Best Way To Finish Smoked Ribs In The Oven (Yes, Really)

Let me guess, you didn’t build your charcoal snake long enough and your smoker is steadily decreasing in temperature.

Well, at least thats happened to me on multiple occasions. So much so that I’ve perfected the art of finishing my smoked ribs in the oven. In fact, it’s become so good I’m starting to think it’s actually superior. 

So, whether you’ve run out of charcoal, wood pellets, or something else has gone wrong, here’s whether you can finish smoked ribs in the oven, how to do it, and what’s different about the process.

We’re all human. There’s bound to be a point in our BBQ journey where we are part-way through smoking some ribs only to find out we’ve run out of fuel – whether it’s charcoal, wood pellets, or other.

Luckily, so long as your ribs have had at least an hour or two in the smoke, they will have absorbed just about as much smokiness as they’re going to get.

What this means is no matter what stage of the smoking process you are up to you can ALWAYS finish your smoked ribs in the oven.

In fact, using the oven to finish smoked ribs actually has its benefits and the end result is nothing less than marvelous! 

How To Finish Smoked Ribs In The Oven

No matter how long you’ve had your ribs in the smoker, you can always finish them in the oven.

But, you’ll want to adjust your approach depending on how far through the smoking process you were.

Basically, you can simply mimic the same steps in the 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 rib smoking process, except using the oven to generate the heat instead of the smoker!

The 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 process is: 3 or 2 hours under the smoke, 2 hours wrapped, and 1 hour uncovered and basted with your favorite sauce!

Still, there are a few adjustments you should make to adapt the cooking process to oven cooking. Here’s exactly what to do to finish smoked ribs in the oven.

1. Preheat Your Oven

Even if your smoker is steadily declining in heat, it’s best to keep your ribs in the smoker until your oven is properly preheated!

As soon as you know you won’t be finishing your ribs in the smoker, preheat your oven to the same smoking temperature you were using, or between 225-275°F.

Once it’s preheated to your desired temperature, you can transfer your ribs from the smoker to the oven.

2. Continue The Cooking Process

You’ll want to continue the cooking process in the oven, following the same steps as if it were a smoker – only without smoke!

So, if you were adopting the 2-2-1 method for ribs, lay your ribs on an oven-proof dish, either uncovered, wrapped in foil or butchers paper, or basted with sauce depending on what stage of the cooking process you were at.

Most of the cooking principles remain the same between the smoker and oven, only without additional smoky flavors from the wood or charcoal.

So, no matter what stage of the cooking process, you can easily use the oven to continue and finish off your smoked ribs.

3. Slather And Caramalize

Just like if you were completing the 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 method when smoking ribs on a smoker, you’ll want to finish them off uncovered, slathered in your favorite BBQ sauce – bone side down!

This step is crucial, even when finishing them in the oven. 

Slathering on a sticky, sweet, tangy, or spicy BBQ sauce and cooking your ribs in your oven for the final hour or so will help the bark caramelize, and you’ll be left with a simply incredible rib.

Because ovens are generally better at holding a constant temperature, and the cooking environment doesn’t become as dry as when it’s in a smoker, finishing your smoked pork ribs in the oven creates a spectacular result, rivalling even the best smoked pork ribs.

4. Check For Doneness

No matter which cooking method you’re using, you should always check that your pork ribs have reached your desired doneness.

This doesn’t just mean that they have reached your target internal temperature of between 190-200°F, but they are tender enough for your liking.

An easy test for tenderness is to prick a toothpick in between the rib bones. It should probe like butter, and go in and come out without much resistance.

You should also visually see some pullback on the meat from the bones, as the meat contracts over the cooking process.

5. Rest & Serve

Although pork ribs don’t need to be rested long, you should allow them to cool and rest for about 10 minutes before you serve them.

This is certainly enough time to let the juices settle and the resting magic happen.

You can serve them whole, cut into individual riblets, or half-racks, with or without more sauce – it’s honestly up to you.

Benefits Of Finishing Smoked Ribs In The Oven

It’s funny. Initially, you might be worried about the quality of your smoked pork ribs, having to move them from the smoker to the oven. 

But, once you’ve done it once or twice, you’ll quickly realize that there are actually some huge upsides to finishing smoked ribs in the oven.

The benefits of finishing smoked ribs in the oven include:

  • More consistent temperatures.
  • More humid conditions = increased juiciness.
  • You can watch them as they cook.
  • Adequate smokiness so long as your ribs have been in the smoker for at least 1-2 hours (less chance of over smoking ribs).

Downsides Of Finishing Smoked Ribs In The Oven

So, if cooking ribs in the oven results in incredible, tender, juicy, and delicious ribs, what’s the benefit in using the smoker, anyway?

Well, using the oven to cook ribs isn’t all butterflies and rainbows, and there’s a good reason why most people prefer using a smoker!

The downsides of finishing smoked ribs in the oven include:

  • Less smokey flavor.
  • Lesser bark formation.
  • Not as traditional.
  • Requires a large enough oven.

Finishing Your Smoked Ribs On The Grill

Just like you can finish smoked ribs in the oven, you can finish smoked ribs on the grill.

However, the main difference here is that instead of cooking using indirect, slow cooking, like in a smoker or an oven, grills normally produce direct heat.

If you go from slow cooking your ribs in a smoker, to finishing them hot and fast on a grill, you may ruin the texture, flavor, and complete style of the rib.

So if you’re planning to finish your smoked ribs on any grill, you should aim to convert it into an indirect heat cooker.

If you’re using a gas grill, this means you turn one burner on, and place your ribs above the second, unlit burner. This creates an indirect heating zone, so you can continue to slow cook your ribs as normal.

This same indirect cooking can be done with charcoal or electric grills too, but you have to have enough space so that you’re not cooking your ribs directly on the heat!

Final Thoughts

Never feel like your smoked ribs will be inadequate if you have to finish them in the oven.

In fact, so long as your ribs have been in the smoker for at least an hour or two, they will have absorbed just about as much smokiness as they would get over the entire smoking process.

So, if you notice your going to run out of fuel midway through the smoke, start preheating your oven, and prepare to finish your ribs in it!

Believe me, if you follow the same cooking process, using your oven to finish your smoked ribs, you wouldn’t even guess they weren’t cooked in the smoker the whole time!

Happy smoking — oh and baking!

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