Enjoying the succulent, smokey goodness of baby back ribs does not require expensive equipment or outdoor barbecuing. Here is a simple, foolproof way to prepare them right in a conventional oven by a technique called “tea smoking”.
This is an ancient Chinese method that allows a fragrant smoke to flavor the baby back ribs without smoking up your living quarters.
Baby back ribs tend to be a bit meatier than spare ribs and have smaller bones which makes them ideal for smoking in the oven.
You will need a large metal roasting pan with a rack to keep the ribs out of the residual grease, a cup of loose tea (a black tea works best), a dry rub and heavy-duty aluminum foil to tightly cover the roasting pan.
A dry rub consists of grainy herbs and spices which is liberally rubbed on the ribs before cooking. Dry rubbed baby back ribs can be served as is, or your favorite barbecue sauce can be applied for the last 20 minutes of cooking. Putting barbecue sauce on the ribs from the start increases the risk of burning, since the high content of sugar may cause unwanted charring or a gummy surface on the ribs. Here are the ingredients for a dry rub that will coat three racks of baby back ribs, which will fit snuggly in a 16’ x 12’ roasting pan.
1 cup of dark brown sugar packed,
2 tablespoons of onion powder,
1 tablespoon of garlic powder,
2 tablespoons of Creole seasoning,
1 tablespoon of smoked paprika (this is critical to the smoked flavor, but be sure to use the mild variety unless a higher level of heat is desired),
and a teaspoon of chipotle powder
Mix the ingredients thoroughly and rub both sides of the ribs until they are well-coated.
Sprinkle the loose tea over the bottom of the pan then place the metal rack in the roasting pan. It should sit around ½ inch from the bottom.
Place the ribs curved side up, but don’t worry if the racks overlap a bit, as they will shrink in the cooking process.
Cover with the aluminum foil, leaving room at the top so the foil doesn’t touch the meat and seal the edges as tightly as possible.
Pre heat the oven to 300-degrees and let cook gently for 2-hours.
Keep them covered the whole time. This method is very forgiving, so extra time in the oven will only make the ribs more tender, but 2-hours should be sufficient.
Remove foil after the time allowed and let the surface brown for an additional 20-minutes. If “wet” ribs are preferred, this is the time to baste them with your favorite barbecue sauce. The combination of the tea smoking, smoked paprika and chipotle will impart enough smoked flavor that the ribs will rival the results achieved in a smoker. This method is also simple enough that it can be done in any conventional oven by any cook. Serve your ribs with traditional accompaniments of creamy coleslaw and potato salad. Enjoy real smoked baby back ribs any time of the year with a minimum of fuss and special equipment. But if this recipe gets around, there might be a lot of smokers for sale at local yard sales