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Aug 22, 2003 01:52 PM

Parboiling Baby Back Ribs???

  • j

I've been grilling ribs this summer (nice meaty ones from Costco, marinated for 24-28 hours) over low heat, uncovered for 60-90 minutes. They've come out perfectly. The meat doesn't fall off the bones, but the bones can easily be picked completely clean.

A friend, however, insists that parboiling is a must.

This seems unneccesary.



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  1. Most professionals don't just grill ribs, although it seems like you are getting good results without.

    I read somewhere that the parboiling removes flavor from the ribs. I'm sure this is a topic for debate.

    I think the best ribs are pre-baked. 325 degree oven for about 20 minutes before cooking. Cover the roasting pan. Finish on the grill.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Gary Rolin

      I too pre bake, but I do it for 2 1/2 hours @ 250 degrees, then on the grill to finish.

      1. re: hm

        Yep, put me in the pre-bake crowd: spice-rubbed, very low, slow and covered, finish on grill with chosen barbeque sauce...that's how we do our baby-backs.

        1. re: Val

          Us too. so, so tender and delicious.

          1. re: bayoucook

            And yet another who does this method. I've made a ton of ribs in my time and have had the most success this way.

        2. re: hm

          That's exactly what I do. But, even before I put them in the oven, I remove the membrane that's over the bone side of the ribs, I "dock" them by poking a fork several times between each of the ribs, I coat both sides with a dry rub, cover the pan with foil, and let them sit for an hour at room temp.

        3. re: Gary Rolin

          Pre-baking in a covered pan at various temps and times has worked the best for us so far, on all types of ribs! After review and trying may suggestions from this thread…this is the one we settled on, regardless on the type of grill used afterwards! Thanks

        4. Parboiling ribs is in every old cookbook that touches on the subject. It is a method to cook ribs faster while allowing them to come out tender. It also robs you of flavor - but then again these recipes were written for spare ribs which have lots of flavor.

          The post's subject was baby back ribs. These can be grilled straight away without marinating or any other tenderizing. Not that I'm in any way saying don't marinate, I'm just pointing this out. Unlike spare ribs which need low and slow, baby backs are more versatile in how they can be prepared.

          6 Replies
          1. re: muD

            Actually, I buy the same ribs at Costco and they're spares, not babybacks.
            While I use a water smoker for mine, there's no reason grilled ones can't be great, as you've demonstrated. Parboiling is totally unnecessary and evil unless you're really crunched for time. If that is the case, you should be making somethign else.

            1. re: dude
              Jon Leventhal

              They have two types of ribs: spare and baby backs. Spare are about $1.00 cheaper per pound. I've yet to try em.


              1. re: Jon Leventhal

                I've had nothing but success with Costco's babybacks. I *do* take the time to closely examine all packages in the case to get the best-looking rack(s) they have.

                1. re: TomSwift

                  Just be sure not to mumble "nice rack" when making your selection. Causes trouble and misunderstanding, I've found...

                2. re: Jon Leventhal

                  Try 'em - you'll never go back. Much more and better flavor.

                  1. re: Sandy
                    Jon Leventhal

                    Agree...however, picky wife and finicky daughter eliminates possibility.


            2. Parboiling any meat is a crime against humanity, ranking right up there with accordions, "reality" tv and karaoke.

              Here's some advice for your friend: boil your ribs, go to jail.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Chris G.

                I sure don't agrree with you on accordians. Any good 'que man should dig zydeco. Enough said on that subject. However, boiling ribs is blasphemy! If you don't have time to cook them, grill a hamburger or get a carryout. Do NOT ruin good meat! Back ribs can be grilled, longer time than a steak, but not necessary to smoke for hours.

                1. re: jcbroder

                  jfood saw the Z-man at jazzfest a few years ago...what a hoot.

