Can You Smoke Ribs In A Regular Oven?

There are a zillion or so ways to cook meat. You can bake it, roast it, grill it, boil it, stew it, saute it, braise it, dry it, fry it, stuff it with cheese, dip it in batter, deep-fry it and serve it on a stick ... You can even, in certain circumstances, eat it raw, a la sushi, ceviche, and steak tartare. While it is hard – no, impossible – to single out any one way of preparation as the absolute best for every type of meat, there's one pretty strong candidate that most carnivores would be sure to agree on: smoking! Not only meats, but veggies, cheese, and even desserts taste absolutely incredible when smoked.

The problem with smoking, though, is that it involves burning wood to create that smoke and then containing that smoke so it can both cook and flavor the meat. This process generally requires an outdoor smoker as well as the space to set one up. Just to complicate things even further, Smoked BBQ says that there are at least 7 different main types of smokers. If you're going to be smoking food all the time, then yes, you'll eventually want to invest in one of these options, but if you just want to give smoking a test flight without the necessity of gearing up first, you may be wondering if it is, in fact, possible to smoke something like a rack of ribs using your oven instead. Short answer: yes, it is.

What you'll need to smoke ribs in the oven

In order to smoke ribs in the oven, you're going to need some ribs, of course. Livestrong has an oven-roasted rib recipe that calls for 2 full racks of ribs, which is a hefty amount. But then, if you're going through all this trouble, you're going to want to make it worth your while. You'll also need your favorite dry rub to give the ribs some flavor as well as some wood chips of the type meant for meat smoking. Hickory and mesquite go great with ribs, as do oak, cherry, and applewood. You may also want some barbecue sauce to slather on your meat after it has cooked as well as a brush with which to do the slathering.

As far as the actual cooking equipment goes, you'll need a large roasting pan, a rack that fits in the pan, and some aluminum foil (preferably the heavy-duty kind). A meat thermometer will also come in very useful so you'll know when your smoked ribs are done.

Get ready to turn your oven into a smoker

Your first step will be to thaw the ribs, after which you'll coat them with dry rub. If you don't have a favorite commercial rub or a go-to recipe, Livestrong suggests you can just make up a mixture of salt, sugar, and any spices you like. As to how much of each you need, pitmaster Brian Misko shared the magic ratio with BBQ Industry. "A barbecue rub needs to have balance," he told them, saying "that means ⅓ salts, ⅓ sugars, and ⅓ fragrant spices." Once your ribs are all spiced up, put them in the fridge for at least an hour for the spices to soak in.

Meanwhile, fill the roasting pan with a single layer of wood chips, then cover the wood with water. The wood chips will need to soak for at least an hour. so you'll want them to soak while the dry-rubbed ribs "marinate." Once the wood chips are sufficiently soaked, drain off the water, but leave the roasting pan wet on the bottom. You don't want much moisture for dry smoking, but a little bit helps. After you've drained out the water, put the rack in the pan above the damp wood chips. Now remove the upper rack from your oven and move the lower rack to the bottom to provide more space. After you're done moving the shelves around, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Low and slow is the way to go

When the oven is hot, take the ribs out of the fridge and place them on the rack. Use the foil to make a tent around the meat. The tent will need to completely seal in the smoke so the flavor penetrates the meat, but you should leave plenty of room at the top so the smoke can circulate. Livestrong says 2 racks of ribs should take about 3 hours to cook at 250 degrees F. If you're not cooking 2 full racks, or you'd like a more exact method of determining the time, it should take between 1½ to 2 hours per pound of meat. 

When your ribs are almost done smoking, you should check the temperature. Fully smoked ribs will read 180 degrees F on a meat thermometer. While such a high interior temperature might make it seem as if they'd be overcooked and dry, this won't be the case. The foil wrap will allow the ribs to retain moisture while the long cooking time will break down the collagen in the meat to make it tender.

As a final step, finish off your ribs by slathering them generously with barbecue sauce. Turn the oven to broil and cook the sauced-up ribs at high heat for a few minutes. This will help the sauce to take on a somewhat caramelized taste and texture. Be sure to serve your oven-smoked ribs with plenty of napkins!