Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Aug 3, 2014 11:45 AM

Pink (medium) Spare Ribs

I remembered mid morning I had a defrosted rack of St Louis cut spare ribs in my basement refrigerator that needed to be cooked. I generally cook ribs in a smoker slowly after a dry rub and several hour or overnight rest. My smoker broke recently (suspect regulator) so I cooked them indirectly on my gas grill. Fire on one side, ribs on the other. I dry rubbed them and coated with a little salad oil then seared the rack over the hot side and moved them to the cool side and closed the lid. about an hour into the cook I coated the meat side with no sugar added BBQ sauce. The total cooking time was about 2.5 hours at just under 300 but the temperature wasn't consistent. The ribs were only cooked to medium, nicely pink throughout. They were very tender and succulent, some of the best ribs I've made or eaten. I know some people love fall of the bone cooked ribs but I like a little chew to mine. Does anyone else cook spare ribs or baby backs less than well done?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. If they were on at 300 for 2.5 hrs, they're fully done. The pink is the smoke ring that results for the hemoglobin in the meat reacting with the carbon monoxide from the burning fuel.

    12 Replies
    1. re: rjbh20

      Right. I think a lot of people don't know that.

      1. re: rjbh20

        This wasn't a smoke ring as I used no wood and I'm a pretty experienced "smoker". I probably am wrong about the temperature. These were cooked medium.

        1. re: zackly

          You don't need wood to get a smoke ring, though you get a more pronounced one with wood smoke. The combustion gases from propane or natural gas pride the same effect.

          1. re: zackly

            Since you didn't take an internal temperature, it seems that your justification for them being cooked medium is the rosy hue. I agree with the others who say that ribs cooked for that amount of time at 300 are done. Sounds like you're mistaking the color imparted by smoking with rareness.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I'll say it one more time:
              No mistake, these were cooked medium (pink). It was not a smoke ring. Let's move the discussion on from here.

          2. re: rjbh20

            Can't imagine getting much of a smoke ring on a gas grill

            1. re: scubadoo97

              No need to imagine anything -- chemistry has a pesky way of happening on a remarkably consistent basis. Do you really think 2.5 hrs at. 300 on a slab of ribs is going to result in pink meat because it's less than 145f? Thermodynamics would argue differently.

              1. re: rjbh20

                And isn't it nice that the smoke ring has been determined to do nothing for taste or texture?

                1. re: rjbh20

                  Dude, based off the OP "wasn't consistent" "nicely pink throughout" attributing the "nice pink" to a smoke ring would be a helluva stretch.

                  My personal verdict would be undercooked ribs.

                  1. re: On_yun

                    But they were "very tender" and "succulent" and OP knows his/her way around cooking meat.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Generally, Very tender ....and a little chew does not go hand in hand when I think of cooked ribs. Chinese style ribs are what I imagine were the results of what the OP is describing.

                      1. re: fourunder

                        And the meat has to come away from the bone cleanly, how you like your meat cooked is subjective (somewhat), but that really isn't. At least if you want a good percentage of rib eaters to like your ribs. If these were back ribs I could be willing to pick up what they're laying down and chalk it up to mistaking pink-ish for medium, but spares? Nuh uh. I suppose there is one other possibility, what if the ribs weren't pork? :O lol

            2. Really good BBQ ribs shouldn't have meat that "falls off the bone" - those are overcooked. A slight pull is highly desirable, in fact.

              13 Replies
              1. re: mcsheridan

                Don't you think that's more personal preference than right vs. wrong?

                1. re: c oliver

                  I think that everything in the food world is up to personal preference, as far as that goes. I didn't use the words right vs. wrong. All of us here on Chow have very strong opinions, and most of us are purists about something, whether it's Reuben sandwiches, ragu alla Bolognese, or BBQ ribs.

                  If someone wants to eat overcooked ribs and likes them that way, that's their choice. If someone wants to eat a well-done steak and likes it that way, that's their choice. I have a friend who likes to marinate chicken for more than 48 hours, that's his choice. I think it ruins the texture of the chicken much as I think cooking to well-done destroys a good piece of meat, and overcooking ruins the texture of BBQ ribs.

