Though technically summer only officially started today, I’ve been in peak summer mode for weeks — all cups of ice cream and drinks al fresco and #roséallday. But summer is synonymous with backyard grilling, and aside from one lovely weekend at home, I’ve had very little of that.
Obviously, grilling in the heart of New York City is a tricky task. Bae has a rooftop and a grill, but let’s just say that trekking out to Brooklyn to fire it up happens …
never infrequently. Luckily, I learned long ago that you can make delicious barbecue right in your own oven, including spare ribs so tender that they melt off the bone at the barest hint of a knife.
Six(!!) years ago, I used an old New York Times recipe from Harold McGee that was kind of perfect. You slather an immensely flavorful smoky-spicy-sweet rub on some ribs, wrap them in foil and stick them in the oven. Hours later, you get angels singing from the heavens and melt-in-your-mouth tender ribs.
But in revisiting the recipe, I realized there were two problems: one, six hours oven time + prep is a long time to ask someone to set aside on a summer afternoon, and two, cooking meat for two hours at 175F is almost guaranteed to go wrong in my crappy old NYC oven. (My oven is at its least reliable, temperature-wise, on the lower heats).
Thankfully, as she always does, Smitten Kitchen had my back. She too discovered Harold McGee’s ribs long ago, but when she revisited, she included updated baking times for the ribs, for those of us who want to go not as slow and not as low. I ended up cooking them for four hours at 250F. Sure, you lose a little something-something in increasing the heat and decreasing the cook time, but the meat was still insanely delicious and thoroughly tender. And I had two whole extra hours with which to enjoy more summering. I’d like to say I did something exciting with it, but you and I both know I just ate endless amounts of watermelon while watching this on repeat.
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
- 3 tablespoons chili powder (the blend)
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons chipotle powder (or more, if you want them spicy)
- 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- as much freshly cracked black pepper as you can manage
- 3 pounds spare ribs, trimmed of excess fat
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 250F. Place a metal wire rack on a baking sheet.
- Combine the brown sugar, turbinado, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
- Center the ribs bone-side down on a large piece of tin foil. Rub the spices all over the meat, then flip them and rub the spice on the bone-side. Tightly fold the foil so that the ribs form a packet, and place them meat-side down on the prearranged rack.
- Bake the ribs for 4 hours. Carefully open the packets and pour the juices into a saucepan. Bring the juices to a simmer over medium heat and reduce by half. Stir in the apple cider vinegar. Slice the ribs into individual pieces and serve with the sauce and plenty of napkins.