About this time every year, I really start to miss the flavors of grilled food. The sky goes gray, the air turns cool, and I stare at my oven wondering how I can replicate my favorite grilled dishes. This is why I came up with these delicious slow-roasted ribs. While they don’t make me forget everything I’m missing about outdoor cooking, I think you’ll agree that these spice-rubbed ribs are an excellent substitute. Your friends and family will love them as a party appetizer or as a substantial meal, and you’ll be happy to know they’re terribly easy to make—just pop them in the oven and cook until tender.
Ask your butcher for St. Louis-cut spareribs. Pork spareribs are my ribs of choice. Less expensive than baby back ribs, they’re also easier to cook and much more flavorful. There’s just one thing I do to make them even easier to eat. I use a trimmed rack of ribs called the St. Louis cut, which is simply a rack of spareribs from which the butcher has removed the long strip of fatty, cartilaginous joints that attach the ribs to the sternum. Cutting off this strip of gnarled meat makes the ribs a more uniform shape so they cook more evenly. They’re also easier to cut into individual ribs after cooking.
Rubs pack a lot of flavor; serve the sauce on the side. Whenever you order pork ribs in a barbecue restaurant in Memphis, the counter person asks, “Wet or dry?”—meaning glazed with barbecue sauce during cooking or dry-rubbed and served with the sauce on the side. Years of tasting ribs has brought me to the conclusion that dry-rubbed ribs let you taste the true talents of the pitmaster’s technique and then apply his “finishing sauce” to your tastes. I prefer to cook ribs at home this way: dry-rubbed but not basted. I serve these two rib recipes—down-home Southern-style ribs and a take on Asian spareribs—with a dipping sauce on the side so everyone can have as much or as little sauce as he or she likes. The rubbed ribs are tasty enough to eat on their own, and the sauces only add to the fun.