                  I like to think that eating ribs is half the reason we have teeth. :)

                  1. re: mcsheridan

                    Thanks for elaborating. I had just thought that the words "shouldn't" and "overcooked" were more a personal comment. While I prefer ribs the way you do, I'd rather have them "fall off the bone" than be too tough.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      How about pink throughout?


                        1. re: c oliver

                          It was a joke. Pink throughout indicates undercooked ribs.

                2. re: mcsheridan

                  Usually, that fall of the bone texture comes from the introduction of some sort of steam. I don't use water in my smoker for ribs.

                  1. re: zackly

                    Here's a clarification you may or may not be interested in. The falling off the bone texture doesn't come from steam but from a long cooking time. A long cooking time causes the connective tissue in the meat to break down, resulting in higher tenderness and eventually mushiness. The lower the internal temperature of the meat, the longer the cooking time has to be to achieve this.

                    The problem with a long cooking time is that it provides a big window for a lot of the meat's moisture to evaporate, causing the development of bark at the meat's surface and eventually a dry chewy piece of meat, regardless of how broken down the connective tissue is. Here's where the steam comes in: one way to limit the evaporation of the meat's moisture is with steam. But it's not the only way. Foiling ribs can prevent evaporation. Sous vide cooking can prevent evaporation. Constant basting can prevent evaporation. And technically speaking, just placing a pan of water in the grill/smoker isn't so much creating steam as it is just raising the humidity inside the smoker enough to limit evaporation. Limiting evaporation has the added benefit that you are then also limiting evaporative cooling, which helps the meat's temperature not to stall and makes the meat cook more quickly.

                    With ribs, you can safely file a lot of this under 'so what?' but it becomes more important to know if you're cooking trickier cuts like brisket.

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      That's true but adding moisture, in a home smoker anyway, inhibits evaporation and creates a semi moist cooking environment instead of completely dry. It acts as a crutch, providing a larger margin of error against overcooking (drying out). You can get the temperature high enough to break down the connective tissue while still maintaining moisture in the meat but for me I prefer dry heat because the evaporation concentrates the meatiness. But like I said, I don't shoot for fall off the bone tenderness. I like my ribs al dente.

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        That's probably the best condensed down explanation for the whole shebang I've ever read with all the subjective nonsense and myth left out.

                    2. re: mcsheridan

                      Being a carnivore, I prefer my meat to have a little resistance to the tooth. ~~ For those who prefer 'fall off the bone' I always suggest Instant mashed potatoes topped with a little Kraft BBQ sauce for the same texture. ;) Much simpler and cheaper.

                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                        It is (or should be) a primal experience, after all. :)

                    3. Are they "bendy"... my totally scientific term for pretty much done? That much time at even relatively low 300... can't possibly be less than done.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kseiverd

                        They can in a drafty gas grill with heat coming from only one end. Throw in a completely unreliable thermometer and presto.

                      2. I can say with 100% certainty that these ribs were cooked to medium (pink) doneness. My question still is does anyone intentionally cook ribs to only this temperature on purpose

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: zackly

                          Once they're tender or there's some shrinking up the bone but not falling off like baby food, mine are done. I think your temp was a tad high, unless it dropped a lot during the cook, so hard to imagine they were medium but you were there and I was not.

                          1. re: mcf

                            Yes, they were definitely medium cooked. I was guessing and probably wrong about the time and temperature. I guess the internal finished temperature was 150-155. My new hypothesis is that spare ribs don't need longer cooking times to tenderize, that they are naturally tender. Now, it might have been this particular rack was tender but it was a nothing special, commodity rack of ribs bought @ Shoprite.

                            1. re: zackly

                              Well at that temp, pork is well done. But if you're guessing who knows? Some pork stays pink when cooked, I've found.

                              1. re: mcf

                                Well, then I'm wrong again. I rarely use thermometers in the kitchen so I really don't have an idea what 150-155 degree cooked pork looks like. I just wanted to further the discussion and my question if anybody cooks ribs intentionally medium?

