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Need EASY Rib Cooking Tips

Okay, I've tried it twice on my own now and failed both times, dumping racks of baby back ribs into the trash that were tough, chewy, and basically inedible. Maybe I should give up on doing them on the grill, but ribs are summer food in my mind and I can't bear running the oven all day when it's miserable outside. I'd much rather use the grill and do the whole meal out there.
I've followed different recipes, listened to tons of advice, and I still achieve the same miserable results. Before I give up forever on this effort - and I'd really like to be able to do this, because I'm a big fan of food you can just let cook all day and it tastes wonderful with little effort - can someone please give me some simple ways to guarantee tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs.

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  1. Do you boil them first? I always do and they are a hit every time - and I mean every time. Do you cook them over high heat on the grill or low? They need to be boiled in a pot for about 5 minutes, drained and cooled (best done the day before). Slather with BBQ sauce of choice and leave to marinate. The next day, wrap in foil, and place in BBQ over low heat. After an hour, raise the heat to high, remove foil, and let the skin get crispy (during this last phase, baste liberally with sauce)

    Do that, and then come and tell me they were crap. I dare you LOL

    Good luck

    1 Reply
    1. re: maisonbistro

      I rubbed them with a dry rub this afternoon, left them in the fridge all day, then put them on the grill with indirect heat at about 300 for 2 hours. I painted them with sauce about 15 minutes before I took them off. I haven't tried boiling - seems odd to boil meat - but I will give it a go if you say it's infallible. Better than running out for chicken nuggets after ruining them...

    2. This is how I make mine, and it's VERY easy.

      Cut rack of ribs up enough so that you can fit them in your biggest pot. Simmer the ribs for 1 hour, covered in water. I know this sounds like a long time, but it works great. After that, slather on whatever sauce you like to use, I usually use KC Masterpiece. You can refrigerate them after this until you're ready to grill. Then grill them until you get some nice marks and they're slightly charred. It doesn't really matter how long, as they're already fully cooked before you put them on the grill, you're basically just heating them up and getting some crispiness to that outside. The meat will be falling off the bone, and will still have good flavor despite the boiling.

      I'm sure the puritans won't approve of this method (no smoking involved), but you asked for easy. :)

      1. I would avoid using any sauce until just around the finish. If you use a good enough rub you can serve'em naked with sauce on the side. Sauce burns really easily if you are not careful or if the flame is high.

        One trick I learned from family in Memphis is that if you are afraid of over cooking you can wrap them in foil and stick then in a cooler until just before you want to serve them. They will continue to cook slow and low, especially if you have a several racks in there. You can throw the bones back on the flame for 5 minutes just before serving to crisp them up. This allows you to get the ribs done ealier in the day and not having to worry about when will they finish while your hungry guests are standing around the grill questioning your skillz!

        Coolers work just as well to keep things hot as cold. When I have summer BBQs I roast sweet corn on the grill in the husk and then throw them all in the cooler before my guests arrive. They will stay hot for hours.

        1. Meaning no disrespect to anybody -- and knowing this is a never ending argument -- I myself believe it is a high crime against swine to boil your ribs first. IMHO. I believe that y'all are enjoying the flavor of your BBQ sauce on top of tender, tasteless meat. It is my opinion that you need to dry rub, then cook low and slow, preferably over coals/wood but even on a gasser with some wood in a foil pouch to deliver smoke. That's the only way actual flavor will penetrate the meat. Once they have been cooked by boiling, they will not have the ability to absorb flavor of smoke or spice. They may "taste good" as a result of sauce on tender meat, but... not for me.

          jboeke, you say you did a rub, then cooked indirect at 300 for 2 hrs, then did a little sauce glaze at the end. Sounds good. It may be that you simply needed another 30 minutes on the smoker -- they could still be "tough" even though they look done. My rec: try to go indirect at 250 or so instead of 300. By indirect, we mean there is no fire under the ribs... this would turn them into coal. You want to cook at that temp, I find 2.5 to 3 hrs, depending on the heft of the baby backs (they vary). take some wood chips and place in a foil pouch with some holes poked in it, and place that over the live fire. This will generate smoke. They will be done when the meat starts to recede from the bottom of the bones (the meat will start to "pull up," exposing the bottom of the bones), and when you try to pick them up and the rack almost breaks in half (or does). Also, when you can grab a bone at the end of the rack and twist it off the rack... the meat should be tender. Try going a little longer, at a little lower temp. BTW, you should try to remove the membrane on the back of each rack, before the rub (or the rub will not penetrate the back -- or bowl-shaped side -- of the ribs). Try grabbing at the top corner of the short rib end with a paper towel... some use a screwdriver to get under the membrane and get it started... it will then peel away from the rack fairly cleanly. This makes for better eating later.

