If you’re getting those delicious pork ribs out and ready to slap on the grill, you’re definitely going to want to know at what temperature are pork ribs done. This is an integral part of making great ribs.
Pork ribs are considered done when they reach an internal temperature of 190 to 203ºF (87 to 95ºC). At this temperature range, the collagen and fats in the ribs have broken down enough to make the meat tender and juicy.
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Of course, I realize that’s a large temperature range. Which is best for ribs? Should you remove them early and let them rest, or leave them on a little longer and hope for more fall-apart goodness to happen? In this article, we’ll discuss all of those concerns.
What Temperature to Cook Ribs?
When grilling ribs, you should aim for a low and slow cooking method to get the most tender and juicy results. This generally means you should maintain your grill’s temperature between 225 to 250ºF (107 to 121ºC).
This low heat allows the collagen in the ribs to break down slowly, which makes the meat tender. If the heat is too high, the outside of the ribs can burn or dry out before the inside has cooked properly.
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How Long Do Ribs Take To Cook?
Remember, ribs can take anywhere from 4 to 5 hours to cook thoroughly at this temperature range. Exactly how long really depends on the size of the rack of ribs and how many times you’re opening the grill lid.
Keep in mind that cooking times can vary widely based on the cooking method, the type of ribs, and the actual temperature of the cooking device. Always use temperature as the final determinant for doneness, not cooking time alone.
Here are some general estimates:
Baby Back Ribs
These are smaller ribs and generally take less time to cook. On a grill or smoker set at 225 to 250ºF (107 to 121ºC), they usually take about 4 to 5 hours.
In an oven at the same temperature, they can take a similar amount of time, but this can vary based on your specific oven. If you’re boiling them before grilling or baking, they’ll usually need to boil for about 1 to 2 hours and then grill or bake for an additional hour.
Spare Ribs or St. Louis Style Ribs
These are larger and meatier ribs, and they generally take a bit longer to cook. On a grill or smoker set at 225 to 250ºF, they usually take around 5 to 6 hours.
In an oven at the same temperature, they might take a similar amount of time, but this can also vary. If you’re boiling them before grilling or baking, they’ll usually need to boil for about 1.5 to 2 hours and then grill or bake for an additional 1 to 1.5 hours.
These are just general estimates, and the exact cooking time can vary. Remember, the best way to tell if ribs are done cooking is not by the time but by the internal temperature and the tenderness of the meat. They should have an internal temperature of 190 to 203ºF (87 to 95ºC) and should be tender enough to easily pull apart with a fork.
How to Know When Ribs Are Done?
There are a few ways to tell if ribs are done cooking:
- Internal Temperature: The most reliable way to check if ribs are done is by using a meat thermometer. The internal temperature should be between 190 to 203ºF (87 to 95ºC) when they are done. The thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone.
- Bend Test: Pick up the slab of ribs with a pair of tongs and bounce them slightly. If they’re done, the ribs should bend and crack on the surface.
- Meat Shrinkage: As ribs cook, the meat shrinks and exposes the bone. If you see about 1/4 inch of exposed bone, your ribs are likely done.
- Twist Test: You can also do a “twist test”. Find a rib in the middle of the rack and give it a little twist. If it starts to come off the bone with a gentle twist, your ribs are ready.
- Appearance and Tenderness: The outside of the ribs should have a nice caramelized surface. When you probe the ribs with a fork or knife, the meat should be tender enough to yield easily.
It’s important to use a reliable meat thermometer to accurately measure the internal temperature to ensure the ribs are cooked to a safe level and to the desired tenderness.
Remember to insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the ribs without touching the bone, as this can give an inaccurate reading.
Is it Better to Cook Ribs at 190ºF or 202ºF?
There isn’t a right answer to this question, unfortunately. All ribs behave differently while cooking, so it’s best to use the tests above to know when it is ideal to remove your ribs from the grill.
The most important thing is that the meat tenderness meets your expectations. Some people like their ribs to have very fall-off-the-bone meat that barely holds to the bone when picked up. To get to that level, you will need to cook the ribs much longer, to 202ºF.
Some people like their ribs to still have a firm connection to the bone and not be so tender that there’s no bite left when you sink your teeth in. For that level, you should remove the ribs at around 190ºF.
Then there’s obviously everywhere in between. The best way to know how long you should cook your ribs is to test them at different temperatures to see when it reaches your ideal level. Then you’ll know your perfect temp for next time.
How Long to Rest Ribs
Resting ribs is an important step in the cooking process. When you allow the meat to rest after cooking, it gives the juices, which have been driven towards the center of the meat by the heat, time to redistribute evenly throughout the cut. This results in juicier and more flavorful meat.
Ribs should generally be rested for about 10-15 minutes after they come off the heat. However, if you’ve cooked a large rack of ribs, you might want to let them rest for up to 20-30 minutes.
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The best way to rest ribs is to take them off the heat and place them on a clean cutting board or platter. Then, loosely tent them with aluminum foil. The foil helps to keep the ribs warm, but it’s important not to wrap them too tightly as you don’t want them to continue cooking from the residual heat and become overdone. After the resting period, you can cut the ribs and serve them.
Keep in mind that the resting period can also be a good opportunity to add a final layer of barbecue sauce if you wish. You can apply one more coating of sauce after the ribs come off the grill, then cover them with foil to rest. The residual heat will help the sauce “set” on the ribs and provide a nice, shiny glaze.
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Laura is a passionate home cook and grill enthusiast who has spent years perfecting her culinary skills, with a particular focus on grilling techniques and flavor combinations. Her fascination with the grill, smoke, and the mouthwatering results they produce has led her on an exciting journey to discover the best methods for grilling delicious and unforgettable meals.