5 Ingredients or Fewer

Baby Back Ribs With Dry Rub

May 19, 2021
5 Stars
Photo by Rocky Luten
Author Notes

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

Test Kitchen Notes

There are few meals better than a big spread of grilled goodness (meat, vegetables—whatever!) in the summertime. Unfortunately, for many of us living in big cities or in places bogged down by snow for most of the year, grills aren’t always accessible. Luckily, this Big Little Recipe makes for a rack of ribs so tender and delicious, you’ll barely even miss the grill—or the barbecue sauce, for that dry matter.

Baby back ribs get showered in a sweet and smoky dry rub that packs a punch with just a few ingredients. Of course, if ribs aren’t your thing, you could certainly swap in shrimp skewers or chicken thighs, even tofu or tempeh steaks. Then instead of using your grill like an oven, recipe developer Emma Laperruque has up with a brilliant technique to do the reverse. Starting low and slow, the ribs are tightly wrapped in a foil pack and baked until fall-off-the-bone tender. Then, the oven is cranked up to high heat to crisp up the skin, creating create the crispy exterior and satisfying interior chew you only get on a great rack of ribs. The final result is a textbook-perfect rib: tender meat, plus a dry-rub crust akin to the ‘bark’ that is the hallmark of good barbecue.

Don’t believe ribs can be that good without a grill? Reviewer Michael P. writes, “We had a little family get-together-rib cook-off. Although my nephews and brother-in-law made some very tasty ribs…I won hands down.” If that won’t convince you to try out this recipe, we don’t know what will. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Baby Back Ribs With Dry Rub
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Serves 3
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground mustard
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 3/4 to 3 pounds baby back ribs (one big rack)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Roast the ribs in the foil package for 2 hours, carefully flipping halfway through, until the meat is fork or toothpick tender.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Maureen
    Maureen
  • Emily White
    Emily White
  • Samantha Vislocky-Seiver
    Samantha Vislocky-Seiver
  • Terry Canto Fields
    Terry Canto Fields
  • Michael Pease
    Michael Pease
Emma is the food editor 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., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in November 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

16 Reviews

Maureen November 24, 2021
My search for the perfect rib recipe is over. I've made these several times now, so I know it's not a fluke. Even the person who normally gives compliments only when teeth are pulled said they were great. That's a big deal around here. Thanks so much!
 
cimullen September 6, 2021
Fantastic!!! Followed the recipe to a T and it delivered! My sons have been asking for dry rub ribs for a very long time and this recipe lured me in with it's simplicity of ingredients and instructions, both of which are spot on, Thank you!
 
Mlsranger August 6, 2020
We like a little heat on our ribs, what do you suggest we add to kick it up a bit?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. August 7, 2020
You could incorporate some ground cayenne into the dry rub, or sprinkle on your favorite hot sauce once they're done cooking.
 
Vicki S. September 15, 2020
Add a touch of cayenne
 
Emily W. June 28, 2020
Can you finish these on the grill?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. June 29, 2020
Haven't tried it! Maybe if they're in a pan versus directly on the grates? (My only worry with the latter is that they might stick.)
 
Samantha V. May 31, 2020
I had never made baby back ribs before but decided to give it a try. I normally don't like my ribs smothered in sauce so the dry rub is a great option. The instructions were clear and precise; my ribs came out FLAWLESS! They were so good! Thank you for posting this!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. May 31, 2020
So happy to hear this—thank you!
 
Terry C. May 19, 2020
I sure wish y'all had a print button! I've been doing screenshots of your recipes!
 
Priscilla L. September 3, 2021
Sorry this is over a year late, but I hope you've found the print button. It's always right underneath the picture at the top of the article. Been there for years!
 
Michael P. April 9, 2020
We love this recipe! I didn't have ground mustard on hand and with this coronavirus goin round, I needed to improvise. I used a light coat of Dijon mustard on my ribs before I applied the dry rub. I still patted it down and let me tell you, it really was amazing.
We had a little family get-together-rib cook-off. Although my nephews and brother-in-law made some very tasty ribs, by following your directions to the tee (other than the mustard) I won hands down. So glad I found your recipe. Thank you
 
Christopher D. December 3, 2019
Wow, I’ve tried ribs several ways at home and this is hands down the best. We did one slab with this rub and tried my all-time favorite rib restaurant’s rub on the other. We were pleasantly surprised that Food 52’s recipe was superior. Thank you!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. December 4, 2019
Thank you! Very glad we won the taste test :)
 
Jana August 18, 2019
Emma you are too adorable. I was surprised to see my name and collection up top!
I don't eat mammals but I love this rub on chicken!! Same juicy, sweet flavor and crunch.
Thanks for sharing!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. August 19, 2019
So glad you're enjoying it, Jana!