I love ribs but generally only eat them at restaurants (or at my in-laws: my father-in-law makes great ribs). Until recently I had never tried cooking them at home, but last weekend I decided to give it a shot. I remember reading this article by food science expert Harold McGee, in which he explains that the oven is the ideal place to cook ribs because you can get the low, even heat that makes the ribs tender and keeps the meat moist. McGee's recipe (which bears the Smitten Kitchen stamp of approval), involves rubbing pork spareribs with a mix of brown sugar, salt, and spices and cooking in a 200-degree oven for four hours, followed by another two hours at 175 degrees. Then you use the juices from the ribs to make a quick sauce.
The only snag in my plan to make this recipe was that my grocery store did not have spareribs. But the guy at the meat counter told me I could substitute baby back ribs and could maybe even reduce the cooking time because baby back ribs are a bit more tender than spareribs. Here are the results of my experiment:
I was very pleased with the results. My modifications to the recipe are below. Although it took a few hours to cook, preparation was very simple, and the ribs were meltingly tender and delicious. My modifications are below--I omitted the cloves and cinnamon because that just sounded off to me. One rack of baby back ribs comfortably served two adults and one preschooler.
1 1/2 lb rack of baby back ribs
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tsp (scant) kosher salt
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
For the sauce:
1 Tb. bourbon
3/4 tsp. smoked Spanish Paprika
1 Tb. cider vinegar
Rub the sugar, salt, paprika, and garlic powder over the ribs. Wrap the ribs tightly in foil and put ribs meat-side down on a rack in a baking sheet. Bake at 200 degrees for 3 hours. Reduce the heat to 175 and bake for another hour or so (check tenderness after one hour). When done, carefully open packet and pour juices into a saucepan. Add bourbon and boil until reduced by half. Add smoked paprika and vinegar and taste to see if the sauce needs more salt, sugar, or vinegar. Serve ribs with sauce.