          1 Reply
          1. re: woodburner

            This will probably get moved to the home cooking board once someone notices.

            I'm right there with you, woodburner. Boiling ribs is just making pork stock that you're going to throw away, then eating the remnants. If I was paying as much as most markets seem to charge for baby backs these days ($4+/lb), I wouldn't do that.

            Making smoke somehow is the key. And turning that gas grill down, then doing your best to make sure the ribs aren't getting direct heat, is just as important.

            If you're pushed for time, one shortcut is to wrap the ribs in foil for a little while at then end. I'd do it only if you're really pushed for time (and a lot of competition Q cooks do it). It may dissolve away your rub. But a tight wrap while still on the heat for about 30 minutes (YMMV) will get the ribs nice and tender- look for the meat pulling back like woodburner noted. You can then unwrap them and glaze w/ your finishing sauce for 15 min or so. A lot of folks use the 3-2-1 method for spares (look at the virtualweberbullet.com for more); I tend to go shorter on the foil time, if I need it at all, to keep them from falling apart.

            Oh, and I use my needle-nose pliers to remove the membrane (washed before and then washed after).

            And there's always a $20 Weber kettle off Craigslist to do it on charcoal (and get a chimney starter instead of lighter fluid for gosh sakes). ;-)

          2. It's the truth, you have to boil. I boil mine for 45 minutes to an hour, until they're about 3/4 of the way cooked. Then I slather on the sauce and throw them on the grill. (No tin foil -- what is the point?) It takes about another hour to cook them completely.

            Also, I have found that ribs from a fancy specialty meat and fish market (Citarella) taste better than supermarket ribs. But people will love you for either.

            6 Replies
            1. re: KateC.

              Gosh...I NEVER boil babyback ribs... I dry rub mine and let them marinate overnight in the fridge. Then, I bake them, foil-covered, in a 250 degree oven for 2 or 3 hours...then I finish them on the grill with barbeque sauce. That's it...works beautifully everytime.

              1. re: Val

                Exactly the method I use. I cooked two racks last weekend, and they were wonderful- not smoked ( or bbq), but really good grilled ribs. The meat was moist, tasty and not falling off the bone.- but tender and easy to eat. If not smoking ribs, this is the only method I would recommend.

                1. re: macca

                  Me three. It's the only way I make them. I've heard boiling is a way to do it, but I just can't bring myself to boil meat like that! It feels so...wrong...

                  My method is almost the same as Val, except I add a little braising liquid (just over a cup) to each rack's foil pouch, then after 2.5 hours, I drain them and cook the liquid down until thick and sticky. Brush it on instead of bottled sauce, then throw under the broiler to caramelize.

                2. re: Val

                  You can still get a decent smoke flavor using this method if you build a small fire in the grill as the ribs are finishing in the oven, then put the racks in the grill (indirect) with soaked wood chips in a foil packet or pan. after 15-20 minutes, they are pretty smokey. Just don't make the fire too big...just enough to smoke the chips. You don't want to dry out the ribs.

                  1. re: Val

                    I do almost the same but I put them on a rack in pan and cover the bottom with broth or water. Then cover tightly with foil. Steams them and they fall off the bone. If you want more smokey you can add a few drops of liquid smoke. I also cook 3-4 hours but usually have the pan pretty full since they freeze so well.

                  2. re: KateC.

                    You HAVE to boil ribs? Really? How is it that myself and fellow bbq'ers have been winning competitions for years without ever boiling ribs and turning out an amazing product? Do explain.

                  3. Don't boil unless you (a) plan to make pork broth and (b) want to leach flavor out of the ribs. Boiling ribs for ANY length of time will result in meat that has less flavor coming out of the pot than went into the pot.

                    Follow woodburner's advice...a little lower, a little longer. Remember that ribs ARE tough and chewy, because they're loaded with connective tissue. The low&slow method melts the connective tissue (really, it's collagen) and acts as a sort of internal self-basting to make the meat tasty and tender...but you have to have the patience to let the collagen melt.

