The hardest part about these ribs is patience. They take just over 2 hours in the oven, which can feel challenging when you walk through the kitchen and—oh, they smell so good. But the wait is rewarded with tender meat and a crackly, bark-like crust that reminds me of great Southern barbecue. The trick here is using two different oven temperatures and strategies: first, 300° and covered in foil, so they can steam, and second, 500° and uncovered, so they can crisp. This recipe makes just enough dry rub for the 3 pounds of ribs, but feel free to scale the mixture up and keep it in the pantry; it would also be good on chicken thighs, pork chops, and tofu. I love serving these ribs with a big summery spread: potato salad, coleslaw, watermelon triangles, and friends. —Emma Laperruque
Heat the oven to 300°F. Line a rimmed sheet pan completely with foil. Now lay another extra-long piece of foil, dull side facing up, down the middle (this is what we’ll use to bundle the ribs, so make sure it’s big enough to envelope them completely).
Make the spice rub: Combine the paprika, mustard, brown sugar, garlic powder, and salt in a small bowl. Mix until completely smooth, with no remaining lumps. Transfer 3 tablespoons of this mixture to a another small bowl for later.
Place the ribs, meaty side down, on the big piece of foil. You’ll notice a thin, transparent membrane covering the bones. Use a pair of kitchen shears to snip open the membrane, then use your hands to ease your way under it, then pull it completely off the ribs.
Grab the larger bowl of spice mixture and rub it all over the ribs—top, bottom, and sides. With the meaty side facing up, bundle the ribs in the larger piece of foil. (Double wrap if you need—just make sure there are no gaps for the juices to escape from, since you’ll be flipping the ribs halfway through.) Start roasting with the meaty side facing up.
Roast the ribs in the foil package for 2 hours, carefully flipping halfway through, until the meat is fork or toothpick tender.
Once they’re tender, remove the ribs from the oven and crank up the heat to 500°F. While the oven is coming up to temperature, open the ribs’ package (watch out for steam!), and transfer the ribs, meaty side facing up, to a cutting board. Now carefully pour all the juices from the sheet pan into a heatproof cup or bowl (we’ll use these soon). Throw away the foil from the ribs’ package and the foil covering the pan; carefully line the pan with a fresh sheet of foil (or not, but I prefer an easier cleanup). Return the ribs to the newly lined sheet pan, meaty side facing up, and sprinkle the remaining 3 tablespoons of spice mixture evenly on top. Use a spoon to gently pat the spice mixture down, encouraging it to dissolve.
When the oven is at 500°F, get the ribs back in—this time completely uncovered. Roast for 10 minutes until the top is starting to crisp up and dry out. Remove the ribs from the oven and lightly brush the top with the reserved juices (you won’t use them all). Get the ribs back in the oven and continue to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the top is crispy.
Transfer to a cutting board and let cool for a few minutes. To cut, flip the rack upside-down, so the bony side is facing up. This makes it a lot easier to cut neatly cut between each bone. Serve hot, with the extra pan juices alongside if you want.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.