Professional BBQ pit chefs use smokers and grills to make their smoky and savory meat dishes, but if you lack outdoor space (or the appropriate zoning) for a full-scale wood smoker, then you may need to seek out other ways to prepare juicy, flavorful, fall-off-the-bone pork ribs. Luckily, TikTok chef Genevieve LaMona believes that oven-baked ribs can deliver all of the desirable attributes of smoked or grilled ribs, and she made a how-to TikTok to prove how to cook ribs in the oven, fast. After watching her TikTok, we have to admit that she makes a compelling case...but what do professional BBQ experts think about Genevieve's technique? We asked Austin-based BBQ chef, cookbook author Jess Pryles, and BBQ chef and recipe developer Brad Prose of Chiles and Smoke to watch Chef Genevieve's TikTok and give us their thoughts, and here's what they had to tell us.
Chef Genevieve starts by creating a spice rub for her ribs that includes brown sugar, salt, smoked paprika, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dry mustard, and liquid smoke. Next, she rubs yellow mustard into the ribs, then she adds the spice rub and massages it into both sides of the rib rack. She wraps the seasoned ribs in foil and places them in the oven (which has been preheated to 275 degrees Fahrenheit), where she lets them bake for 3 hours. While the ribs bake, she whips up a BBQ sauce with ketchup, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, honey, smoked paprika, dry mustard, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce. After she removes the ribs from the oven and unwraps the foil, she spreads the BBQ sauce on the ribs and puts them under the oven broiler until the sauce caramelizes. She then offers the option of removing the bones from the ribs and using a knife to chop them into sections.
Chef Genevieve's method is simple and straightforward, but will it produce the same results as an outdoor smoking/grilling process? Pryles and Prose give us the full lowdown on what works about this recipe, along with the changes that they would make.
Prepping the Ribs Before Seasoning
Before rubbing her seasoning mix into the ribs, Chef Genevieve removes the membrane, or the piece of tissue that covers the underside of the rack. Prose agrees with this action, explaining that, "Removing the membrane is very important, as [the membrane] can become very tough and chewy, especially when the ribs bake in the oven."
Baking, Then Broiling
Pryles tells us that Chef Genevieve's choice to slowly bake the ribs at a low temperature before saucing and broiling them is a smart move. "She really understands that the first part of the cook is about tenderizing [the meat], while the second part under the broiler will [get you] a sweet caramelization that adds some texture to the ribs," Pryles says.
Prose also approves of the fact that Chef Genevieve doesn't add the BBQ sauce until the very end of the cook time, stating that, "Saucing only at the end ensures that the sugars have less of a chance to burn, giving them time to settle into the ribs."
The Core Ingredients
According to Pryles, "Both her rub and sauce recipes have all the right ingredients." The garlic powder and onion powder add extra flavor dimension to the rub, and the acidity of the ketchup and cider vinegar in the sauce is nicely balanced by the sweetness of brown sugar and honey, the savory notes of the Worcestershire, and the spice of the mustard.
What Doesn't Work
High Sugar Content in the Rub
While the ingredients in Chef Genevieve's seasoning rub are generally correct, Prose doesn't care for the fact that, "Her seasoning is loaded with sugar." To allow the pork flavor to shine through, Prose advises reducing the sugar quantity, or even eliminating it entirely. "Personally, I would stick with a mix of salt, pepper, chile powder, and a little garlic. You'll still have plenty of sweetness from the BBQ sauce," he says.
Seasoning Right Before Cooking
Chef Genevieve's seasoning strategy for her ribs is pretty à la minute; she rubs the dry mixture onto the ribs right before putting them in the oven and saves the sauce for the end. But Prose argues that some advance seasoning can have a major effect on the flavor and texture of the ribs: "Dry brine the ribs, which will impart more flavor deep into the pork. Season the ribs the day before and allow them to rest in the fridge uncovered. This will allow the seasonings to penetrate the meat and will provide a much nicer crust on the outside while keeping them juicy."
Removing the Bones
At the end of the TikTok, Chef Genevieve pulls the bones out of the ribs before chopping them into sections. Pryles feels that this step is unnecessary, even telling us that "I'm not sure why you'd remove the rib bones. That's what makes them 'ribs'! Perhaps it was [just] a good visual for the video." For a more genuine rib-eating experience, save yourself a step and leave the bones where they are.