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The Secret to Ribs Is Already in the Kitchen: The Oven (2010) (nytimes.com)
35 points by Tomte on June 26, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 57 comments

My wife made ribs in the oven using a similar technique a few weeks ago. They were delicious! This was the recipe she followed: https://smittenkitchen.com/2015/06/oven-ribs-even-better/

Ribs are very forgiving in the smoker. I stick to the 3 2 1 method (3 hours low and slow smoke, 2 hours wrapped in foil, and 1 hour back on unwrapped) and they always come out perfect.

I'm a big fan of 3-2-1 as well. What temperature do you aim for? 225F?

The oven is the secret to bacon too. Without a rack[0] or with one[1], it's super simple.

[0] http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-perfect-bacon-in-the-ov...

[1] http://www.theyummylife.com/how_to_bake_bacon

Could not agree more. Makes it super easy to cook a large batch of bacon for the family.

Also, we like to save the greasy baking sheet to bake brussel sprouts that evening. Cut the brussels in half and toss with some salt, pepper, and the bacon grease. Then bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes. If there's any bacon left from the morning we chop it and toss with the brussels too. Tastes amazing!

I tried doing this once. I did not like having bacon grease spattered all over my oven. I use my broiler a lot so bacon grease on the ceiling of the oven results in a lot of smoke every time I broil.

You might try buying higher quality bacon that doesn't have sodium phosphate or other "pump-up" fluids added. I prefer Kiolbassa brand, as it's truly a different product than most bacon you buy in the store. I believe it is a regional product though, so you may not be able to get any.

Man.... ya'll need to move to Kansas City

> I season the meat simply. True, it can be fun to concoct rubs and mopping liquids and sauces with dozens of ingredients, but the end result is usually an indistinct, generically fruity and spicy flavor.

/me grabs my pitchfork

I've spent time in Memphis, Lockhart TX, and Kansas City, and found KC to have the least distinguished barbecue. You really can't get Lockhart anywhere but in Texas or in rare specialty places. But you can get something about as good as KC most places.

The oven is a critical component of my ribs and tri tip. My method usually makes people go WTF, but that part of it was passed on to me from a championship rib guy.

Give them a good rub.

I put it in my grill (a Kamado style), with chips (usually apple) right on the coals, and the upper vent closed almost all the way, and the lower open maybe 10%. As low as it will go and keep the chips smoking, I shoot for 250 but temp control is imprecise here. 30 minutes of smoke.

Wrap the ribs thoroughly in plastic wrap. Yes plastic wrap. Then wrap them in foil. The put them in the oven at 225 for 1-2 hours. If they sit for more than half an hour after, wrap it in a towel or two to keep them warm. Or put them in a cooler with no ice, again to keep warm.

You wrap hot food in an oven in plastic?!

The double wrap, once in plastic and then again in foil probably makes it work. Same as you can boil water in a plastic cup over an open fire. As long and the ribs are sufficiently moist, the steam will keep the plastic below melting temps and foil will reflect a lot of infrared. They make microwave steamer bags out of plastic, and even pre-made pork chop oven bags. Modern plastic wrap is also supposedly free of all the leachable nasty phthalates and stuff of yesteryear. I can see it working out.

That said, I don’t understand why double wrapping ribs would be any more effective than well crimped foil wrapping.

That's probably not safe, even if it seems like the wrap still has integrity.

You lost me at plastic wrap

He's not wrong. If you don't have the appropriate equipment you can bake ribs in the oven. This is no secret, restaurants who aren't bbq places have been doing this for years. That being said, the secret to ribs is to have the appropriate equipment. That's why real bbq places have smokers instead of using gas ovens. A gas oven can impart an off flavor and smokers give smoke to the meat.

Also among some, wrapping ribs to get them to cook is considered bad form. They can come out soggy, and the meat can end up being mushy and fall apart too easily. It really depends on what you are trying to accomplish though. If you don't mind that, then it can be the way to go.

