Ribs. Just saying the word brings a twinkle to my husband's eye. We've ordered them in from Smoque, Smokin' Woody's, Carson's, Fat Willy's and others over the years, but hands down the best ribs I ever ate came from an unknown little place in Boca Raton, Florida: my friends' backyard. They own a smoker and one visit the man of the house honored us with his talents. At 8 a.m. as we all sipped morning cups-a-joe, he began the process. Some 12 anticipatory hours later, finished product was before us. I remember nothing about the day but watching him walk in and out of the backyard with a smirk on his face, foreshadowing what lay ahead.

Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. And the cost of plane tix for four.

We have no plans to buy a smoker, though tempting. Space and weather here make such indulgence impractical. I often considered venturing into the world of homemade ribs sans smoker, but every recipe I found involved several steps, ingredients, and kitchen utensils, overwhelming me in an instant. I'd reach for the phone instead.

Then Grandma CC served us her homemade ribs. We all raved. How did they compare to our friends' 12-hour version? Not as good, I admit. But pretty great regardless. She told me they were easy to make and I didn't believe her. You be the judge.


Buy 2 slabs of baby back ribs from a good butcher. Let them sit at room temperature while you turn oven to 350 and wait for it to preheat. Place a roasting rack* on a baking pan/cookie sheet lined with tin foil (for easier cleanup). Put both slabs, meat side up, on the rack. Put nothing on the ribs, yet. Ribs should sit out at least 15 minutes before going in the oven.

Then bake ribs (uncovered) on middle rack of oven for one hour. Take ribs out of oven and baste, meat side only, with liquid smoke* or any barbecue sauce*, homemade or bottled. Return ribs to oven.

Bake one more hour, basting once or twice during the hour, depending on how saucy you like your meat.

Remove ribs from oven, move oven rack to broiler level (that's the top position), turn on broiler (on high, if your oven has a hi/lo choice) and return ribs to oven.

HERE'S THE TRICKY PART. Don't leave the oven. Stand there, watch it. As the sauce bubbles, watch! Yes you can open the oven and watch. You want the sauce to caramelize (when the sauce cooks and gets sticky), without charring too badly, or it will catch on fire. This should take less than five minutes. The minute all the ribs have bubbled, take out the pan. (You can always put it back for more caramelizing if necessary.)

Turn oven back to 350 and move oven rack back to center. Bake 30 more minutes.

Remove ribs from oven and see how you did! You should be very proud.

Note: I have not tried to make more than 2 slabs at a time but as soon as I do, I'll update this post. Two slabs of ribs barely served my three men.

**Extra! Extra!**
  • Buy a cheap roasting rack (Target or the grocery store) that fits two slabs. The rack I had wasn't big enough so my ribs didn't all fit. Tragic.
  • Liquid smoke gives it well, a smoky flavor. I used Trader Joe's BBQ sauce but Todd would have preferred Open Pit.