The first twenty times or so I made ribs, something was always going wrong. Either they were too dry, too tough, etc. Always something not quite right. Something definitely had to be done because I pride myself in being a good cook. So I did a little research. I learned how to season them from the owner of the number one barbecue sauce company in the world. He also happens to own a couple of "rib joints" in Kansas City.
As far as the cooking method, I learned that from a kitchen manager in Pennsylvania. When my son Tyler was about five, my wife Wendy and I took him to Sesame Place in Pennsylvania. Afterward, we went to a nearby place called "Houlihan's." I had a rack of baby back ribs that were simply outstanding and I knew that I could not and would not leave this restaurant before finding out why they were so good.
Fortunately, I had the perfect opportunity when I saw a young man walk out of the kitchen. I motioned with my hand so he would know I wanted to talk. He came over to our table. I have to be somewhat careful in how I talk to him. I totally respect the fact that some people who earn their living making delicious foods do not want to give out any of their secrets. On the other hand, I also have found that if you start talking cooking, some of them will talk to you at great lengths and are not at all hesitant to share their information.
When he comes over to our table, I started the conversation by asking him if he works in the kitchen and he replied yes. I told him, "Those ribs I just had are possibly the best I've ever tasted." He was truly delighted that I enjoyed them and proceeded to tell me that he is Jeff and he manages the kitchen. He then told me the cooking method for these extremely tender and nicely flavored baby back ribs. So that is how I learned the cooking method.
And that's how I learned to make my very tender and flavorful baby back ribs. Here is the very easy to prepare recipe:
- 4 racks of baby back ribs
- Salt, sugar and sweet paprika
- Liquid smoke, optional
- Your favorite barbecue sauce
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the ribs into a roasting pan, trying to not overlap. Season the ribs on both sides lightly with the salt and sugar and heavily with the sweet paprika. Mix together four parts water to one part of liquid smoke and add to the pan. Make sure you have enough liquid in the pan to cover the ribs about half way. Cover the pan very tightly and bake for 2-1/2 hours.
After about 2 hours, preheat your grill. Remove ribs carefully from the pan. (Careful...they will be extremely tender.) Grill for about 15 minutes, turning often and basting often with the barbecue sauce. This will improve the color and texture.
- Yields: 6-8 servings
- Preparation Time: 3 hours
Things I Would Like You To Know
Please don't be turned off by the amount of time it takes to cook the baby back ribs. When they are in the oven, you are totally free to do whatever you want. The total amount of time that you actually work is probably less than 20 minutes. You will find them very easy to prepare. The key to this dish is to make sure your liquid does not dry up in the pan. You may want to check after 1-1/2 hours or so. You don't have to use liquid smoke, which is kind of expensive. I buy it in large bottles to save money. You can opt for white wine or whatever you desire. Feel very free to experiment with other seasonings. I occasionally use Cajun spice, which also works very well.
If you don't have access to a grill, no problem. Instead of grilling, you can simply uncover your ribs and finish them off in a 500 degree oven, basting occasionally or you can place them under the broiler. In Texas, many don't believe in using barbecue sauce until after the baby back ribs are grilled. In the Carolinas on the other hand, most places like to baste with sauce while grilling. Your shot to call on this one. I usually baste while grilling but occasionally will simply serve the barbecue sauce at the table after the ribs are grilled.
I know baby back ribs are expensive but I find that "country style" ribs are too fatty. And "regular spare ribs" produce an inferior product. So I feel it's definitely worth a couple of extra dollars. I truly hope you make these ribs and thoroughly enjoy them!
- Editor's Note: Larry Cicchiello is a successful baseball author who has hundreds of baseball articles on line. He is also very passionate about cooking. Larry's baseball website has some FREE baseball tips on hitting and FREE baseball pitching tips. If you are a player, coach, or a baseball parent and your child is struggling, get ready because you will be raising more than a few eyebrows!