Wrapping ribs in foil is essentially boiling them in their own steam. Mushy and bland unless you're a pro.

The oven is fine, but if you want speed and smoke taste, brine and cook at 300 degrees on a grill for about an hour. Best of both worlds.

Wrapping in foil, in the oven or on the smoker, is one of the oldest tricks in barbecue:


The "you're a pro" part of this basically comes down to: you have to wrap your product tightly and with no gaps (else you still have the evaporative cooling that is the reason for the crutch in the first place), and you have to remove the foil midway through cooking.

I don't see how you can get tender ribs in 60 minutes at 300f. Tenderness is a function of collagen conversion, and that just doesn't happen that quickly, especially in dry air cooking.

Tenderness is a complicated beast. It's not just collegn conversion. Brining causes a big change in the molecular structure of the meat that retains a lot more moisture compared to cooking un-brined meat. That doesn't do anything for connective tissue, except you can crank the cooking heat higher to melt the fat, which lubricates the meat further, and then just cut the remaining tissue away, rather than breaking it down. It's a tradeoff- it doesn't taste as good, but it's got pretty good texture.

I don't think you're not really "melting the fat". Fat by itself melts almost immediately. What you're really doing is breaking down the connective tissue binding the fat, which takes time.

Brining does cause the meat to retain more liquid and that does increase juiciness, but it can also harm texture and flavor.

You can use some kind of marinade that uses enzymes to tenderize. I've never tried it myself, but I've heard using Asian pears (Pyrus pyrifolia) in your marinade will introduce fast tenderizing enzymes. I believe kiwi also has a similar enzyme.

Here's an example: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/cook-asian-pea...

I'm with you here, I've never had luck with ribs in less than 3 hours.

Try wrapping the ribs in plastic wrap, then in foil. Just try it once. It sounds crazy, but it works great. I don't tend to put it back on the fire after I wrap it and put it in the oven, so I don't get a good bark, but the flavor and texture is awesome.

I like to vacuum seal my ribs and put in for about and hour or more. Tastes like marinated for over 24 hours in the fridge with no vacuum seal.

Then 2-3 hours in oven at 300f, then move to the grill or broil to get char and give it more bite.. otherwise too tender

Fellowship of the Brine my brother.

Brining has downsides too! It can make meat mushy, definitely retards crust and bark formation, and fills the meat with water, which dulls flavor.

Hasn't been my experience. Truly. Give it a try, honestly you might be surprised. Nearly everyone I serve those grill style ribs to comments how much they prefer them to traditional smoked they get (which I also serve from a real smoker). I think most ribs you get from a typical restaurant or a home cook are so over cooked/boiled and mushy because folks think they are really supposed to just fall off the bone. The brined and grilled ones still have bite and taste like meat. Also girl temp is probably closer to 400-450. It's 300-350 at the top thermometer.

I never found making succulent ribs in foil difficult. I use a dry rub. There does not seem to be very much steam formation if the foil is tightly wrapped.

Additionally, meat doesn't absorb much additional smoke flavor after a few (most say 3) hours in a smoker, so the advantage to keeping them outside --- apart from simplicity, I guess --- is minimal.

http://www.genuineideas.com/ArticlesIndex/sratlas.html is the best source I've found on the science of smoke. It's temperature (for pork, myoglobin breakdown at ~160-170 degrees F) not time that limits absorption.

It's not hours. It's temperature. After meat reaches, if I recall, 145 degrees, it won't absorb any more smoke flavor. Also the smoke flavor will become more intense the longer you wait to eat it. So if you smoke something and then let it sit overnight it will become more intense the next day.

Can confirm, Smoked ribs this weekend and the leftovers (and the smell of the entire house for that matter) was intense and delicious.

