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tl;dr: I've got 6 lb of super-thick pork shoulder country style ribs. How long should I cook them in the oven if I want them to taste good?

I recently bought a 6 lb. package of delicious, super-thick pork shoulder country-style ribs. But I bought them without any idea on how to cook them. So I started looking online for recipes but the cooking times vary considerably. My best assumption is that the cooking times vary due to the quantity of meat and temperature. However, I've had trouble estimating exactly how much meat is present since some of the recipes list the rib ingredient as simply "one rack" or something ambiguous like that. I don't really know how much "one rack" is. "One rack" of baby back ribs is, I'm quite sure, much less mean than what I've got sitting in my refrigerator.

So, how long should I cook these babies for?

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Recipe requests are off topic here (they're essentially always too broad, with a ton of possible answers) so I removed that part of your question. –  Jefromi Jul 30 '13 at 0:55
    
Please note also (as I said in the answer below), country style ribs are a different cut than baby back ribs; you don't want to get a recipe for the wrong type. –  SAJ14SAJ Jul 30 '13 at 1:00
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Even given a standardized recipe and method, cooking times are always only a guideline. Quality recipes always give you a test for knowing when the product is done.

The reason for this is that there are many uncontrolled (at least from the recipe author's point of view) such as, in the case of ribs:

  • Exact dimensions of the ribs
  • Natural variation in the composition of the ribs
  • Starting temperature
  • Variation in your particular oven

That said, the variable most controlling over the time it takes to cook ribs, given a standard recipe and method, is the thickness of the set of ribs. A longer strip of ribs (btw, the full set of ribs on one side is called a slab of ribs—country ribs are not normally sold this way) doesn't make much difference, as the heat will penetrate through the thinnest dimension.

Ribs are a complex food to cook as they benefit from low-and-slow cooking methods, which allow the touch connective tissue of the ribs (collagen) to slowly convert to unctuous gelatin. This conversion is temperature dependent, taking many, many many hours at around 140 F, but happening in an hour or two at 180 F.

Note also that country style ribs are a different cut than back ribs (the baby variety come from a younger, smaller animal). Country style ribs are cut with a lot of meat on the bone.

In practical recipes, the amount of time this takes will depend on the exact cooking method such as braising, roasting, or barbequing.

Recipe request themselves are off-topic here at Seasoned Advise, but you can find many recipes easily by googling "country rib recipe". Indivdual recipes will give you a guideline for a basic cooking time related to the method used in that recipe, and a test or condition for knowing when they are done.

For example, this recipe for braised ribs from the Food Network suggests an estimated cooking time of 1 1/2 hour braising, and tells you that they are done when when the meat is tender (which you would test by poking with a fork, or just trying some).

An alternate method, as suggested in this recipe from Cooks.com is to roast the ribs in the oven. They use three-stage method where the ribs are covered in foil in the middle stage, but the total cooking time is about 3 1/4 hours. They carefully describe how you know when the ribs are done: "the meat should just about fall off the bone.".

Note: I haven't tried these particular recipes; they only serve as examples.

The bottom line is, ribs are generally done when they are quite tender, which you can easily tell by poking them with a fork or trying them. How long this takes will depend on what method you used, the size of your ribs, and a myriad other factors, but will be on the order usually of 2-3 hours.

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I know this answer is 5 months old, but thanks. This totally answered my question. Also, that second recipe you posted resulted in the most perfectly cooked rips I could've ever imagined. –  Megacannon Jan 25 at 20:06
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Spare ribs and pork shoulder are both cooked in an oven at the same temperature(~225F) for me. The difference is time. A pork shoulder takes at least 8 hours but usually around 12 hours to give good pulled pork. Ribs are closer to 3-4 hours for the meat to get tender but not so tender that they fall off the bone. I have never cooked country style ribs but from your description it seems like it is somewhere between these two cuts of meat.

I would cook it at the exact same temperature but start to check after 3 hours. If it's not tender enough then add a half hour. Keeping checking every half hour until you get the desired doneness.

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