Oven-baked, country-style Chinese Pork “Ribs”

by Terry B on May 31, 2017

A variety of Chinese and not-so-Chinese ingredients create a flavorful marinade for oven-baked pork ribs that aren’t ribs at all. Recipe below.

Chinese Oven-baked Pork Ribs

Call it clever butchering, call it genius marketing, call it both. In the 1960s, Clifford G. Bowes took a section of pork that was hard to sell, cut it into meaty/fatty riblike slabs and dubbed it country-style ribs. Bowes, “one of the country’s top meat men and a meat consultant from Chicago,” according to a Chicago Tribune article from 1978, had hit a meat home run. Soon, butchers were using pork shoulder and the blade just behind the shoulder to keep up with the demand for country-style “ribs”—which are actually not ribs at all.

Ribs or not, we are fans. This meaty, affordable cut is versatile and easy to cook with. You can roast it, braise it or grill it with indirect heat. And it takes well to brining or marinating. While not as fatty as actual ribs, country-style ribs contain plenty of fat, and as we know, fat equals flavor. Sometimes they are boneless, sometimes they have bones. Either works equally well for most recipes. We happened to find boneless this time.

This recipe for oven-baked Chinese pork ribs borrows from many recipes, some adding “takeout” or “Chinese restaurant” to the name to indicate that kind of slightly less than authentic Chinese cuisine that is almost universally appealing. The marinade does contain genuine Chinese ingredients—hoisin sauce, soy sauce and Chinese five spice powder, for instance—and some closely associated with Chinese and other Asian cuisines—ginger and rice vinegar. But it also contains ketchup. All are reasonably easy to find.

The marinade comes together quickly and you can marinate the meat for as little as two hours or as long as overnight. Then you roast it in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes, basting it a time or two with the marinade. Easy and delicious.

Oven-baked Country-style Chinese Pork “Ribs”
Serves 4 generously

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sherry or sake
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 to 2-1/2 pounds country-style pork ribs

Combine all the ingredients except the meat in a bowl and whisk together. Place ribs in a 1-gallon zippered plastic storage bag. Pour the marinade over the ribs, seal the bag and turn it to coat the ribs on all sides. Marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours and as long as overnight, turning the bag occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet (we swear by our sturdy Nordic Ware commercial half sheets) with aluminum foil. remove ribs from marinade, shaking off excess, and arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet. Reserve the marinade in a small bowl (there won’t be a lot).

Roast ribs for 30 to 45 minutes, checking at 15-minute intervals and brushing with the reserved marinade at least once at about 25 minutes (that may be all you have the marinade for). Using an instant read thermometer, check the thickest part of the largest rib. When it hits at least 145ºF, they’re done. Discard any remaining marinade (it’s been in contact with raw meat).

Just before serving, use tongs to turn ribs on the baking sheet in the pan juices. This will give them a nice sheen and pick up a little more flavor. Transfer to a platter and serve.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

John/Kitchen Riffs May 31, 2017 at 8:22 am

Love country-style ribs! But of course I’m in St. Louis, where pork steaks (their close cousin) reign supreme. :-) These are good — easy and flavorful, my favorite combo. Thanks!

Dani H May 31, 2017 at 11:28 pm

I have everything on hand except sherry or sake. This recipe sounds amazing, Terry! Thanks!

Sometimes I’ll fix the boneless ribs or roast in a crock pot with salt, pepper, garlic and coffee to make pulled pork which is especially good in tacos.

Dawn November 13, 2017 at 4:41 am

So… As a point of historicity, the Chinese invented ketchup. Also, my uncle owns a Chinese Buddhist vegetarian restaurant in Singapore (read: in Asia, and in a majority-Chinese country), and ketchup is one of their base sauces, like soy sauce and oyster sauce, that are combined with other ingredients – it’s super common in Southeast Asia.

Terry B November 13, 2017 at 10:28 pm

Thanks, guys! Dawn, you’re technically right about ketchup originating in, well, Asia (and the name was indeed derived from a Chinese term for a kind of fish sauce). But the first known recipe for the tomato-based ketchup that we all know today appeared in 1812 and is credited to American horticulturalist James Mease, from Philadelphia.

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