                    Most people who boil ribs say they're trying to render some fat, but that happens naturally from low&slow. Your patience WILL be rewarded. If, on the other hand, you MUST boil your ribs, save the water for making tonkotsu broth for ramen. May as well get the flavor into something, right?

                    1. I agree with woodburner. We made it our summer quest to make the 'best' ribs and I think we have finally achieved success!

                      We started with this contraption (The ribs are to die for fall off the bone - no fat!)
                      http://www.amazon.com/Emerilware-EC86... - and have now been able to master them on the grill, which is about a 5 hour process from start to finish (letting them sit "rubbed" for two hours to finally adding the sauce


                      I will have to check our "rib log" for the actual cooking times in the smoker.

                      Yes, do remove the membrane.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: gotvin

                        I second gotvin, definitely remove the membrane on the underside of the ribs. You can also tell when the meat is done by holding a rack at one end and the other end collapses from the weight. But this will only work if you remove the membrane.

                      2. Ok I'm really going to get it for this, but I will not cook ribs all day long in an oven either.

                        Boiling pork ribs ruins the meat for me, and all I'll taste is boiled pork with with sauce. Not my favorite thing to eat. My method, and I cook chicken (the dark meat) the same way, is probably not popular, but I do get raves for it. However, I don't let on...

                        I microwave the ribs. Cut them into a say a half rack that fits in a glass dish for the microwave. Salt pepper, garlic powder, that's it, Cover with parchment paper and zap for about 7 to 8 minutes per side. Then I remove the meat and take all the juices, mix that in with the bbq sauce and all other ingredients, lemon juice being one, and add garlic, onion, or any herb or additional spice, I just make the sauce separately using the juices and let it cook on the cook top. Then I take the rack of ribs (or half) , and add pat it down, and I usually brush with lemon juice. Add the dry rub or the bbq sauce and then grill for about 30-40 minutes on a medium to low heat.It all depends on the thickness of the meat.

                        For me, I hate it when the meat slides of the bones leaving me with a mouthful of tendons and connective tissue that is soft and sometimes chewy. I want to be able to have some bite with meat, but not so tough or raw that they can't be eaten.

                        I've done this for years. Everyone wants to know how I can cook a piece of meat like chicken or pork without it being raw in the center, and or being dry (burnt) on the outside.

                        I am sure that slow cooking is the best of all the worlds, but in the past I didn't have that kind of time and sometimes I was hugely disappointed even so. But for certain, I really get grossed out when the whole piece of the meat comes off, and you're looking at a stark naked bone. I want to savor the meat around the bones enjoy all the sauce that encases it and nibble away.

                        Just an idea.

                        1. I'm also in the no-boil camp for pork ribs, although beef ribs are only edible after being boiled IMO. I think long and slow over indirect heat, using wood chips, is best. But the tip I've heard is, after cooking, place the ribs in a brown paper bag and close it. Let them sit for at least 20 minutes. This makes them a LOT more tender without being all waterlogged, the way steaming and boiling make them taste.

                          1. I'm curious, what kind of grilling device are you using?

                            Regardless, you should NEVER, EVER boil ribs! NEVER. Unless, of course, you want all the flavor and juice leached out of your meat. Yes, they will be tender, but at a horrible price.

                            Onto some solutions:

                            If you have been using a gas grill to cook your ribs, that would likely explain why they are so dry and chewy. Gas grills typically can't get lower temps than 350 degrees, which is too hot. If all you have is a gas grill and don't plan on getting a smoker of some variety, then the best option would be to precook the ribs in the oven for about 1.5 hours in a deep roasting pan with the top covered and sealed with foil at about 325 degrees. You can then finish on the gas grill to brown them up a bit and add sauce if you like. Before I became a charcoal/slow smoke convert, I used this method for years, and it always worked out well.

                            If, on the other hand you have been using a slow smoker, if your meat is chewy & tough, then you simply haven't been smoking them long enough. Baby backs take about 4-5 hours at about a steady 225-250 temp, with spareribs needing about 6 hours. The low temperature and long cook is critical for results. Ribs are done when the meat starts to pull back from the bone, but is not "falling off the bone". I have near perfect results using this method and a mustard slather/dry rub every time. When it is less than satisfactory, I can usually pinpoint the problem with the quality of the meat. For instance, I usually smoke between 4-8 racks per event, and will sometimes notice differences between racks - on occasion, some are less moist than others. When you pick out your ribs, make sure there is a moderate amount of fat - ribs that are too lean will definitely be on the drier side, and ribs that have a lot of fat will have a distinct "grease factor". Neither is desirable, so choose your meat carefully. Removing the tough membrane on the back of the rubs is a must.

