Although grilled baby back ribs are traditional, there's something to be said for the ease of cooking them in the oven. Both baked and grilled ribs have their advantages, but depending on your preferences and restrictions, one technique may be superior to another. Better yet, combine both methods for tender, sticky, melt-in-your-mouth ribs.
Baby back ribs must be cooked slowly over indirect heat to achieve their characteristically tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture. While it is possible to achieve this with a grill, most home grills are simply too small to fit more than a few servings of ribs away from direct heat. Baking the ribs allows you to control the temperature and cook larger portions at the same time.
Baby back ribs are seen as quintessential barbecue food. Grilling your ribs means that they will absorb the all-important smoky flavor that lets you know you're eating barbecue. Cooking ribs on the grill also allows the sauce to caramelize and become sticky, instead of extra saucy and slippery.
Whether you decide to cook your ribs indoors or outdoors can depend on a number of factors. Consider the time of year. A backyard barbecue is the perfect occasion on a warm summer day, but oven-baked ribs can be hearty and filling on a chilly winter evening. If you're making ribs for just a few people, the grill is perfectly suited to the task. However, if ribs are just one of many dishes you're cooking for a crowd, you might be better served to save the grill space. Grilled ribs must be regularly tended, while baked ribs can cook in the oven for several hours without much effort.
The Best of Both Worlds
Combine baking and grilling by using both techniques in sequence. You'll get the ease and temperature control of the oven, while giving your ribs the smoky flavor and caramelized texture that the grill provides. Simply bake the ribs at a relatively low temperature, around 300 degrees Fahrenheit, until they're tender and cooked through, usually for about two hours. Transfer the ribs to a hot grill for the final 10 minutes of cooking, basting and flipping the rack frequently.
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