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Rainy Day Ribs to the Rescue!

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photo credit Angie Mosier


Here’s your Rainy Day Ribs recipe since much of the country has grey skies. I saw reports of possible hail in Atlanta later, so thought I’d whip out this quick blog post and email. You *can* make decent barbecue in the oven. Is it the same as ribs slow-cooked over a smoky fire? Nope, it is not, but it’s still pretty darn good. And, a heck of a lot better than standing in a thunderstorm with an umbrella. Read on for a super easy recipe for low and slow oven-roasted barbecue baby back ribs.

Pig anatomy on

photo credit Angie Mosier

What’s the Difference in Baby Back and Spareribs?

When it comes to deciding what type of ribs to cook, you have basically two choices: spareribs and baby back ribs. Spareribs 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. Each baby back rib rack averages ten or so curved ribs that are 4 to 6 inches long and weighs about 11/2 pounds, which easily feeds two people as a main course. Baby back ribs also usually have a slightly higher price tag, but I think they are well worth the cost, as they are generally leaner, more tender, and quicker cooking.  

Spareribs are the meaty ribs cut from the belly of the pig and are typically larger and heavier than baby back ribs. The Rib-Tips are the bottom portion of the spare rib. St. Louis Style ribs are spareribs with the sternum bone and rib tips removed to create a rectangular-shaped rack. These take longer to cook and require a bit more attention as they contain a bit more fat and gristle, but the meat is highly rich and flavorful.

If you have spareribs and need to punt and cook them in the oven, simply cook them for an additional hour or so. They are thick and meaty and need longer cooking, both on the grill and in the oven

Barbecue Ribs on

Rub a Dub Dub

Ribs are commonly prepared with either “wet” or “dry” rubs. Ribs basted with sauce during the barbecuing process are called wet. The key is to know when to apply a dry rub, wet rub, or both. Ribs rubbed with a mixture of herbs and spices are called “dry.” Dry rubs can be applied just before barbecuing. I will often use a dry rub when I cook ribs in the oven. Some store-bought dry rubs and dry rub recipes contains brown sugar which can burn on the grill, but is less likely to do so in the oven. I find that a dry rub can boost the flavor of oven-cooked ribs that aren’t able to get that great smoky grill flavor.

Wet ribs are simply seasoned with salt and pepper, then coated in sauce towards the end of cooking. Yes, it is possible to coat the ribs in a dry rub then coat it with sauce, as well, but that’s a lot going on and you can miss out on the actual flavor of the meat. If I dry rub the meat, I most often serve the sauce on the side at the table.

Low-Temperature Roasting

Discovering low-temperature oven roasting was a serious revelation. Yes, of course pork tastes amazing slowly smoked, but long cook times on a grill isn’t the only option for succulent ribs. Rainy-Day Ribs with little to no effort also sound good to me. Lifting the meat above the baking sheet on a rack lets the heat circulate on all sides. After a few hours, the meat is tender, nearly falling off the bone, and you’ll have finger-licking-good ribs.  

Need some sides to go along with your Rainy Day Ribs? I am in love with this Farro Salad if you really want to mix things up! And, check out this trio of potato salads: Bacon, Southern, and Chef-Inspired Potato Salads if you want to go more old school. Wrap it up with this One Bowl Peaches and Cream Cake.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Virginia Willis

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Rainy-Day Baby Back Ribs

Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time2 hours
Course: barbecue, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Southern
Keyword: baby back ribs, barbecue, oven ribs, ribs
Servings: 4


  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 racks baby back ribs about 31/2 pounds total
  • 1 cup Tangy Barbecue Sauce recipe follows, for serving
  • Sweet Heat Rub recipe follows

For the BBQ Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 sweet onion very finely chopped
  • 1 24-ounce bottle ketchup (2½ cups)
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper or to taste
  • Coarse kosher salt

For the Rub

  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup paprika
  • 2 tbsp. coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. piment d'Espelette Aleppo pepper, or red pepper flakes, or to taste


  • Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a wire rack on the sheet. Spray the rack with non- stick spray.

For the Rub

  • Combine the brown sugar, paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and piment d’Espelette in a small bowl.
  • Rub each set of baby back ribs with 1/2 cup of the sweet heat rub. Set aside to come to room temperature, 30 minutes.(This step can be done a day ahead for deeper flavor: Rub the ribs with the rub and place in a resealable plastic container, or wrap in plastic wrap. If you use plastic wrap, make sure to place the wrapped ribs on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any seeping liquid due to the salt in the rub. Refrigerate to marinate overnight.)

For the Tangy BBQ Sauce

  • Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and simmer until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the ketchup. Pour the vinegar into the ketchup bottle and shake to loosen all the ketchup from the sides. Pour the vinegar from the bottle into the saucepan and add the Worcestershire sauce, mustard, brown sugar, lemon juice, hot sauce, and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil, decrease the heat to low, and simmer until the flavors have smoothed and mellowed, at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The sauce will last for months.

To Cook the Ribs

  • Place the rubbed ribs side by side on the prepared baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and roast until the ribs are done and a knife slides easily into the thickest part of the rib meat, 2 hours.
  • 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 barbecue sauce for dipping.

Let’s cook something up! 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.

I am not a doctor, RD, health professional, or WW representative. I am simply sharing what works for me. My blog is for informational or educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals.

Note that this post may contain affiliate links and I may make a commission if you use my affiliate link to buy the product.

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Virginia Willis cookbooks


Please note that this post may contain affiliate links.

Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained chef Virginia Willis has foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and executed the food styling for a Super Bowl commercial seen by over 160 million people. She is a James Beard award-winning cookbook author and chef for Food Network Kitchen. Virginia lost 65 pounds and has kept if off for over 3 years. Her health journey has been documented in Eating Well, as a cover story for Woman’s World, Allrecipes, and AARP. Virginia has embraced her new outlook on life and has become a cheerleader for those wanting to make their own life changes, “If a French-trained Southern chef can do it, you can, too!” Her cookbooks include Fresh Start: Cooking with Virginia My Real Life Daily Guide to Healthy Eating and Weight Loss; Secrets of the Southern Table, Lighten Up, Y’all, Bon Appétit, Y’all, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, Okra, and Grits. She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart, 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 Alex vs America, The Rachel Ray Show, Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Virginia has also been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52. She has contributed to Eating Well, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. Fans love her down-to-earth attitude and approachable spirit. Learn more about Virginia and Good and Good for You Living, a real life health and wellness approach for mind, body, and spirit that includes food, fun, and fitness at

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jim W Warren

    Thank you for this post! Clayton and I send you best wishes!

  2. Lori McLain

    I love your recipe!!! And I also want to try your peach pork chops!…Hsppy 4th‼️

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