My apartment-life rib making method is to sous vide for 48 hours in a custom dry rub and liquid smoke, then finishing in the oven to caramelize the sugars and proteins. To someone who doesn't like super smoky barbecue, it's close to perfect and nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. The best part is it's so quick to get started and clean up. It's much more trouble to fix proper sides. They're so inexpensive, too.

Any chance you'd share your recipe (ingredients & instructions)?

Not OP, but here's my sous vide baby back ribs recipe. They are always a huge hit, they are extremely meaty and tender.

First make sure to remove the mebrane from the inside of the ribs. You can't do it with frozen ribs so thaw them in the fridge for a couple days if they are frozen.

Make a dry rub with a generous portion of chili powders (I use ancho, chipotle, and sweet paprika, whatever I have around) brown sugar, garlic and onion powders, salt and pepper, and maybe some cumin, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, whatever you feel like. I hate to be so vague about this but I usually eyeball - maybe 6 or 8 tbsp of combined chili powder, about the same brown sugar, 1-2 tbsp of onion and garlic powders, 1 tsp of salt/pepper and less of the other flavorings, for 4 racks of ribs. Make plenty of rub and really coat 'em good.

Before you seal the vacuum bags put half a teaspoon or so of liquid smoke in with each rack of ribs

Sous vide for 36 hours at 145 degrees F, turning the bags every 6-12 hours to evenly distribute the juices.

Open the bags (you can save the juice to make a spicy bbq gravy or spread on toast if you want, but there will be a LOT of it) - I usually cut the ribs in half either at the beginning or now, because otherwise they will fall apart. They are very tender at this point.

Grill them at a relatively low temperature while carefully flipping and coating both sides a few times with barbecue sauce, allowing the sauce to carmelize.

Slice into individual ribs, serve with lots of napkins.

This is a great guide to consult on sous vide ribs of various temps/textures: http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/09/the-food-lab-complete-gui...

Thank you!

It's roughly this one: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/09/sous-vide-pork-ri... at 165F. Also, I misremembered the time, it was just over 12 hours. It doesn't make a huge difference to let it go a few more hours if that's convenient.

I don't use sugar as I try not to eat it, so I substitute stevia. Sugar would change it quite a bit (possibly for the better). This is the only major change.

I find that even on a small grill, you can simply pile the ribs on top of each other on the far side, away from the coals. I think it results in better flavor as the juice from the ribs on top bastes the ribs beneath. But you do want to rotate which ribs are at the bottom, if your temps are running a little high at the bottom.

So, I disagree about being completely limited by surface area for larger parties. I feel volume of the grill is more important.

My preference is to sear the ribs on a _very_ hot charcoal grill for 3-5 minutes a side, then wrap them in tinfoil and bake for several hours at a low temp. They get the great smokey flavor, but stay moist and tender. Also, slather them with Stubbs Original BBQ sauce before wrapping and putting in the oven.

Another secret? Toss some ribs, a few veggies and seasoning and a bit of beer into your regular every day rice cooker. Set it, come back when it's done and enjoy fall off the bone ribs and sides (the veggies).

My wife also does an oven rib recipe in a Sriracha and Gochujang "marinade" (with some onions and such). Let sit for a day in the sauce then toss 'em in the oven for a bit. Works great for chicken too.

Do you mean the high pressure asian rice cookers like a Zojirushi or Cuckoo? Not the $30 black and deckers you can get at Bed Bath and Beyond...

I have a very old one-button Zojirushi (it looks kind of like this https://www.zojirushi.com/user/images/prod/13.2.jpg). I don't believe it's a pressure cooker, but that's a good question. There's not other buttons or controls or any kind. In fact to turn it off I have to unplug it. I think when we bought it ~20 years ago it was ~$100?

When rice is in it, it takes about 20 minutes to cook. When I toss ribs or chicken in it it (another good recipe is chicken in glutinous rice soup [1]) will run for considerably longer and the meat that comes out is glorious.

