The Secret To Perfectly Cook Baby Back Ribs For The Summer

Summer cannot be perfect without baby back ribs. They are crowd-pleasing and versatile, cooked in multiple ways, from grilling, slow cooking, oven-baking to instant pot cooking. 

It is difficult to decide which method suits baby back ribs the best, as each of them gives the ribs a unique and excellent flavor and distinct texture. 

No matter how you cook them, the tender and succulent baby back ribs are what people will talk about from season to season and may as well be one’s highlight of the summer.

Although baby back ribs are not a demanding ingredient, it is still challenging for some new home chefs. If it sounds like something you have experienced, this detailed guide on how to cook baby back ribs below is exactly what you need.

Table of Contents

    What Are Baby Back Ribs?

    Baby back ribs are a common term to all worldwide gourmands, but the situation is quite different for others. So, what are baby back ribs?

    Baby back ribs are part of pork ribs, which are cut below the loin muscles linked to backbones, where the ribs meet the spine.

    The reason for the name ‘baby’ is because of their length. Compared to big spare ribs, they are much shorter. You will find the shortest parts reaching roughly 3 inches and about 6 inches for the longer parts.

    baby back ribs sample
    Baby Back Ribs Are 3 Inches To 6 Inches In Length

    Each rack of ribs will include from 10 to 12 curved ribs, weighing up to 2 lbs. But half of it is rib bones, so a normal baby back rib is typically enough to feed 2 people or even only a hungry adult.

    On the market, baby back ribs go along with higher price tags than spare ribs. It is understandable as when you cook them properly, baby back ribs are leaner and more tender than their competitors.

    How To Make Baby Back Ribs At Home?

    Making perfect baby back ribs for dinner is not an easy task; sometimes, it becomes an all-day affair even for professional cooks. So, it is important to follow the recipes strictly, make sure you do all the tasks in the measured time. 

    A tough rib for dinner must be the last thing anyone wishes to be on their dinner plate, especially when you are on an empty stomach, right? Let’s take a closer look at 5 promising ways to have a luxury dinner with baby back ribs cooked just right.

    1. Oven-Baked Ribs

    The simplest way to cook baby back ribs that any newbie can do is using an oven. What you need to prepare are baking sheets and tin foil. It is even better if you can afford a suitable wire rack for your baking sheet.

    The principle of this method is to make use of a wire rack to evenly circulate the hot air inside the preheated oven so that your ribs will be perfectly cooked.

    You will slow-roast the baby back ribs first, so it is wiser to set the oven at a low temperature, about 275-325°F, depending on each recipe. 

    For easier imagination, you can think of this method as a 4-step process, including baking, basting, baking, and broiling. A well-cooked rib in this way with handmade barbecue sauce will be a plus point in all guests’ eyes.

    over-baking baby back ribs
    Oven-baking Is The Simplest Way To Cook Baby Back Ribs

    2. Grilled Ribs

    Another favorite idea to deal with baby back ribs is grilling. The baby back ribs on grill have a combination of smoky flavor and caramelized texture on the outside, something quite challenging to achieve by using the oven. 

    The secret behind the successful grilled baby ribs is to cook them via indirect heat, a hot grill’s coolest area. This method will ensure the juicy texture inside but still makes a perfect crust on the outer layer. 

    When it comes to a gas grill, it can be easy to achieve by lighting one side of the grill only, and the other unlit side will be where you cook the ribs. 

    If you are about to grill two racks or more at once, it is best to apply a stacking method, which will allow your ribs to evenly cook and self-baste.

    grilled baby back ribs
    Grilling Gives The Ribs A Combination Of Smoky Flavor And Caramelized Texture On The Outside

    3. Instant Pot Ribs

    Let us introduce a more up-to-the-minute dish with baby back ribs – The Instant Pot. If conventional methods such as grilling can take you hours to cook, you can get this no-fuss dish finished within 1 hour only.

    So, no recipe is better than instant pot ribs for a simple but glamorous dinner. The outcome is amazing and will completely blow your mind with incredible moisture and ultimate tenderness. 

    Although you cannot find beautifully caramelized crust from grilling or broiling in this dish as it only makes your ribs super tender, believe us, its flavor is completely out of this world.

    A simple hack is to brush the ribs with your favorite sauce and brush them within a couple of minutes before serving.

    instant pot ribs
    The Instant Pot Ribs Will Completely Blow Your Mind With Incredible Moisture And Tenderness

    4. Slow Cooked Ribs

    Using a slow cooker to make pulled pork, hearty stews, oats, etc., receives a whole-hearted recognition from almost all foodaholics. 

    We guess you may be one of them as well, but do you know that using it to make baby back ribs is also extremely amazing? 

    It offers a hands-off and simple way to make all of your guests’ mouths watering. As there is little technique needed, it is almost impossible to mess up this cooking process.

    What is the best thing about this slow cooking method? It is that you can have all the free time while cooking at a low-heat setting. 

    Like the Instant Pot method, you will not get the beautiful crust right away, but you can work around it using the broiler and caramelizing the sauce after finishing cooking them.

    slow-cook ribs
    Slow Cooking Needs Little Technique, So It Is Almost Impossible To Mess Up

    5. Smoked Ribs

    Using a smoker is still a nightmare to some home cooks, but it is a great way to upgrade your ribs to the next level. 

    What is more, we are sure that your guests will be so impressed when you demonstrate your smoking techniques in front of their eyes. 

