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Pork ribs on the barbecue can be as high maintenance as a New Yorker on a juice cleanse. But there are many ways to prepare delicious baby backs and spare ribs, whether you’ve got half a day, a yard and lots of patience, or nothing more than a slow cooker.
1. Barbecued: For ribs with that incomparable smoky flavor, you’ve got to cook them low and slow on the grill, adding more charcoal and wood chips every so often to keep the temperature steady. Ribs cooked this way need some pampering (you would too, if you were spending hours in a sauna): To create a great crust, rub them in advance with spices. For extra flavor after the crust forms, try spritzing the ribs with a mixture of cider and cider vinegar, and then finish them off with a glaze.
2. Roast, then grill: If you want to capture some of that smoky flavor but can’t quite commit to the half-day spa treatment for your ribs, let your oven do the initial work, cooking the ribs low and slow until they’re tender. Then just grill them over a blazing fire, brushing with a glaze until they’re nicely caramelized, or dressing them with a vinaigrette afterward.
3. Roast, then broil: And what if you’re one of those poor unfortunate souls without a grill? Are you destined to a life without cooking ribs? Of course not. Simply roast them at a low temperature until tender, then use the broiler to give the nice crust.
4. Slow roast, then blast them: If you have a broiler drawer and feel so lazy that you don’t want to move the ribs once they’re in the oven, simply cook them low and slow until tender, then increase the temperature to scorching (well, about 450°), brush them with a sauce and roast until caramelized.
6. Just braise: For absolutely delicious indoor ribs that you can cook in one pot (or in your slow cooker), braise them in a super flavorful liquid until they’re tender, then reduce the sauce and serve. If you’re short on time, use a pressure cooker.
Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.