                                1. re: zackly

                                  I use a Thermapen on most meats, but with ribs I go by sight and touch, and time, loosely.

                                  So I can tell you that if it were a supermarket pork chop at 150-155 it would be dry and white, IME, and if a juicier heritage breed, white with moisture.

                                  Recently, my husband thought a thick, red wattle pork chop I served was raw next to the bone, based on appearance (it really did look raw), but upon trying it, disovered it was cooked to his satisfaction, and he tends to like things cooked a bunch more than I do.

                                  Just sayin'.

                          2. re: zackly

                            Unless you actually checked the internal temperature of the ribs, you really can't speak to their temperature with 100% certainty. Just not possible. I'm sure they were pink though.

                            As to the bigger question of how hot or how long to cook them:
                            I've cooked ribs many ways. When I've BBQ'd ribs, I've typically done the full 5-6 hour cooking time, which would presumably achieve a final temperature in the 190s range. I've also cooked spare ribs sous vide and used temperatures in the 140-145 range, though a very long cooking time ensured tenderness in this case.

                            Recently, my father has become something of a rib junkie, developing his own preferred cooking process. He generally cooks using indirect heat and a little wood smoke in a grill, but he only cooks em for about 2 hours. He makes em just about any time I show up. These ribs are not as tender as traditionally cooked ribs are. But they are still quite enjoyable. I don't find them hard to eat - that little bit of chewiness can be pleasant. But it would be hard for me to guess exactly what their final temperature was. It might be relatively high (180+) - ribs ain't thick and 2 hours is still a long cooking time, considering that you can overcook a steak in under 10 minutes. Or it might hit stalling temperatures (a little north of 150) and stay there, as my father doesn't wrap with foil or use steam.

                            All that said, it's not only internal temperature that determines tenderness but also cooking time. You could make ribs overly tender, bordering on mushy, if you cooked em at 135 long enough via sous vide.

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              My ribs yesterday had the approximate "tendeness" of an excellent beef filet mignon steak. My question is, do spare ribs even benefit from a longer cooking time or higher internal temperature? My experience yesterday suggests maybe not.

                              1. re: zackly

                                "My ribs yesterday had the approximate "tenderness" of an excellent beef filet mignon steak"
                                Incidentally, I've described pork shoulder cooked sous vide to 140 for maybe 20 hours in almost the exact same terms.

                                "My question is, do spare ribs even benefit from a longer cooking time or higher internal temperature?"
                                Generally speaking, you're not going to get filet mignon texture cooking spare ribs the way you did the other day. The most reasonable explanation for that was that it was something of a fluke based on the particular spare ribs you bought.

                                However, you may still find that ribs cooked over a shorter time are not unpleasantly chewy to you and that you like the effect of a shorter cooking time. My father did, for example. But BBQ nerds have spent decades developing procedures like the 3-2-1 method and writing books on tiny differences in cooking times and temperatures because these things do indeed make a difference. Might not be a difference you're interested in, is all.

                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                  I've eaten a fair amount of professional BBQ in my life. I would say that pork ribs are all cooked well done. They differ by cooking times and what they are seasoned with be it a dry rub, mop sauce or BBQ sauce. My theory is maybe they don't need to be cooked "low and slow" to get excellent results. I'm going to cook them the same way the next time & see if I get similar results.

                                  1. re: zackly

                                    "I've eaten a fair amount of professional BBQ in my life. I would say that pork ribs are all cooked well done."
                                    Yeah, just about any professional BBQ place is going to cook ribs to a high internal temperature. It's one of the defining characteristics of the style.

                                    "My theory is maybe they don't need to be cooked "low and slow" to get excellent results."
                                    Here's an experiment for you to demonstrate what I mean. Next time you make ribs, cut off a little section (maybe 3 ribs, raw) and cook it under your broiler or on the grill using direct heat. Check the internal temp with a thermometer and pull the ribs when the meat near the bone reaches 150. Shouldn't take long at all, even though the bone will draw out the cooking time a bit compared to a steak of similar thickness. Either way, we're talking minutes/side, not hours. Dig in and note the texture.