                            Hope this helps...and don't give up. Once you get the hang of it, it's one of the easiest things in the world to do.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Moose

                              If anyone noticed, I boil the ribs for 5 minutes, not hours on end. I removes some of the fat, and tenderizes the meat. I have been making them this way for most of my career and by far they are a fan favourite.

                              1. re: maisonbistro

                                Look, if you're happy with them, that's great. We're just trying to point out that the boiling thing turns the ribs gray, leeches the fat -- and taste -- out of them, and even though it is tenderized meat it is tasteless, except for the sauce that gets placed on top of it and then grilled. So it is what it is. We're just advocating for smoke and rub flavor that actually penetrates the meat... allowing you to sauce them at the end or not, your choice. Look at it this way: would you eat your boiled product without sauce? you recognize that the flavor is sitting atop the boiled meat. IMHO, it is gross. that's all. you do your thing I'll do mine. I've done hundreds of cases of baby backs this way, and I'm happy with mine, too.

                            2. rub them with some cajun seasoning, a little garlic powder, a smidge of brown sugar and some cayenne if you like em zesty. I wrap them in a double layer of heavy duty foil and bake em for 2 or 3 or 4 hours at 250 (mostly when I remember they are there) and then take them out to the grill and baste with a nice bbq sauce while the ends get that blackened crispy pat that I love. The bones will pull right out every time!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: chelleyd01

                                I do mine about like this EXCEPT for 5 hrs at 225. If I had a grill ( will get a new one soon) I'd bake for 4.5 hrs then put on the grill with sauce for the last bit as others stated above. I think you'll be surprised and really like them this way.

                              2. I bought some ribs on a Saturday planning to fire up the smoker on Sunday. Something came up, couldn't do it. I didn't want to freeze them, and knew they wouldn't last for a week in the fridge. On Monday I boiled, well simmerd, for a half hour or so and then put them on the gas grill fo finish. Once done, I brushed with sauce, cut and served. My daughter took one bite and said, "Dad! what did you do to these ribs, they're awful!" She had no idea I boiled first, just knew they weren't good.The meat was spongy and flavorless, no smoke whatsoever. It ain't barbecue. It just isn't the same. What can I say, kid knows her 'cue.

                                1. I make the best baby back ribs. I remove the membrane, brine them for two hours, then rinse well and pat dry. I put on a rub, wrap them in HD foil, put a little water in the foil packet before sealing (ala Alton Brown), then I put this on a cookie sheet and bake them for an hour and a half at 300°F. Then I put them on the barbie for about a half hour, with wet smoke chips and the lid down, over low indirect heat. I only put sauce on them the last ten minutes. Killer.

                                  1. Do not boil babybacks. Part of the problem is that they are SO lean these days. The lower and slower the better. The ones I can get now are so lean I prefer to do them in a really low oven, slathered in a homemade sauce, covered with foil till almost tender and then high heated to get carmelization. I can get the same result on a Q but I only have a Weber kettle and it is hard to control. A good oven should not leach heat into your house, especially at 275 or so.

                                    1. Unless you want pork Jell-o do not boil the ribs.

                                      If you can, buy a smoker, and do it right.

                                      I rinse the ribs with white vinegar, and then slather them with plain old yellow mustard. I then apply a homemade dry rub, and put the ribs in the fridge for a few hours(up to 24) before putting them on the smoker. I tried a new method the last time 2-2-1. @ 225 degrees, the first 2 hours on the smoker, then splash with apple juice, and warp in foil, back on the smoker for 2 more hours. Then remove foil, and put on the smoker for 1 last hour. I do not put sauce on my ribs when they are cooking. Maybe some on the table when serving.

                                      1. Rib meat is tough; needs long, slow cooking. Following is a recipe that's worked for me (adapt flavorings as you like. You could also do this with indirect heat on the grill/:

                                        1. I make fantastic ribs by marinating them with a dry rub (including paprika and brown sugar), covered, and refrigerated for about 3 hours. Let them come to room temp and bake, tightly covered with foil at about 350 for about 1 1/2 hours. Then finish over indirect heat on a covered gas grill for, I think it's about 40 minutes. Baste w/ homemade bbq sauce the last 10 minutes or so. Yes, they take a trip thru the oven, but it is totally un-tended time and they are fabulous.