1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samgye-tang

I don't think the high pressure asian rice cookers qualify as 'your regular everyday rice cooker' :) But I'm also sceptical. The regular rice cookers cook for quite a bit less than 1 hr; not sure how you'd get fall-off-the-bone ribs cooked that quickly. That said, it's super easy to try...

No it's not a pressure cooker. You can open it mid-cycle and there's not pressure or any sort blasting out. Asian-style rice cookers vary incredibly in quality, but if you get one made by a decent manufacturer (we like Zojirushi), you don't even need to get one with lots of features -- just a "cook/warm" button.

I believe they use a thermostat to "time" the cooking. When you heat water it will stabilize at its boiling point (100C) and when enough of the water boils off the temperature will start to increase. When this happens the cooker will turn off. When I cook ribs or chicken or whatever in the cooker, I'll put in some beer or other liquids as a marinade and that works like water does when cooking rice. Only the cooker will naturally run much longer.

I'm not really sure, but I thought that rice cookers turned off when all the water was gone (absorbed and boiled off) and the temp got above 100C. Then, with lots of liquid to boil off, the cooker could heat for a long time and turn off when the fluid is gone.

My old rice cooker at least a had hold cycle that would keep the rice warm 'indefinitely' after it was done. I'm guessing this is what is being used to cook the ribs.

Mine has that feature also and I think you are right that this is what is slow cooking the ribs.

Lazy Costco Ribs - Buy pre-seasoned Costco ribs. Wrap in tightly sealed foil pouch, meat side down, and cook at a 225 for 2.5 hours. Open, and flip onto fresh foil, discarding the oil. Wait until you are almost ready to eat, then cook at 4:50 for ~10-15 minutes until desired level of browning.

Aaron Frankin has a great series of videos on YouTube if you're into that sort of thing. https://youtu.be/0eSFdddaRnk

This thread looks MUCH better informed on BBQ than the OP.

"Collagen," that is, melting it -- from all I could tell, yup -- that's the true secret to cooking a wide range of meats.

Yup, from the investigations I did on the Internet, the secret number is 160 F; first cut, for just one number, that's the temperature at which collagen melts.

The next secret is that the muscle fibers are always tender. That is, if meat is tough, the cause is that the collagen has not yet been melted out.

Next secret is, if get the muscle fibers much over 160 F for too long, then the proteins change, expel their water, and become dry and brittle. No additional cooking will fix that. You have ruined meat.

For years I read dreamy recipes from the NYT, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, etc. about delicious, lovable, traditional beef stew from France, Italy, etc., please the family, the neighbors, guests, have a great dish for pot luck dinners, have everyone in the family gathering around with family bonding, etc., and tried and tried and tried, with lots of garlic, onions, carrots, beef stock, red wine, etc., everything done more carefully than I worked in college chemistry lab, and the results were always disaster. Always. That went on off and on for years. Lots of wasted time, money, effort, and groceries, and lots of ruined meat.

Why? Never, not once, ever, did any of those dreamy sources mention meat temperature. Not once. With iron determination, feet locked deep in reinforced concrete, the authors, apparently on penalty of slow torture or being stewed themselves, ever, Ever, EVER let themselves mention meat temperature of 160 F and melting collagen.

From those years of frustration and failure, I still resent what the NYT, Child, Pepin wrote. I'm no longer explosively mad, boiling oil mad, or just boiling mad, but I'm still simmering. This thread alone is MUCH better. So, we're talking (A) the highly self-esteemed NYT and some high end book publishing houses and (B) some largely anonymous HN readers. And, may I have the envelope please? And the winner, by huge margins, on all points, is HN!

Finally I learned on the Internet from some sites with some people quite serious about good BBQ. Gee, they were serious enough to use thermometers! In the meat itself, not just the hot air under some metal dome 16 inches above the meat, not just the wall of the oven! And they fully understood melting collagen!

The writers were famous? Nope. Well informed? YUP!

But, now the NYT has improved, right?