              2. Jon, if there's one thing I have strong opinions on, it's ribs.
                First off, I would never boil them. You'd be making pork soup then using the remains as your main course. I doubt if you make chicken soup then throw the flavorless carcass on the grill when you're done.
                Second, properly BBQ'd ribs are not supposed to "fall off the bone". That's one of those expressions people seem to throw out there as if it was a desirable quality, but it really isn't. You should, however, be able to pull the meat off the bone with only moderate resistance.
                It sounds like yours are pretty good, but try smoking (BBQing) them some time instead of grilling. Cover and cook indirectly over a low heat (230-250) for about 5 hours, can take up to 6 sometimes. If you don't have a charcoal grile or a smoker, then at least get some wood chips for your gas grill.

                7 Replies
                1. re: AlanH
                  Jon Leventhal

                  House we bought has a built-in Firemagic grill...its pretty good, but doesn't have a cover, so smoking is not an option.

                  Yeah...if I want fall off the bone ribs, I'll go to Houston's (which I like, BTW).


                  PS. The CostCo ribs usually have a much-thicker end (about 3-4 ribs). Should I cut that section off and cook separately. I find they take MUCH longer to cook.

                  1. re: Jon Leventhal

                    Depends on what you want to do. Some cut them off for burnt ends, some leave them on. I do either, depending on how many racks I'm cooking. FWIW, there are generally 13 ribs to a rack (spares). I tend to pull the membrane (the thin one only, not the whole membrane), chop into 3 sections (or two if you cut off the last 3ish ribs St. Louis style), rub with a mixture of spices and brown sugar, leave in fridge 24 hours, then throw into rib racks, then move to a preheated smoker. Add beer to the cooker (me) somewhere in there and during the entire multi-hour process. I tend to keep my smoker b/w 200-225, but some people do go a little higher. I've always done well with the BJ's/Costco ribs. There are better ribs (and lots more expensive) but I am ok with the cost/value ratio.

                    Regarding parboiling, yikes, I might lose my friends that way. I only did that once, 5 years ago before I had a smoker and when the grill was on the fritz. Even then, I gave my guests ample warning. Bland.


                    1. re: Jon Leventhal

                      Baby back , the more expensive, less fat cut, no boiling necessary. Cheaper fat laden cuts, boil to get rid rid of fat, then less flare ups on BBQ, and cooking time shorter, as glaze is added on the grill, and flavor is great, no flareups.

                    2. re: AlanH

                      I wholeheartedly agree with your recommendation to cook ribs with smoke and indirect heat. But purely for the sake of counterpoint, some people, especially East Texas bbq masters, consider ribs with meat that "falls off the bone" perfectly desirable. Check out what esteemed 'cue conoisseur Robb Walsh has to say about Drexler's in the link below.

                      I know that certain organizations have set up specific guidelines for "proper" bbq in competitions, but their stipulations don't always take into account the plethora of regional variations, which can vary significantly within a region as well. Even Texans can't seem to agree what "real" Texas bbq is (again, read the link below).

                      But one thing is for sure, parboiling is a sin. Any time the subject of boiling perfectly good meat comes up, I am reminded of the scene in Apocalypse Now where Chef talks about his experience in the navy.


                      1. re: Chris G.

                        Excellent article. Thanks.

                        1. re: AlanH

                          Being the 'cue conoisseur that you are, you should check out Robb's book, "Legends of Texas Barbecue Cook Book" (if you're not already aware of it) - great recipes and tips from the masters that will expand anyone's bbq repertoire.

                    3. Parboiling will leach out flavor from the ribs. A good way to avoid this while getting the benefits of parboiling is to bake your ribs in the oven over a low heat in the marinating liquid. After they're finished in the oven, remove the ribs from the liquid and reduce the marinade. Use the reduced marinade as the basis for your barbeque sauce.

                      Whatever flavor gets lost from the meat will be re-gained in the sauce, plus the marinade penetrates more deeply into the meat this way.

                      I've made some tasty Asian inspired ribs with this method, marinating them in soy, fresh ginger, garlic, orange juice and rice wine vinegar. Make the barbeque sauce by mixing the reduced marinade with tomato paste, cayenne and/or red pepper flakes and whatever herbs you want. In a hot saute pan with smoking hot oil, quickly dump the sauce and cook for only a minute or two. Brush onto ribs after they've been grilled. Not so traditional, but really good.