Today is Texas Independence Day, commemorating the 175th anniversary of the day Texas signed a declaration of independence from Mexico. As good as excuse as any to cook up a rack of ribs, don’t you think?
This is the secret to ultra-tender ribs: prebaking them. Some people pre-boil them, but I find that too messy and awkward, what with the giant pot of water on the stove top and having to cut all the ribs apart first. Plus – you lose a lot of flavor to the cooking water. To roast them, all I do is plop a rack or two (of pork back or side ribs) on a heavy cookie sheet (make sure it’s rimmed those suckers have a lot of fat on them), cover them tightly with foil and bake at 300°F for 2-2 1/2 hours. If you want, you could rub the meat with a dry rub first, but it’s not necessary. The long, slow cooking time will break down the tough connective tissues, making the meat fall-off-the-bone tender. You can then finish them up with your sauce of choice in a hot oven or on the grill.
If you want to grill your ribs, you can do the initial cooking in the oven (up to a day or two in advance) and then finish them off on the grill.
Oven-Roasted Barbecue Ribs
Dry Rub (enough for 2-3 racks of ribs)
2 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. oregano
2 racks pork spareribs, trimmed of excess fat
1-2 cups barbecue sauce
If you want to use the dry rub, combine all the ingredients for it and rub the ribs all over with the mixture, covering both sides. Let them stand at room temperature for an hour, or wrap them well in plastic and refrigerate them for up to 24 hours to intensify the flavors. If you aren’t using the rub, just sprinkle the ribs with salt and pepper. Keep any extra rub in an airtight container it will last for about a year before it starts to lose its punch.
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the ribs meat side up on a rimmed baking sheet, and cover the pan completely with foil. Bake them for 2 hours. Remove the foil and slather the ribs generously with barbecue sauce. Roast for another hour, until the meat is very tender and starting to fall off the bone.
If you want to grill your ribs, cook them in the foil for 2 1/2 hours. (They can be made ahead up to this point, and then refrigerated for up to a day before you need them.) Brush the ribs with sauce and grill over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes.
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/HHLtDave5