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Korean-Style Pork Ribs in the Oven

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Korean Style BBQ Ribs in the Oven on

Ah, late summer. It’s still high barbecue and grilling season. This means pork butts slowly smoking on a kamado cooker; burgers, brats, and chops sizzling over a precise pyramid of red hot embers in a kettle grill; and the juicy staccato of fat dripping from tender, succulent racks of ribs into the blue flame of a gas grill.

Ah, late summer. There’s a heat index of 112 degrees and midday feels like the surface of Mars. Rumor has it hell is cooler. Your back patio is hotter than Georgia asphalt and it’s quite possible the wooden deck might spontaneously combust. When it’s as hot as blue blazes, who the heck wants to stand in front of a grill for hours on end or babysit an egg for a half a day? There’s a reason air conditioning was invented in the South!

Korean Style BBQ Ribs in the Oven on

How to Cook Ribs in the Oven

Still, it’s high barbecue season. What to do? The answer to this steamy Southern situation is going low and slow in the oven. Discovering low-temperature oven roasting was an absolute revelation for me. Yes, there’s absolutely nothing that evokes the sensation of the taste of meat that’s been kissed by fire and bathed in smoke. But, hello? The hot, humid Instant Pot of a Southern summer can make it too darn hot to cook outside. Believe me, you can wait until the nuclear heat of summer ends to crank up the grill again. Console yourself while drinking an ice cold beverage from the comfort of brisk living room.

Korean Style BBQ Ribs in the Oven on

Rib Overload?

For a bit of inspiration for indoor barbecuing, I am sharing a Korean-inspired rib recipe. First of all, I know. I’ve been on quite the rib kick and featured Rib Recipes for the 4th of July. The deal is ribs are not only good, they are also a practical recipe for a crowd. A slab of ribs has 13 or 14 ribs and will feed 2-3 people. Two or three racks will fit on most grills and two can easily fit on a rimmed baking sheet. So, there you have it. Two racks can feed 6 or so people. Add a couple of sides, and you’re in business. It’s a heck of a lot easier than tending to 15 pieces of chicken.

When it comes to deciding what type of ribs to cook, you have basically two choices: spare ribs and baby back ribs. Spare ribs are cut from the ribs closest to the belly and are meaty, bony and thick. Baby back ribs are cut from where the rib meets the spine. They’re only called “baby” because they are shorter and thinner than spareribs; they don’t refer to the age of the pig. Either will work in this recipe. Baby back ribs are leaner and take less time to cook.

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K-Town in the ATL

As I learned in the research for my latest cookbook, Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lovers Tour of the Global South, Georgia is home to the fastest-growing Korean community in the U.S., increasing at a rate of nearly 90% in the last decade of the 20th century. Duluth, about 25 miles northeast of Atlanta, has become Georgia’s Koreatown, known as K-Town or the “Seoul of the South.” Increasingly, successful Korean-Americans are moving from larger cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago to the sunny South for a better quality of life at a cheaper cost of living. Excellent Korean restaurants proliferate in the Atlanta suburb, some serving these sweet, sticky, and mouthwatering Korean BBQ. (BTW Atlanta Magazine just reported on de-stressing at the Korean spas in the ATL.)

Korean Style BBQ Ribs in the Oven on

Sour, Salty, Bitter, Sweet — and Umami

Umami is imparted by glutamate, a type of amino acid, and ribonucleotides, including inosinate and guanylate, which occur naturally in many foods. Whoa. What? How the heck to do even say that word?!

How about this? The word umami means “yummy” or “delicious” in Japanese. Much better, right? It’s also known as the “Fifth Taste” and is sometimes also described as “savory” to go along with sour, salty, bitter, and sweet. When considering umami, think of the meaty flavor of mushrooms, earthy sweet potatoes, the richly vegetal flavor of winter greens, and the natural saltiness of a tomato. Other foods that are intensely savory include cured meats and cheeses.

Three ingredients in this recipe are high in umami: soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. In the natural brewing process for soy sauce, the proteins are split and natural glutamate is released, giving the soy sauce its high umami content. Nutty sesame seeds and dark sesame oil are also high in umami. 

Perhaps the most famous Korean barbecue is made from thinly sliced beef short ribs, known as bulgogi, that have been marinated in a sweet, salty umami-packed marinade with garlic, ginger and sesame oil. This intoxicating liquor is also sometimes used with thinly sliced pork. I love the sticky sweetness of the marinade, and I knew it would marry well with pork ribs.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you give these Korean-Style Oven Roasted Barbecue Pork Ribs a try. And, if you want a more traditional slab, check out my Rainy Day Ribs recipe in Garden & Gun. Lastly, there is a lot of rain heading to the East Coast. If you’re in the path of the storm, stay safe!

Bon Appetit, Y’all!
Virginia Willis

PS I am still booking events for late fall and early next year. If you are interested in hosting me for a speaking engagement, event, cooking class, or a book signing, let me know! Send an email to and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

Korean Style BBQ Ribs in the Oven on

Korean-Style Oven Roasted Barbecue Pork Ribs

Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time3 hours
marinating4 hours
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: American, korean
Keyword: pork chop, ribs
Servings: 6
Author: Virginia Willis


  • 1 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pear, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 1-inch piece ginger, sliced into thin coins
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 rack St. Louis-style spare ribs or baby back ribs halved
  • 3 scallions thinly sliced on an angle
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds


  • In a food processor, puree the onion, pear, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, water, soy sauce and sesame oil until smooth. Transfer to a resealable container or large zipper-lock bag. Season the ribs on both sides with pepper and then add them to the container with the sauce. Turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, turning the ribs periodically in the marinade.
  • Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a wire rack on the sheet. Spray the rack with nonstick oil spray.
  • Place the ribs side by side on the prepared baking sheet and transfer the marinade to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  • Place the ribs in the oven and roast, brushing occasionally with the reserved marinade, until the ribs are done and a knife slides easily into the thickest part of the rib meat, 2 hours for baby back ribs and 3 hours for St. Louis spare ribs.
  • Remove from the oven and let the ribs rest, covered loosely in aluminum foil, for about 10 minutes, and then cut between the bones to separate the individual ribs. Serve immediately with the remaining reserved sauce for dipping. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions and sesame seeds.

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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