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 and 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 below) or your favorite store-bought brand.
2 racks St. Louis–style spareribs (21/2 to 3 pounds each)
1/4 cup finely ground Lapsang Souchong tea (from about 10 tea bags, or 1/2 cup loose tea leaves ground to a powder in a spice grinder)
1/2 cup apple juice
6 tablespoons yellow mustard
2 tablespoons ketchup
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1. For the ribs: Using a sharp knife, trim any surface fat from both racks. To remove the membrane (the thin white sheath that lines the concave side of the rack), insert a spoon handle between the membrane and the ribs of one rack to loosen slightly. Using a paper towel, grasp the loosened membrane and pull away gently to remove. Repeat with the second rack.
2. For the rub: Combine the mustard, ketchup, and garlic in a small bowl; combine the pepper, paprika, chili powder, cayenne, salt, and sugar in a separate small bowl. Spread the mustard mixture in a thin, even layer over both sides of the ribs and coat both sides with the spice mixture, then wrap the ribs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
3. Transfer the ribs from the refrigerator to the freezer for 45 minutes. Adjust one oven rack to the lowest position and the second rack to the upper-middle position (at least 5 inches below the broiler). Place the baking stone on the lower rack and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Sprinkle the ground tea evenly over the bottom of the rimmed baking sheet and set the wire rack on the sheet. Place the ribs meat side up on the rack and cover with heavy-duty foil, crimping the edges tightly to seal. Set the baking sheet with the ribs directly on the stone and roast for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees, leaving the oven door open for 1 minute to cool. While the oven is open, carefully open one corner of the foil and pour the apple juice into the bottom of the baking sheet; reseal the foil. Continue to roast until the meat is very tender and begins to pull away from the bones, about 11/2 hours. (Begin to check the ribs after 1 hour; leave loosely covered with foil for the remaining cooking time.)
4. Remove the foil and carefully flip the racks bone side up and place the baking sheet on the upper-middle oven rack. Turn on the broiler and cook the ribs until well browned and crispy in spots, 5 to 10 minutes. Flip the 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.
Quick Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 1½ cups
Classic barbecue sauce must simmer for a long time for the whole tomatoes in it to break down. However, we found that starting with ketchup can shorten the process. Use this sauce as you would any other barbecue sauce—either brushed on foods during the last minutes of grilling or served at the table as a dipping sauce with ribs or brisket.
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup water
1 cup ketchup
5 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke (optional)
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1. Process the onion with the water in a food processor until pureed and the mixture resembles slush, about 30 seconds. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup, pressing on the solids with a rubber spatula to obtain 1/2 cup juice. Discard the solids.
2. Whisk the onion juice, ketchup, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, liquid smoke (if using), hot pepper sauce, and black pepper together in a medium bowl.
3. Heat the oil in a large nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the garlic, chili powder, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the ketchup mixture and bring to a boil; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, until the flavors meld and the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes. Cool the sauce to room temperature before using. (The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.)