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November 27, 2007 / Tony

Oven Barbequed Ribs

I was going to write about how inventive the cooks at America’s Test Kitchen are and how they come up with such practical and tasty solutions to the food problems they tackle.  My reason for wanting to do so was my exposure to their oven barbequed ribs recipe which included this ingenious preparation:  “smoking” the ribs in the oven using Lapsang Souchong tea.  That style of tea is described thusly at Wikipedia:

“[It is] sometimes referred to as Smoke Tea. The tea leaves have been withered over pine or cedar fires, pan-fried, rolled and oxidized before being fully dried in bamboo baskets over burning pine. The result is a smoky, robust tea with an overriding scent and flavour of wood smoke, which dominates the flavour of the black tea itself.”

(The article can be found here, citations and internal links have been removed.)  Smoky it is indeed.  My 5 year old nephew, after smelling it, said it was dirt.  I’m not willing to go that far but I wasn’t able to drink the only cup of it I brewed.  However, it is a fabulous cooking ingredient and I will use it again thusly.

But to get back to my original point, the ingenuity of America’s Test Kitchen in my eyes was just the tiniest bit lessened by the fact that in that very same article about Lapsang Souchong tea, it explains how the Chinese use this tea for cooking and even use it for oven barbequed ribs!  So it wasn’t their original idea but I have to give them credit for knowing about that preparation. 

Anyway, on to the recipe.  It can be found here although  you need to register (no cost) with the site in order to see this recipe. 

Oven Barbequed Ribs 

To make this recipe, you will need a baking stone, a sturdy baking sheet with a 1-inch rim, and a wire cooling rack that fits inside it. It’s fine if the ribs overlap slightly on the rack. In step 1, removing the surface fat keeps the ribs from being too greasy. And, removing the membrane from the ribs allows the smoke to penetrate both sides of the racks and also makes the ribs easier to eat. Note that the ribs must be coated with the rub and refrigerated at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours ahead of cooking. Be careful when opening the crimped foil to add the juice, as hot steam and smoke will billow out. If desired, serve the ribs with Quick Barbecue Sauce (see related recipe) or your favorite store-bought brand.


6tablespoons mustard (yellow)
2tablespoons ketchup 
3medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2teaspoons ground black pepper 
1tablespoon sweet paprika 
1tablespoon chili powder 
1/2teaspoon cayenne pepper 
1 1/2tablespoons kosher salt 
3tablespoons brown sugar 


2racks St. Louis-style spareribs , 2 1/2 to 3 pounds each, trimmed of surface fat, membrane removed (see illustrations below), each rack cut in half
1/4cup Lapsang Souchong tea leaves (finely ground)—from about 10 tea bags, or 1/2 cup loose tea leaves ground to a powder in a spice grinder)
1/2cup apple juice 

1. For the Rub: Combine mustard, ketchup, and garlic in small bowl; combine pepper, paprika, chili powder, cayenne, salt, and sugar in separate small bowl. Spread mustard mixture in thin, even layer over both sides of ribs; coat both sides with spice mixture, then wrap ribs in plastic and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

2. Transfer ribs from refrigerator to freezer for 45 minutes. Adjust one oven rack to lowest position and second rack to upper-middle position (at least 5 inches below broiler). Place baking stone on lower rack; heat oven to 500 degrees. Sprinkle ground tea evenly over bottom of rimmed baking sheet; set wire rack on sheet. Place ribs meat side up on rack and cover with heavy-duty foil, crimping edges tightly to seal. Roast ribs directly on stone for 30 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees, leaving oven door open for 1 minute to cool. While oven is open, carefully open one corner of foil and pour apple juice into bottom of baking sheet; reseal foil. Continue to roast until meat is very tender and begins to pull away from bones, about 1 1/2 hours. (Begin to check ribs after 1 hour; leave loosely covered with foil for remaining cooking time.)

 3. Remove foil and carefully flip racks bone side up; place baking sheet on upper-middle oven rack. Turn on broiler; cook ribs until well browned and crispy in spots, 5 to 10 minutes. Flip ribs meat side up and cook until well browned and crispy, 5 to 7 minutes more. Cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into individual ribs. Serve with barbecue sauce, if desired.

 The result is an amazingly tender and smoky rack of ribs.  Here’s a look:


You can even see that it took on just the slightest bit of redness from the tea leaves-no small accomplishment in my mind.  They were dynamite and really easy to make.  This is definitely on my make again list.  I served my mine with Jack’s BBQ sauce and homemade french fries.  Enjoy!



Leave a Comment
  1. Mrs. Vance / Feb 21 2008 8:36 am

    I made these ribs for Valentine’s dinner and my husband was thrilled! It was really hard to believe that they had not been done on the grill! Very tasty!


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