Out of all the different cuts of meat out there that people can appreciate, one of the favorites is absolutely going to be ribs. Pork ribs are one of the most famous cuts of barbecued meat that one can find throughout all of the United States.
There are more than a few different ways to cook ribs because of this. In fact, in more regional areas, people dispute over the “best” way to cook ribs, so there are many localized styles that someone who enjoys cooking ribs can look into.
With that in mind, not a lot of people think about cooking ribs in the oven, since they are a commonly grilled cut of meat.
Cooking ribs in the oven is, understandably, a bit more different than cooking ribs on the grill. For one, you have to consider what surface you want to prepare the ribs on. You might be surprised on how much of a difference the right cooking surface can make when preparing ribs.
The Best Surface to Cook Ribs on
Technically you don’t need to focus that much on a specific surface to cook your oven-baked ribs at, as much as you need to focus on making sure that you wrap the ribs in foil properly. Doing this helps to preserve the moisture of the ribs so that they don’t dry out in the hot environment of the oven.
As long as a surface can hold foil-wrapped ribs, you can use it to cook your ribs in the oven. Generally, a baking tray works best, simply because it is flat and simple, making it easy to get the ribs on and off of, so you can focus more on making sure that you wrapped them properly with foil.
With this being said, wrapping ribs with foil is also pretty easy. For a standard rack of ribs, you will want to have at least two sheets of wide foil (eight inches longer than the rack of ribs being used) and you will want to start by stacking the two sheets of foil together on the counter.
From here, you will want to take the left edge of the long edge of the foil, folding it over together in about a half-inch-wide strip, creasing down and folding over this edge once. You should do this for both foil sheets so that you can adequately proceed with the next step.
Once you have done this, you will want to open the top sheet of foil in the same way you would open a book, pressing down on that new middle seam to “lock” it into place and flatten it.
This will essentially create one ultra-wide piece of foil that you can now use to wrap your ribs up in a way that will keep them moist and indirectly heated so that they are cooked to perfection.
You will then want to take your rubbed, spiced, and basted ribs and place them onto the center of the foil. You will want to fold the shorter pieces of foil over the ribs first, followed by the longer edges.
For a good finishing touch, you will then want to place one more sheet of foil onto the wrapped ribs, along that final exposed seam, just so that no heat can escape it.
This method will keep your ribs properly wrapped up and ready to be placed into the oven on any surface that can hold these newly wrapped ribs.
What About Unwrapped Ribs?
You can get away with not wrapping the ribs up in foil, but you are going to have to spend a fair amount of more time and energy making sure that your ribs aren’t drying out in the oven if you choose to do this.
In a sense, you are choosing whether you want to expend your energy on making the foil wrap or whether you want to simply work with the ribs to try and keep them from drying out.
If you are planning on cooking your ribs without wrapping them, you can generally get away with putting them on a standard baking tray. Racks can be problematic when the meat juices drip down out of the ribs, especially when they are unwrapped, and it can be a pain to clean this up.
You can use silicone mats as a replacement for lining a baking sheet with foil, but you absolutely must remove the mat if you plan on finishing the ribs by broiling them for a bit.
Silicone mats are not designed to withstand temperatures above 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and most broilers will go far over this, meaning that it could cause many problems for your ribs.
Using a foil lining on a baking tray does not pose this problem, meaning that you could line your baking tray with this if you are planning on finishing your ribs in the broiler, but if you are using foil in the first place, you might as well wrap your ribs up.
It is generally recommended that you use a tray or lining that you don’t mind cleaning the barbecue sauce and spices from, as it is a well-known fact that ribs are not really the cleanest dish around. This is another time when a foil lining can work wonderfully, as you can simply ball it up and throw it away after your ribs have finished cooking.
For the most part, ribs do not need anything special if you are planning on putting them in the oven. The biggest thing that you will have to be mindful of is if you are using the broiler to add that finishing touch to the top of the ribs, you will want to make sure that any cooking surface you use for your ribs can withstand the temperature of a broiler, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
Nobody wants silicone cooked into their unwrapped ribs.
What About Cooling the Ribs?
The one time you will really want to bring out a rack when cooking ribs in the oven is when you are letting them cool down.
As mentioned above, ribs are notoriously messy with the sauces and rubs that you put onto them, and after spending some time in the oven, they’re still going to be pretty messy.
Even if you wrapped the ribs, you are going to need to unwrap them to allow them to cool down to a more suitable serving temperature, especially if you have just put them into a broiler.
The best surface to do this on is going to be a rack over a cloth or foil so that you can easily dispose and take care of the soiled surface once the ribs have been served.
For this reason, many people will cook their ribs on a rack, especially when using the oven, so that they can simply take the rack out, unwrap the ribs, and let them sit there without dirtying another piece of kitchenware.
One thing you will want to keep in mind when doing this is that if you are cooking your ribs unwrapped, you should have a baking tray underneath the rack so that the meat’s juices do not fall down and cause problems in the oven itself.
In general, cooking ribs in the oven is pretty easy and can produce results fairly similar to that of grilling your ribs, making everyone at your family gathering happy.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.