Cooking Tips

Smoky Barbecued Ribs—No Grill Needed

Yes, you can get smoky, succulent “barbecued” ribs from the convenience of your kitchen (no puffer coat necessary).

Published Feb. 1, 2023.

I have been known to shovel out my grill when in need of ribs on a snowy day. But I live in Boston, where at this time of year it’s not unusual for snowstorms to bury my poor kettle grill. Even my love of ’cue has its temperature limits. So I was inspired to develop a recipe for ribs with the signature smokiness and juiciness of barbecue ribs but all done inside. Here are the tips you need to know.

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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

Brine the Ribs with Liquid Smoke

Brine the ribs in a mixture of sugar, salt, and water to season the meat throughout and help it retain more moisture during the long cooking time, making for juicier ribs. Add liquid smoke to that mix for deep smoky flavor. You do want to be judicious in the amount of liquid smoke you use and not let the ribs brine too long (we suggest 1 to 4 hours). Liquid smoke is potent and can go from providing a kiss of smoke to being overwhelming quickly.

Here’s the brine we use for two racks of ribs.

  • 3 quarts cold water
  • 3/4 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • ¼ cup liquid smoke
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 (2½- to 3-pound) racks St. Louis–style spareribs, trimmed

Cut each rib rack in half between 2 center bones. Combine water, salt, liquid smoke, and sugar in stockpot or large plastic container and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add ribs, pressing to submerge.

If You Want a Smoke Ring, Add Morton's Tender Quick

After brining the ribs, rub them down with more salt, pepper, and/ or other spices. Spices do not work the same way as salt or sugar in a brine. So it is more efficient to season brined meat with pepper and other spices after brining rather than add them to the brine. And the extra salt on the surface of the meat is important for making it taste well-seasoned.

If you want to get the smoke ring (the rosy red circle on the inside of barbecued meat) that’s often present in barbecue, there is a way to fake that indoors: Sub Morton’s Tender Quick for some of the salt in the rub. This is a trick I learned at Barbecue Summer Camp (yes, this is a real thing put on by Foodways Texas and Texas A&M University). 

Morton’s Tender Quick contains sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite. These are the same curing ingredients that give pastrami and cured ham their pink color. Many barbecue competition chefs actually use Tender Quick to fake or enhance smoke rings on their meat.


Indoor Barbecued Ribs

Smoky, succulent “barbecued” ribs from the convenience of your kitchen.
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Roast the Ribs Low and Slow

Roast the ribs on a wire rack set in a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet at 275 degrees for about 4½ hours. The low temperature keeps the ribs from drying out. And the long cooking time allows the muscle proteins to go from chewy to meltingly tender. This essentially is mimicking the same setup you would have on a grill or smoker but in the controlled heat of an oven.  

Give a Double Dose of Barbecue Sauce

Make a flavorful barbecue sauce. Our version has ketchup for thickness, cider vinegar for tang, brown sugar for sweetness, and some more liquid smoke for extra smoky flavor. But you can play around with different flavors or other ingredients that add smokiness to the sauce.  

Apply this sauce once about halfway through cooking so that the sauce can tighten up on the ribs and develop deeper flavor. Lacquer the ribs with the sauce again after they are done roasting so that they have a fresh, saucy sheen and another dose of flavor. 

Let the ribs rest for 30 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute so that they stay moist. Then, slice and serve. Of course, feel free to serve extra sauce on the side. And don’t hesitate to tell your guests that you labored in the cold for these smoky ribs; they won’t know. 

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