St. Louis-Style Ribs with Fresh Fennel, Orange Zest, and Cubeb

St. Louis-Style Ribs with Fresh Sage, Orange Zest, and Cubeb

Renée Robinson

Coat the Ribs in a Fragrant Dry Rub for Deep Flavor

Ribs. Pork ribs. I love them. And while I will never turn down great smoked barbecued ribs, more often than not, I opt to cook them in the following manner. St. Louis-Style spare ribs are baked with a dry rub of minced fresh sage, orange zest, garlic, muscovado sugar, salt, pepper, and an interesting spice called cubeb.

Cubeb is sometimes called Java pepper and has a flavor reminiscent of allspice, black pepper, and a little of the tingling aspect of Szechuan peppercorns. The dark dried berries are easily recognized by the little attached tail as you can see in my photo. I grind them in my spice grinder and add them to a variety of dishes. While they’re not essential to this recipe, they add a warm undertone of spice to the flavor profile. I order them online from La Boîte. 

If you should taste this rub before it’s cooked, it will have a bitter and slightly astringent flavor, but it miraculously changes once it’s baked on the ribs. The fresh sage mellows and blends with the orange zest and other ingredients to achieve a beautifully fragrant and fully seasoned slab of ribs that I guarantee you’ll find memorable. My family is sold on this recipe.

Preparing Pork Ribs with Rub

A few years ago, I started using a technique for cooking these kinds of ribs, which is recommended by Milk Street and other sources. You’re instructed to place the slab of ribs on a rack inside a sheet pan and to add water to the pan which will provide steam and aids in keeping the ribs moist and tender. I’ve been cooking my ribs this way ever since trying it for the first time, and think it’s a great technique, but I have an issue.

I found that any rack I use for this purpose is essentially ruined. The browned dried-on crusty bits get embedded deep into all the cracks and crevices of the rack and no matter how much scrubbing and soaking I try, it never comes completely clean. I’ve tried putting it in the dishwasher, etc., and finally ended up throwing it away. So, here’s how I now do it. I first line my sheet pan with foil. Then I make 5 or 6 logs out of foil, line them up in the sheet pan and lay the ribs on top. This way, the ribs stay out of the water, and when I’m done, I toss out the foil and there’s no other cleanup involved. 

While it does take a couple of hours to cook these ribs, there’s no tending involved. In fact, I recommend you don’t open the oven while they’re cooking so that the steam doesn’t escape. These ribs end up being well browned, tender, yet chewy, juicy, and deeply flavored. But the essential flavor of the pork remains intact. I think that’s why these are so good. And it’s why I return to this recipe over and over again. 

St. Louis-Style Pork Ribs with Fresh Sage, Orange Zest, and Cubeb

Recipe by Renée Robinson
Servings

4

servings

Oven Roasted Ribs with a Deeply Flavored Dry Rub

Cook Mode

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Ingredients

  • 3 pound 3 slab of St. Louis-Style pork ribs

  • 3 tablespoons 3 fresh sage leaves, minced

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons 1 1/2 orange zest, grated and tightly packed

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons 1 1/2 Diamond Crystal kosher salt

  • 2 large 2 cloves garlic, finely minced

  • 2 tablespoons 2 muscovado sugar, or dark brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoons 2 black pepper, freshly ground

  • 1 teaspoon 1 urfa biber pepper, optional

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 cubeb, finely ground, optional

  • 3 cups 3 water

  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling, optional

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the center. Combine all ingredients, except ribs, water and olive oil. Rub spice mixture over both sides of the ribs, massaging it into the meat.
  • Line a half sheet pan with foil. Either place a rack in the pan or make logs out of foil and line them up in the pan. Lay the ribs on top of the rack or the foil logs. Place pan in the oven and pour the water into the bottom of the pan, making sure it doesn't touch the meat. Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until the ribs are fully tender and a paring knife meets no resistance when it is inserted between the bones. Remove to a cutting board and let rest for 20 minutes. Cut the ribs into serving pieces and drizzle with olive oil, if desired.

8 Responses

  1. I decided to make this recipe exactly as written last night. It was delicious and so easy! They disappeared before I thought to take a photo! I plan to experiment with your technique with my other rib and pork shoulder recipes. While I travel with my spices, not everyone in the family has a smoker. This will technique and especially your recipe will delight everyone. Thank you so much for generously sharing your cooking experiences! I’m forever looking forward to your next posting!

    1. Thank you so much, Anne! What a lovely thing to say. I’m so happy you enjoyed these ribs. I’m actually going to be making them in the next week. They’re a favorite here, too. You are so very welcome. It truly is my pleasure.

  2. Well holy cow! I love ribs but rarely make them because they give Carl heartburn. Over the years we’ve tried many and various sauces and rubs and he enjoys them in the initial eating, but they come back and haunt him later. So he was dubious when I told him I was gonna try this recipe. He now says it’s the ONLY way we can ever make ribs. FOREVER. They were absolutely delicious, we devoured them so quickly that before you knew it we were looking sadly at our empty plates and the bowl full of picked clean bones, and our dogs were eying us with awe and a bit of trepidation. Thanks for another stellar recipe Renee. Carl thinks we should make a huge batch of these for my sister’s 60th birthday. I just want to make them again soon for me.

    1. Holy cow is right!!! Carl can now enjoy ribs with no more heartburn. Hallelujah!!! So happy you enjoyed these, Elizabeth. They’re a favorite here in our home, too. Now, on to that big batch for your sister’s birthday….😊

  3. Love the “tender yet chewy”. No barbecue purists wants fall off the bone. And I order ufa biber on your suggestion and then couldn’t find a recipe to use it!

    1. I’m with you on liking “tender yet chewy” ribs. I use this same technique, but flavor them according to my latest whim. Lol! Now, as to the urfa biber, I use it on many many things when I want a hit of it’s sweet/smokey/acid/salty/chili flavor. It is one of my most used spices. You can add it to recipes while they’re cooking, or sprinkle it on as a finishing spice. Try it on a simple baked potato and you’ll get the full experience of its unique and wonderful flavor.

  4. I made these ribs last night. I had hoped for some leftovers to gnaw on. Alas, that was not to be the case. They disappeared as quickly as I plated them. Simply outstanding in every way. The spice rub was superb – that orange zest is sure a star here, and the cooking method produced the moistest, most delicious meat. Another winner that will be a repeated entree often at our house.

    1. Yay!!! So glad you both liked them. It’s a change from smoked or sweet BBQ sauce. That’s for sure. Thank you, Sherie!

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