                                    Cooking for 2.5 hours IS cooking low and slow. It's just not as slow as traditional BBQ. This kind of cooking time is not a brand new discovery. I'm no expert in Chinese cooking, but I'm relatively sure that the Chinese spare ribs we all love are only cooked for maybe 2 hours. Heck, here's a recipe from a usually-reliable source where they're only cooked about 80 minutes:

                                    1. re: zackly

                                      I think low and slow is the only way to cook them, but hey. There are folks that boil them first, too, then grill them.

                                      Not anything I would do, but however someone wants to eat their own food is nunna my bizniz.

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        The Rendezvous in Memphis is famous for ribs that are not cooked low and slow. 425 degrees for around 60 min.

                                        The "Smokyokie method" for first grilling a brisket and then cooking at higher temps also changed attitudes on low and slow for brisket

                                        I do mine low and slow but there are more ways to skin a cat and cook BBQ with good to excellent results

                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                          See above. I got no quarrel with folks doing it their own way. Tweechisown and all.

                                          I think fast and hot would be a bit too barkish for me.

                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                            That's true but they're back ribs and kinda mediocre at that. They move a lot though so you could do a lot worse in Memphis. What they're really famous for is their unique dry rub with chili powder, coriander, and clove.

                              2. I just invited my husbands family for a BBQ next month (for the record, we are grilling the meat with propane, not using wood chips etc) and my BIL is insisting on bringing spare ribs. Probably because he can't grill at his apartment complex. I was hoping he meant precooked from a good takeout but it sounds like not. He and SIL are saying they will marinade and throw on my grill at the last minute,I'm trying to think how to politely decline the offer. I have rib eye and elk burgers and pork belly and all kinds of other stuff; if he wants to make them fine but I fear they will be inedible. I don't know that my grill could get low enough to cook correctly, and I'm not about to ruin the day messing around with it. Myself, I like to just cook them at 250 in the oven, set it and forget it so to speak, but I will try to be a good hostess and not be too negative ;-) Hope they enjoy!

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: coll

                                  I just searched, quick coked ribs. This is from Addicted to Grilling web site:

                                  "Spare ribs:

                                  Spare ribs come from the the belly of the pig - where bacon comes from. Because they're larger and tougher than baby backs they take longer and are more of a challenge to cook. However, they also have more meat than baby backs and more fat marbling which makes them more flavorful. The fact that they're a greater test of grillmanship and they deliver more flavor makes them the rib of choice with people on the profession barbecue circuit.

                                  St. Louis cut ribs - also known as Kansas City cut ribs - are merely spare ribs with the rib tips cut off. Removal of the tips makes the rib slab more attractive and helps it to cook more evenly.

                                  Here's a quick rundown on how to grill 'em:

                                  The fast way - 2 to 3 hours:

                                  Grill them - indirectly if at all possible - at medium heat, about 325° F to 350 ° F for 2 to 3 hours. You'll know they're done when the meat has shrunk back from the bone about a 1/4 of an inch and the meat is tender enough to tear apart with your fingers (Don't forget to let the test piece cool a bit so you don't burn your fingertips.)

                                  1. re: zackly

                                    I cook them about 2-3 hours at 250 or so and they're done and tender. So do that if you want fast and dried out. I've never been impressed with that site's cooking methods any time I've looked.

                                    1. re: zackly

                                      Thanks that's what I'm saying. I know all the cuts, including Danish baby back and lets even mention bone in country ribs just in case, who knows what he has planned, but I've never thought to attempt to cook any type less than 2 or 3 hours, or to go over 300. My BIL watches too much Food Channel but doesn't cook much at all. I thought maybe there was a new method I wasn't aware of. They usually expect to eat about an hour after arrival so good luck with that. Not that there won't be plenty of other food, we won't starve.

                                      I'm not tying up my grill and my time while he plays pitmaster, but I had a good idea. I'll resurrect my old charcoal Weber kettle, put it in the driveway and light the coals before he gets here,and let him go to town. And don't worry, I'll make him happy to be on his way!

                                        1. re: On_yun

                                          Oh thanks, I can be sort of devilish too unfortunately!