    What if you do not own a smoker? Don’t fret. As gas-powered grills or basic kettle grills are wonderful alternatives to smoking baby back ribs.

    smoked ribs
    Smoking Is A Great Way To Upgrade Your Ribs To The Next Level

    Mistakes When Making Baby Back Ribs

    Though you can treat ribs in various ways, such as oven-baked, grilled, smoked, slow-cooked, or quickly cooked in an Instant Pot, many home cooks still find cooking ribs a bit tricky and usually make some mistakes while doing this seasonal fare. 

    Let’s check out these 5 common mistakes of green home chefs right below.

    1. Not Remove The Membrane Of The Baby Back Ribs

    Whenever you want your rack of baby back ribs to be super tender, pay extra attention to the thin membrane on their back. Despite being edible, the layer toughens up during cooking.

    Pro tip: Flip the rack of ribs upside down and remove the membrane at the very first step of preparation. 

    From one end, carefully put your blunt knife under the thin layer of membrane, and use your hand to pull it out of the rib bones. If it is slippery, you may need a kitchen towel or a sheet of paper towel to help you out.

    This additional step would ensure you an excellent meal of tasty and tender meat in the future.

     2. Not Pre-cook The Baby Back Ribs Before Grilling

    Most people fall in love with the smoky flavor of grilled baby back ribs, and they might want to add as much smoke as possible. 

    However, a rack of delicious ribs does not mean you have to put them on the grill right from scratch until the end.

    It is more beneficial to let your ribs cook for a long time at a low temperature, though it might be tough for you to control the internal temperature during the whole process, which might easily result in burnt ribs.

    Pro tip: Pre-cook the baby back ribs before putting them on the grill. Not only does it offer you better control over the oven temperature, but it also produces more tender meat. 

    For pre-cooking purposes, it does not matter what you do with the ribs, either boil or oven-bake, before setting fires to the grill.

    pre-cook ribs
    Pre-Cook The Baby Back Ribs Before Putting Them On The Grill

    3. Apply The Sauce On The Baby Back Ribs Too Early

    For many people, the spicy or BBQ sauce is the soul of baby back ribs. Nevertheless, most doses of sauce contain different sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup, or sugar. 

    It helps boost up your ribs’ flavor but also makes them susceptible to burning. Therefore, if you put the sauce on your ribs too early, they are likely to get burnt.

    Pro tip: It is your choice to apply the sauce on your ribs or not, as it is not always necessary. But if you like the BBQ sauce, wait until the cooking process is almost done (normally 10 – 15 minutes before the end) and slather it on.

    That amount of time is efficient for the sauce being heated; stick to your ribs and give them the proper crispiness at their edges.

    sauce on ribs
    The Perfect Time To Apply Sauce Is 10-15 Minutes Before The End

    4. Overcook Or Undercook The Baby Back Ribs

    Inexperienced home cooks might easily face this dilemma: either overcook or undercook the ribs. And even when you have known in advance, it is especially tricky to avoid it.

    Most people recommend using a thermometer to quickly check the cooking temperature of the ribs. 

    According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the ideal internal temperature is 145°F, but it is still difficult for many home cooks to deal with baby back ribs. 

    Instead, most expert chefs tend to look at the ribs themselves or by visual clues to determine whether they are cooked or not.

    Pro tip: Keep an eye on the bone meat texture. When the meat starts pulling away and exposes around an inch or a half-inch of bones, it’s time to enjoy the ribs! You can easily track this sign at the thinner end of the baby back ribs.

    Another clue is when you pick up the ribs with tongs, and they bend slightly in the center without falling apart.

    5. Grill Baby Back Ribs Over Direct And High Heat The Entire Time

    Even though direct and high heat is effective for quick-cooking food such as burgers, hot dogs, or chicken breasts, the story is different with baby back ribs.

    Unfortunately, the same cooking condition with direct heat and high internal temperature may result in uneven cooked and dry ribs.

    Pro tip: Place the baby back ribs on grates, whether grilling or oven-baking ribs. 

    In addition to grilling over high heat for a short period to get a beautiful finishing flavor, the remaining cooking process should be indirect and at low heat.

    That would guarantee your ribs to be evenly cooked and also be more tender after the grill.

    ribs on grate
    Place The Baby Back Ribs On Grates, Whether You Are Grilling Or Oven-Baking Ribs

    Recommended Recipes To Make With Baby Back Ribs

    Do you want to do baby back ribs but do not know where to start? Don’t worry. Our simple and delicious recipes with ribs offer you great preferences.

    1. BBQ Baby Back Ribs

    The first baby back ribs recipe is perfect for your summer garden party. It works well with any barbecue sauce and dry rub combo.

    BBQ Baby back ribs
    BBQ Baby Back Ribs

    2. Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs

    Another favorite recipe we want to introduce to you is even simpler and easier than the first one, with fewer ingredients. All you need is a little patience. Let’s check it out!

    Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs
    Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs

    The Bottom Line

    Summer is coming, and learning to cook baby back ribs is one of the essential preparations to welcome the hot season. 

    Baby back ribs are already delicious when enjoyed individually, but you can easily upgrade your palate with corn, cob, coleslaw, or potato salad. All of them would complete your amazing meal for summer parties.

    Roger Lee
    Roger Lee

    Thanks for visiting my website. My name is Roger Lee, and I am a 30-year-old man with a hybrid blood of Chinese and Russian. I decided to set up this site to share with everyone my love and passion for open-air cuisine. It all started when my parents opened a restaurant and I had the chance of getting exposed to the art of outdoor cooking.
    This website aims at sharing about my hobby, recipes, and tips for cooking to everyone. Try them out and tell me about your experience.