Dinner Hour or So: Adequate Oven-Cooked Ribs

There are many ways to cook pork ribs, to make them into an expression of your own personal mythology or tribalism of barbecue. This is not one of those ways. This is a way to cook ribs as pieces of meat, so that you may eat them and go to bed on a weeknight.

Ingredients:

  • About three pounds of baby back ribs. Or spare ribs. Two slabs, or one big slab.
  • Some other things.

In the morning, or the night before: Line a roasting pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Rinse off and pat dry the the ribs and put them in the pan, concave side up. If they don't fit, cut the slab or slabs in half and rearrange things.

You may, using a paper towel or kitchen towel for grip, peel the membrane off the back of the ribs. Or don't bother. I don't bother.

Dinner Hour or So: Adequate Oven-Cooked Ribs

Now make some sort of slurry to go on the ribs, using a blender or food processor or immersion blender. You could put in: One or two small tomatoes. The juice and zest of half a lemon, or a whole preserved salted lemon. A big spoonful of honey. A glug of soy sauce, or a smaller splash of soy sauce if you've already put a salted lemon in there.

Or some other combinations of things. Something sour, something sweet, something salty, something that's a tomato. Add more flavorings: a lump of fresh ginger or a shake of dried, powdered ginger. Cumin is usually a good idea with pork. Black pepper. A sprinkle of fish sauce? Maybe!

Blend it. Pour the result over the ribs. Let it pool on the concave side; rub it onto the convex side. Cover the pan with a sheet of foil. Put it in the fridge until it is time to cook it.

Dinner Hour or So: Adequate Oven-Cooked Ribs

That time will be roughly 90 minutes before the time you plan to eat. Maybe two hours. Uncover the ribs, flip them meat-side-up, and cover the pan with the foil again. Turn your oven on at 350 degrees and put the pan in. Don't worry about preheating. (If you are lucky enough to have an oven that turns itself on with a timer, leave the ribs in there in the morning and tell your oven to turn on at 350 about 45 minutes before you plan to get home.)

Do something else. Cook a vegetable. Ride the subway train home if you do have one of those ovens that handles things for you. (My last apartment did. It was easy to get used to.) Eventually, after 45 minutes or an hour, you will smell the smell of cooking ribs.

Jab an instant-read thermometer into a thick part of the meat. If it clears 160 degrees, take them out of the oven. If not, give the ribs more time till it does. Take the slab or slabs out of the pan and put them on a plate to rest. This is a good reason to have tongs.

Dinner Hour or So: Adequate Oven-Cooked Ribs

What's left in the pan will be a layer of pork fat, roasting juices, and whatever you poured on the ribs. Pour this all into a smallish saucepan. Scrape out the thicker parts with a heatproof spatula and put them in the saucepan, too. Try not to mess up the foil lining.

Boil the liquid in the saucepan on as high a heat as you can manage without having it foam out onto the burner. Stir it now and then with the spatula. It will thicken.

When the ribs have rested for 10 or 15 minutes, cut the slabs into individual ribs. Tongs and kitchen shears will make this easy. Put the separated ribs back in the roasting pan, in a single layer. Set the oven to broil. Put the pan of ribs under the broiler.

Add any leftover juices from the plate to the boiling saucepan.

Stir the saucepan a little more regularly. You are waiting for two semi-urgent developments to occur: The saucepan contents will get syrupy, and the ribs will develop browned patches under the broiler. When the liquid turns syrupy, get the pan off the heat. When the ribs start browning, take them out of the oven, use tongs to flip them so the un-browned parts are on top, and stick them back under the broiler till those parts have browned, too.

When the ribs are done browning, shut off the broiler and put the ribs in your serving dish of choice. If there's a really prominent layer of fat in the saucepan, pour some of it off into a bowl to get it out of the way. Then pour the thickened liquid over the ribs and smear it around some with the spatula.

Eat the ribs. The meat will not be falling-off-the-bone tender; it will stay on the bone till you bite into it, at which point it will come off the bone. It's not barbecue; it's dinner.