Not having a grill at your disposal to use in the summertime is a big disappointment, at least for me. Living condo life in New York prevents us from having a charcoal or gas grill to do any outdoor cooking on. I tried the electric grill for a number of years and it did a good job cooking, but it just isn’t the same as using charcoal or even gas. You get the grill marks but you don’t get the same sear and smell that you do from other ways of cooking. That is why I often try to make the best of the grill pans I have without setting off the smoke alarm or use the oven. It may not be the ideal way to do it in the summertime, but it’s the best I have available. One of the things I really miss is the ability to do racks of ribs on the grill. There is something about the great smoky flavor you can get when you cook ribs on the grill that make them spectacular. I have been looking around at different methods to do some smoking in the oven. I considered stovetop smokers and smoking guns, but they seem a little expensive to me for something I may only use a handful of times a year and since we are already tight for space in our small kitchen, it may not be the most practically thing to have. When I came across this recipe at New York Times Cooking from Mark Bittman for oven-smoked ribs, it seemed too easy and I was skeptical about just how well it might actually work out.
Oven- Smoked Spare Ribs
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons paprika
1 rack spare ribs, 2 to 3 pounds
Your favorite homemade or store-bought barbecue sauce
Heat the oven to 225 degrees. While the oven heats, mix together the salt, brown sugar, pepper, cumin, chili powder and paprika in a small bowl until the ingredients are blended. Rub the spice mix all over the pork.
Layer the bottom of a roasting pan with hickory or oak chips (or any other wood chips you prefer) and add enough water to create a shallow pool coating the bottom of the pan and moistening the chips; do not drown them.
Put a rack over the chips and put the rubbed meat on the rack. Cover the entire roasting pan tightly with foil, making a tent at the top so the smoke-flavored steam can circulate around the meat. Bake the ribs for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is cooked and tender.
Carefully remove the foil from the pan and, if desired, paint the ribs with your favorite barbecue sauce. Run the ribs under the broiler, watching them carefully, until they are nicely crisp and browned, about 5 minutes.
It did seem almost too easy to me. I was naturally worried that there would be a lot of smoke in the oven and was prepared to race to the smoke alarm but I never had to once. The foil kept the smoke trapped in the roasting pan with the meat and did a wonderful job. I used some hickory chips I had purchased at the supermarket and they added some great flavor to the meat. I read on the website that some people had done the ribs this way in their slow cooker, which trapped the smoke in better because of the seal that the cover provides, so this certainly could be an option for you to try. Are they going to be ribs that are better than what you can do on a grill or in a smoker? No, they aren’t; but if you don’t have those as options and really want to get some smoke into the ribs, it is a pretty good alternative to try. You might also want to add a little bit of liquid smoke to the water in the roasting pan to help amp up some of the smoke flavor you get. The ribs come out with definite smoke flavor and smell. I found I had to cook mine for a little over 3 hours to get them as tender as we like them, but other than that the recipe worked out really well. Like any rib recipe, you can always go with corn on the cob, coleslaw, baked beans and potato salad to make a great meal.
That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!