Let's see: The OP has some thing about 135 F for many hours. Hmm .... Last I heard, we want 145+ F for food safety. Uh, I'd suggest, that stuff that was at 135 F for some hours, try to take the family yacht about 200 miles east of Boston, weight the stuff down with lead, and, in the dark, without the EPA around, drop it overboard. Hope it doesn't kill off the worms three miles down. Uh, maybe wrap that meat with a copy of the NYT?

Generally, my opinion about the NYT and the cookbook publishers is that they are interested in vicarious escapist fantasy emotional experience entertainment (VEFEEE) with little connection with reality, facts, times, temperatures, weights, volumes, pH, information, instruction, or actual good cooking results. E.g., for decades they wouldn't tell me about 160 F and collagen, and now they are saying something about 135 F. Did I hear that the NYT is going out of business? Maybe I heard some such thing.

But, I know; I know; the OP is fine if want to imagine a really great backyard party, with 20 guests, some A-listers, a couple of Ferrari cars on the grass, lots of good beer, heck, Chardonnay, pass around a football, some hoops, etc. That's all on the porch of a Manhattan high rise apartment building?

Suggestion: NYT people, if you want good BBQ, order carryout! Or, gee, even have some via FedEx from Memphis!

Next, we might consider Maillard browning? And especially for ribs, smoke rings?

BBQ is good, not just a little good but really good. Fancy? No. Good? Darned right. Why? As in

Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky, The Elements of Taste, ISBN 0-316-60874-2, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 2001.

BBQ hits hard on all of sweet, sour, salty, hot (as in pepper), and onion and garlic.

I apologize here because due to working on my startup I'm temporarily out of cooking for a hobby. I hope to return. Everything I posted here is from years ago. But, when I return I will have this thread as additional information!

> Let's see: The OP has some thing about 135 F for many hours. Hmm .... Last I heard, we want 145+ F for food safety.

Holding at 145F for a short time works for most bacteria of concern (some you need higher for a short time), but most can also be killed at 135 for a long time (hours). Temperature and time need to be considered together.

So, while holding this meat at 135 F for the specified hours, in the last 30 minutes a fly touches down on the meat. Oops, the meat is no longer safe.

In practice 135 F is a bit too cool to be very safe.

Sure, the situation is more complicated than just one number for temperature and, sure, time is also important. And, sure, can still eat rare (never got as warm as 135 F) beef steak, say, a thick T-bone, if are sure the cow was healthy so that the interior of the steak is sterile and if have browned the outside to sterilize it.

I remember Dad's remark on rare steak: "I've seen critters get hurt worse'n that and get well." IIRC for human fingers, pain to the touch is about 140 F.

Still, for practice 135 F is a bit cool, especially for holding meat at that temperature for a long time as in the OP. Or, sure, if the meat at 135 F were in some sterile, air-tight situation for all the hours, okay, but that's not very realistic for a real kitchen.

The "OP" is Harold McGee, who has forgotten more about cooking and food science than any combination of Hacker News commenters will ever know.

I was discussing the OP. McGee is not the OP but the author of the OP. Also I was discussing early content of the NYT on cooking meat, e.g., beef stew.

> This thread looks MUCH better informed on BBQ than the OP.

The author is Harold McGee. He knows a thing or two about the science of cooking: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Food_and_Cooking

I have long had

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, ISBN 0-684-80001-2, Scribner, 2004.

You can also stick a butter knife in the meat. If it's goes in with little resistance, it's done. Or you can just cut a chunk off and eat it. Don't necessarily need a thermometer to cook meat. Those aren't always accurate. Hard to beat taste and feel.

If you are cooking beef fillet, NY strip steak, or Porterhouse steak, then there are several approaches that don't need a thermometer. One of the recommended approaches is to press on the meat with one finger and see how it resists. And you had some more suggestions. And you can cook such meat over a very hot fire that browns the outside and still have the inside not over cooked. With such tender meat, can forget about melting out the collagen since there is so little of it.

