Spicy, a bit hot, a bit sweet, and oh so very tender.
These are the ribs that get oohs and aahs. They are the ones my family proclaimed the best ever. They belong, according to my husband, at the very top of Mount Ribmore.
And best of all, they are super easy to make, requiring just a small amount of advance planning so they can sit overnight with the spice rub all over them and then hang out in the oven (or the smoker) for a few hours. Be warned: they are so tender that they pretty much fall apart when you cut them. If you want them more cleanly cut, let them cool after step 5, cut, and then use step 6 to reheat them, basting them a bit extra since they’re cut apart and have all that extra surface area.
If you have a smoker, go ahead and smoke these up following instructions for ribs. And, if you’re someone who likes saucy ribs, go ahead and slather these with whatever BBQ sauce you like, just know they they really don’t need any extra flavor.
- 2 racks baby back ribs
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- Pat the ribs dry and remove any silver skin. Set aside in a roasting pan that holds them more or less in a single layer—some overlap is okay, but you don't want them stacked on each other.
- Heat a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and cook until fragrant and toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar, let cool a few minutes, and then grind with the pestle (you can also grind them in a spice grinder or crush them with the bottom of a heavy pan).
- In a small bowl, combine the ground Sichuan peppercorns, sugar, salt, smoked paprika, cayenne, black pepper, and cumin.
- Rub the spice mix evenly all over the ribs. Cover the dish with foil and chill at least overnight and up to 2 days.
- Preheat an oven to 300°F. Bake the ribs, still covered, for 3 hours.
- Remove the pan from the oven and uncover the ribs. They should be completely tender. If they aren't, return, covered, to the oven and cook until they are, testing every 30 minutes. If the are fork tender... depending on the ribs, you may have a lot of liquid in the pan (industrially raised pork tends to let off a lot of water). If it's more than a few tablespoons, drain off but reserve the liquid. Baste the ribs with their liquid, and return, uncovered, to the oven. Increase the oven temperature to 425°F. Bake the ribs another 30 minutes, basting them every 10 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before cutting apart and serving.