Don’t have a grill? Time to reevaluate your life. Kidding—we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to cook baby back ribs in the oven, if you’re grill-less at a rental house, or your grill is too busy making amazing Brussels sprouts, or if you just don’t feel like cleaning the damn thing. Sweet, gently smoky Kansas City-style ribs are especially good when cooked in the oven, but feel free to switch up the rub and the barbecue sauce to suit your tastes in tender ribs.
1. Coat your rib racks with a spice rub
Arrange the oven rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a large roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet with foil. Arrange two 2-pound baby back rib racks on the roasting pan.
Now it’s the fun part: Infusing salt, spice, and sugar into your ribs. In a bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup chili powder, 3 Tbsp. of paprika, 1 Tbsp. of salt, and 1 tsp. each of black pepper and cayenne. Rub the spice mixture onto both sides of racks. Let the ribs stand, meaty sides up, at room temperature, for 1 hour.
2. Cover and bake the ribs
Now that your ribs have been infused with flavor, it’s time to slow-roast them. Cover the roasting pan or baking sheet tightly with foil and bake them for 1 1/2 hours (don’t worry if they’re not tender at this point—they’ll continue to cook when you brush on the sauce a bit later).
3. Simmer a barbecue sauce
While the ribs are baking, it’s time to make the barbecue sauce. In a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat, saute 1 1/2 cups chopped onion with 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, until tender, 10 to 15 minutes, then add 6 finely chopped garlic cloves and cook for 1 minute more.
Now, add your remaining sauce ingredients: 1 1/2 cups ketchup, 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, 1/3 cup yellow (ballpark) mustard, 1/4 cup molasses (not blackstrap), 3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp hot sauce (or to taste), and 1 tsp. liquid smoke (feel free to skip it if you’d prefer). Simmer, stirring occasionally, until nice and thick, about 15 minutes more. Let the sauce cool for a bit, then puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.
If barbecue sauce isn’t your thing, feel free to sauce your ribs any way you like. Tamarind glaze, perhaps? Orange and soy? Bourbon plum sauce? The choice is yours.
4. Uncover and sauce ’em
Remove the foil cover and turn racks over so bone ends curve up, then baste ribs with the pan juices and spread them generously with about 1 cup of your barbecue sauce. Continue to bake the ribs, uncovered, for another 30 minutes. Turn the racks over once more, then baste them once again with pan juices and top them generously with more sauce. Continue to bake the ribs until they’re tender when pierced with a paring knife, 30 to 45 minutes more.
5. Finish the ribs under the broiler
To get that crispy, caramelized “bark” that resembles good barbecue, give the ribs a few minutes under the broiler. broil the ribs, meaty sides up, 4 to 6 inches from the heat, until browned, which should take 2 to 3 minutes. Done—all that’s left to do now is get a bunch of napkins and dig in.