re working under a time crunch you can cook them for 4 hours at 325F! (Wrap in foil after the first 2 hours)
Step 1 – Go crazy here. Put in whatever like. Thyme sounds great. Obsessed with sage, go for it. Got some leftover coffee grounds, toss them in. You can use any spices you’re in the mood for to create the rub. I recommend a 1:2:4 ratio of salt:spice:other. No sugar needed – a nice rack of ribs tastes like candy.
Step 2 – Removing this skin allows spices to sink into the bottom side of the ribs. Do not skip this step or assume the skin is not there because you can’t see it! This clear skin is definitely there unless the packaging says otherwise and it can be a pain to remove. Check out other websites and blogs for tips – personally I try to dig under it with a knife, grab it with a paper towel and yank it off. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that this might not be best practice, but hey, it gets the job done.
Step 3 – The Kosher salt is the heaviest and will tend to sink to the bottom of your mixture. Make sure to scoop all the way to the bottom of the bowl to give each rib a little bit of everything (great song by Keith Urban btw). You should probably play it while you’re cooking since nothing goes better with ribs than good country music.
Step 4 – I prefer overnight because that way I don’t have to do any prep in the morning. I can just roll out of bed, put the ribs in the oven and feel like I accomplished something.
Step 5 – Who knew ovens went down to 235F?? I figured they had a cap at 300F. I learn new things every day.
Step 7 – Be careful that the bones don’t puncture the aluminum foil. The trapped apple juice is being used to keep the ribs moist – if it escapes you are in danger of drying out the ribs.
Step 9 – Open the door and vent your kitchen unless you want it to smell like ribs for a week. Wait actually that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, quick close all your windows and doors!
- 3 lb rack of pork baby back ribs ~ $6.50 (Buy them whenever they’re on sale at the grocery store!)
- Spices ~ negligible.
- Apple juice ~ $1 (if you’re really cooking on a budget, water will also get the job done)
Cost per homemade half rack = $3.75
For some reason, I’ve always considered being able to cook a really good rack of ribs to be one of the milestones of adulthood. I thought it took years of practice and experimentation and a lot of frustration before this feat could be accomplished. I considered juicy, fall-off-the-bone ribs to be a testament to years of hard work and heartbreak. Based on these lofty preconceptions, I have been putting off even attempting ribs until I felt like I had a least a couple weeks to dedicate to the process.
Finally, I built up the courage, tried it and the results were demystifying. Not only were ribs extremely easy to make, they were as juicy and tender as I could have only imagined in my dreams. No more than a touch and the bones fell right out. And I did this on my first try! Just mix some spices together and put it in the oven – anyone can do that!
Ribs are yet another example of a food I had built up in my brain as “un-makeable” but in reality ended up being the opposite. Not only did I have an amazing meal, I finished the day with a sense of accomplishment that can only come from doing something myself. It’s all about figuring out the simplest, most efficient way that works best for you! Next opportunity, pick some ribs and impress your friends – and yourself!
As always, make informed food decisions. Know your ingredients, know your costs!