With a minimum of fuss and a maximum of flavor you'll get a tender, lip-smacking meal at home.
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Tuscan ribs recipe
Credit: RYAN LIEBE

Do you dream about the tender, smoky baby back or spare ribs at your favorite barbecue joint and wish you could make them at home? Replicating the technique of a professional pitmaster who tends their specialized smoker through the wee hours can be a far bigger commitment of time and equipment than any regular home cook would want to tackle simply for the sake of making dinner. But you can still achieve truly tasty results by baking ribs in your oven—without investing in any equipment or getting up before sunrise to stoke the fire!

Types of Ribs

Ribs refers to any of several different cuts of pork or beef.

Pork Ribs

Most often when a recipe or restaurant menu lists ribs, that means spare ribs or baby back ribs, both of which come from pork.

Baby Back Ribs

These small ribs are cut from the section of the pig where the ribs meet the backbone. The ribs on a rack of baby backs are usually about 6 inches long at the wide end and gradually taper down to about 3 inches at the narrow end. Baby back ribs are more tender but they also have less fat than other kinds of ribs so can be more prone to drying out.

Spare Ribs

On the other end of baby back ribs—literally—are the spare ribs. This cut is the remainder of the ribs after the "baby back" section is separated. Spare ribs are longer and less curved than baby backs. They also contain more fat, which renders them more moist and flavorful.

St. Louis-Cut Ribs

The only difference between these and spare ribs is that St. Louis-style has the rib tips removed. This is a flap of meat containing small bits of cartilage and bones.

Beef Ribs

Beef ribs come in a few different variations as well.

Beef "Dino" Ribs

Whole beef short ribs, sometimes called plate ribs or dino ribs (yes, as in dinosaur!) are far less common than pork ribs, mostly because they are almost cartoonishly large at around 12 inches long and weighing over a pound apiece. Why are they called short ribs then? Not because of their small stature obviously—it's because they come from a section of the cow called the short plate. One place you can reliably find them on the menu is Texas-style barbecue joints. You will probably need to seek out a specialty butcher if you want to cook full-size beef ribs at home.

Short Ribs

The cut of beef that most people know as short ribs may come from the short plate, just like dino ribs, or they may be chuck ribs from the next adjacent section. Short ribs are generally cut crosswise by the butcher into much shorter sections of about 3 inches for easier handling.

Flanken Style Ribs

This cut of beef ribs also comes from the short rib section, the difference is just in the thickness. Flanken style ribs are cut very thin, usually about ½ inch. One of the most popular ways of preparing them is Korean-style barbecue, where they are called kalbi or galbi. These thin-cut sections of beef ribs cook much more quickly than other varieties of ribs.

How to Bake Ribs in the Oven

There are a few different approaches you can take when baking ribs. High or low heat? Covered or uncovered? Dry rub, marinade, sauce—or all of the above? Finish them on the grill, under the broiler, or just feast on them right out of the oven? Some of these choices are purely a matter of taste and what you're in the mood for, but your baking time and temperature should be determined by what kind of ribs you're making.

Covered or Uncovered?

Some recipes for baked ribs call for wrapping the racks tightly in foil or covering the whole pan before sliding them into the oven. Keeping ribs under wraps for most or all of the baking time keeps moisture in and allows a wider margin of error in your baking time and temperature. The downside of keeping the ribs covered while they cook is that the finished product can look pale and soggy, a far cry from the beautifully charred ribs from a barbecue restaurant. The quick hack for limp ribs is to broil them before serving, sizzling them for just a few minutes per side to give them that crispy, flame-kissed finish everyone loves.

Hot and Heavy or Low and Slow?

The ideal oven temperature depends on the type of ribs and whether they are covered or uncovered. Baby back ribs require more delicate treatment so they don't get overcooked and tough, so should be cooked at lower temperatures—no higher than 300 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1 hour if uncovered, like in our Tuscan Ribs or Baby Pork Ribs. If wrapped in foil, you can push the oven temp as high as 375 degrees and cook for upwards of 1.5 hours, like with our Sour-Cherry-and-Five-Spice-Lacquered Ribs.

Larger, fattier ribs need to be cooked longer than baby backs. Shoot for around 2 hours at 350 degrees if the ribs are uncovered, as in our Barbecued Pork Ribs.

If wrapped in foil, the ribs can go for up to 3 hours at 300°F degrees, or crank the oven up to 400 degrees for a briefer baking time—1.5 to 2 hours.

Great big beef dino ribs need even longer in the oven and it's best to keep them covered so they don't dry out. In Martha's favorite version, she bakes them at 325 degrees for 4 hours. On the other hand, the super thin-cut flanken style beef short ribs only need about 5 minutes per side under the broiler, no wrapping or slow-baking required.

Type

Uncovered Temp

Uncovered Time

Covered Temp

Covered Time

Small pork ribs, such baby back ribs

300-325°F

1 hour

375°F

11/2 hours

Larger pork ribs, such as spare ribs

350°F

2 hours

300°F / 400°F

3 hours / 11/2-2 hours

Beef "dino" ribs

325°F

4 hours

Beef flanken ribs

broiler

5 minutes per side

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