Smoky Sauna Indoor Ribs
"The actual lines of a pig (I mean a really fat pig) are among the loveliest and most luxuriant in nature; the pig has the same great curves, swift and yet heavy, which we see in rushing water or in a rolling cloud."G.K. Chesterton, British writer, (1874 - 1936)
Ribs cooked on a smoker or a grill are always better than indoor ribs, but if you don't have a grill or there's a blizzard, this technique makes tender, juicy ribs indoors all year 'round. The meat bathes in a hot, moist, sauna-like atmosphere, and when it is ready it practically falls off the bone. There is no need to marinate or brine this meat. If you are in a hurry, you might also want to try my Rendezvous Ribs recipe. It works darn well indoors.
Note: On 2/7/2015 I simplified and improved this recipe, originally published in 2009.
Yield. One slab of baby back ribs
Preparation time. About 30 minutes.
Prep and cooking time. About 3 1/2 hours
1 slab of baby back ribs
1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
4-6 teaspoons Meathead's Memphis Dust
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup of barbecue sauce
About the sauce. You can use a store-bought sauce or one of the recipes on this site such as "Kansas City Classic Sauce". If you go for a store bought, get one that calls itself "smoky". That means it has liquid smoke added. Liquid smoke is made by capturing smoke and condensing it. It adds an outdoorsy taste to this indoorsy recipe. If you wish, you can add about 1/4 teaspoon of liquid smoke to the barbecue sauce after you taste it.
Note. Resist to the temptation to put liquid smoke in the water. Been there done that. Stunk up the house and had to sleep on the couch.
1) If you can, several hours before cooking, remove the membrane, trim excess fat, and sprinkle the salt on. This gives the salt time to melt and penetrate, seasoning the interior. If you don't have time, don't sweat this detail.
2) Use a broiler pan if you have one. If you don't have a broiler pan you can use any pan with a wire grate on top. A roasting rack inside a pan will do. You can even use an oven grate with a pan underneath. The idea is to keep the meat from wallowing in the fat that renders when it is cooking, and catch the plentiful drips so they don't hit the bottom of the oven and catch fire. If necessary, cut the slab to fit over the pan. Season both sides with Meathead's Memphis Dust.
3) About 3 1/2 hours before dinner, put an oven rack in the middle of the oven and set the oven for 225°F. Put the broiler pan onto the rack and pour in enough hot water to fill it about 1/2" to 1" deep. The water adds humidity that helps keep the meat moist and keeps the drippings from burning. Place the meat on the rack above pan, meaty side up. Bake for 3 hours at 225°F. Check every 30 minutes or so to make sure the water has not evaporated. If it has, add more.
4) Read this article to see how to tell when the meat is ready. I use the bend test to make sure it is done. When it is, turn the slab meaty side down. Slather the bone side with the sauce, turn the oven on broil and put the meat under the broiler so it is aligned with the heat source. Broil for 5 minutes with the oven door partially open or until the sauce bubbles, watching closely to make sure it doesn't burn. Leave the door open so the oven cools a bit and to make sure the thermostat doesn't turn off the broiler. Repeat for the meaty side. This direct concentrated heat caramelizes the sugar and creates more deeper flavor. Serve.
This page was revised