Oven-Roasted Spareribs

Like so many people, I'm crazy about pork spareribs -- they're tender and juicy and bursting with flavor, and they're a good fatty cut, something I consider a virtue. Furthermore, they go on sale often; I rarely pay more than $2.39/pound, and stock the freezer when they drop to $1.99/pound.

There are plenty of rib joints here in my hometown of Bloomington, Indiana -- indeed, when I went to the local "Taste of Bloomington" event, it seemed like roughly 25% of the food available was spareribs. (Another 25% was pizza.) Unfortunately, restaurant ribs nearly invariably come doused in sugary sauce. And anyway, like everyone else, we're on a tight budget these days; eating out isn't something we do very often.

Fortunately, turning out a great slab of ribs is simple, if somewhat time-consuming. It's not a dish you can get on the table within a half-hour of coming home from work, that's for sure. But for a Saturday or Sunday spent puttering around the house, ribs are ideal.

In the summer, I slow-smoke my ribs in propane grill. But it's definitely autumn here in the Midwest, and the season for cookouts is just about over. What to do with ribs in the forbidding season coming up?

I'm pleased to report that roasting spareribs slowly in the oven gives wonderful results. Here's how:

First you need a killer rub. Here's the one I used last night -- it's an adaptation of one from The Low Carb Barbecue Book:

Revised Amazing Rub

1/4 cup erythritol
1/4 cup Stevia In The Raw
3 tablespoons celery salt
2 tablespoons seasoned salt
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Just measure everything into a bowl and mix thoroughly. This makes 18 servings of about 1 tablespoon each. Each tablespoon will have about 3 grams usable carb.

Yes, you can use all Splenda granular instead. Yes, you can substitute xylitol for the erythritol, or Truvia for both the erythritol and Stevia in the Raw. Just aim for 1/2 cup of sugar's worth of sweetness. (Come to think of it, I bet Lakanto would be good in this; I should try it with half Lakanto and half Stevia in the Raw. Lakanto has a kind of brown-sugar-y thing going on.) This will make more rub than you need for one slab of ribs, so if you have an old spice shaker, you might break it out and put the rub in it. I save old spice shakers for just this sort of use.

Put your ribs in a big roasting pan -- I don't put mine on a rack, because I like the browning that comes from the ribs being right on the surface of the pan. By the way, it takes a very long pan to hold a whole slab of ribs. You might want to cut your slab in half, between the ribs, to make it fit better, or even to distribute it between two pans. Since there are only two of us in my house, I generally only do half a slab at a time, and save the second half for another day.

Sprinkle your ribs liberally all over with the rub, both sides. Coat them well. Slide 'em into the oven and turn it on.

Now: What temperature to set the oven at? My rule with ribs is "low and slow," but there's slow, and then there's slooooow. If you've got all day, and you can get your ribs in by noon or a little thereafter, I'd go for a really low temp, like 250. If you're getting them in later, you'll want to go higher -- maybe 300-325. I wouldn't go any higher than that; given the time, lower is better.

Let your ribs roast for a good 30-45 minutes before you disturb them. In the meanwhile, make a mop: Mix a couple-few tablespoons of rub with about a cup of water or chicken broth (or you could use light beer), and about 1/4-1/3 cup oil -- I used melted coconut oil. Set this on top of the stove. (I do this because the warmth keeps my coconut oil from hardening.)

When the first 30-45 minutes are up, baste your ribs with this mop. Use a tongs or a big fork to turn them and baste both sides, then leave them the other side down. Set your timer for another 30 minutes or so, and go do something else. When the timer goes off, baste and flip again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Keep doing this till the meat is pulling away from the bones at the end, and you can tear a little bit off with your fingers or the tip of a fork -- ie, when they're super-tender.

I don't feel like I need barbecue sauce with these; between the rub and the mop they're well-seasoned. You could sprinkle them with a little more rub at the table, if you like.

Another great rub, though very different, is this simple one:

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoon salt or Vege-Sal

This is about enough rub for 3 pounds of ribs, including using some to make a mopping sauce. I like to use olive oil in the mop with this combination of seasonings.