E.g., I have a Beef Stroganoff recipe where use beef fillet, cut the meat across the grain as matchsticks, and fry, really just toss quickly, until no longer red and DONE. No thermometer needed.

And can do some similar things with chicken breast, pork tenderloin, etc.

But for tough cuts of meat, you must melt out the collagen. With the meat at 160 F, that can take hours.

With a thermometer in the meat and frequent and careful adjustment of the heat source, you can keep the temperature near enough to 160 F to be successful.

Without a thermometer, you are in deep trouble: If the meat temperature for all those hours is too much under 160 F, then you can have a food safety problem. If the temperature is too much over 160 F for very long, then you can overheat the proteins in the muscle fibers and totally ruin the meat. That's what I did, dozens of times, all disasters, until I learned about 160 F. I'm still simmering angry over the totally sick-o information I got from the NYT, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, etc. that caused me to waste all that time, money, effort, food, etc. A LOT of waste. Bummer. I was boiling oil angry.

In practice, and the hope of recipe publishers and authors such as the NYT, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, is to make a stab and hope: Here is how that goes. Assume the cook has a fairly standard stew pot (although I'm not sure there is such a thing since there can be stainless steel, cast iron, and cast iron coated with enamel or Teflon, etc.). Assume that the meat they are stewing is beef chuck -- that is, with relatively little collagen. That is, no way will the cook be using flank steak, eye of round, bottom round, or even top round. Assume how much volume the cook will have in the pot. Assume that the pot has a good cover. Assume that the ingredients are at room temperature when they go into the oven. Specify that the oven temperature will be 225 F, and assume that the oven temperature control is accurate. Specify the cooking time. Hope.

Then with all those assumptions, there is a shot at getting good results. Why? Really, just by happenstance and good luck. Because as the temperature rises because of the 225 F oven, there will be about the right time at 160 F or so to melt out enough of the collagen (beef chuck roast doesn't have much collagen) and, as the temperature rises on the way to the oven temperature or to boiling at 212 F, the temperature actually won't get much above 180 F or so for very long so won't ruin the proteins.

Some of the recipes will specify a "gentle simmer" -- that's just psychological hog wash as a security blanket and a fraud and an invitation to disaster: A simmer is close to 212 F, and that's is WAY too darned high -- beef anywhere near 212 F for very long will be RUINED.

The only temperature being considered is that of the oven on the oven temperature setting, and that's darned poor control.

Change any of these assumptions, and will likely end up with disaster. I did dozens of times.

So, really DO have to use chuck roast. Actually, at one time, I called the HQ of a beef industry group -- they said to stew chuck roast.

With that NYT, Child, Pepin etc. happenstance based fraud, the common idea that are using stewing to make tough cuts of meat tender is set aside; if actually use fraud on a tough cut of meat, then the meat will be too tough at the end time of the recipe, and if keep cooking the meat at the oven temperature of 225 F the meat will get too hot and the proteins will be overheated and the meat ruined. I did just that dozens of times.

As in the OP, sure, the main secret of cooking tough beef is "low and slow", but actually to do this without being too low for food safety and without being too high for the proteins, really MUST have quite accurate temperature control. Thus, "low and slow" is just easy to take, light entertainment, at best worthless and otherwise misleading.

Sure, a good cook with a lot of experience and just a wood burning stove or just an open fire and using a lot of surrogate measures of temperature could be successful. But a thermometer and the crucial number 160 F is much, Much, MUCH to be preferred, really, now are essential.

But the VEFEEE authors and publishers very much do NOT want to bother you with 160 F so just pass out their fantasy nonsense that, however, is, really a fraud. I'm still simmering angry over the fraud.

Net, for beef stew of tough cuts of meat, a thermometer to measure the temperature of the meat is just crucial and, really, a great solution to a nasty problem. We should welcome the solution, not resist it.

And for much of BBQ, the situation is the same.

Just no.

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