Why This Recipe Works
When the craving for barbecued ribs strikes in the dead of winter, you’re out of luck unless you visit the local rib joint. There are recipes for oven barbecuing, but the smoke-flavored sauce they use is no substitute for actual smoke. We wanted the real thing, but prepared indoors.
St. Louis–style ribs, which have been trimmed of skirt meat and excess cartilage, work best here. We started with a spice rub as we would for grilling, but found that a thin coating of mustard, ketchup, and garlic helped the rub adhere. We tried wood chips in a stovetop smoker, but we had difficulty fitting the ribs in the pan, it’s hard to find wood chips in wintertime—and the smoke-filled kitchen was the clincher. We gave up on wood chips and instead borrowed a Chinese cooking method of smoking over tea leaves. Lapsang Souchong tea, which itself has a smoky flavor, worked perfectly when we ground it fine. Chilling the ribs first helped prevent toughening in the oven’s initial high heat. Apple juice, a common ingredient in barbecue “mops,” added moisture and more flavor. And running the ribs under the broiler at the end browned and crisped them. These tender, smoky, and spicy ribs taste amazingly like those barbecued on the grill, but can be made any time of the year.