Don’t have a smoker or a grill? Live in a condo or dorm? Waiting out a blizzard? Broken leg? This technique delivers tender, juicy indoor ribs with a flavor that might fool you into thinking it was cooked outdoors. This is the recipe that beat recipes by Alton Brown, Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, and Chef John of All Recipes in a blind taste test by TheKitchn.com.
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In the summer of 2015 our friends, the wizards at ChefSteps.com, invited Chef Ryan and me to their kitchen/lab in Seattle to show them how we cook ribs outdoors. Then, in a friendly challenge, we made indoor ribs that taste like ribs cooked outdoors. Watch the video above to see what happened.
They started their indoor ribs sous vide, a method of gently cooking in a vacuum pack in a hot water bath and then finishing them in the oven. We baked ours entirely inside in the oven, at first wrapped in foil, then nekkid.
The results? We agreed that our flavor was better. We agreed their meat was slightly juicier. We also agreed ours tasted more outdoorsy because we marinated the ribs for a bit in dilute liquid smoke. Both teams used a bit of Prague Powder #1 in their rub. PP#1 is a curing salt that gives hot dogs, corned beef, ham, bacon, and other cured meats their pink tinge. Both teams got a faux smoke ring from it. If you have a sous vide setup, instead of using foil as we did, do as they did and cook the ribs sous vide for five hours at 165°F, and then dry roast at 225°F for two hours. Here’s a video of the results.
Now a word on liquid smoke. BBQ snobs turn up their noses at the stuff because they get smoke in their cooker. What happens is smoke comes off combusting wood and condenses on cool meat. Pretty simple. Well that’s how liquid smoke is made. Wood is burned, it condenses on cool metal, and then it is bottled. Pretty much the way they make whiskey. So next time you run into a snob who starts to rant about liquid smoke, snatch that bourbon from their hand.
Makes:1 slab baby back ribs
- Prep. Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs and trim excess fat. Mix ½ cup water with the liquid smoke, and marinate the meat in this for an hour. I usually cut the slab in half, put each half in a 1 gallon zipper bag, and divide the marinade between the two.
- Cook. Season both sides with salt and then Meathead's Memphis Dust. Wrap the meat in foil. Put it in a pan (to catch leaks) and cook in 225°F oven for 2 hours. This makes the meat very tender, but not mushy.
- Roast. Now take the meat out of the foil, then put it back in the oven, meaty side up, without the foil to dry roast for another 2 hours at 225°F. This will firm the bark.
- Broil. 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 to 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.