Preparing, cooking and even eating pork ribs is really a matter of preference. We have provided some preparation and cooking suggestions below, but there are many methods that you can use to get your ribs to come out tender and flavorful!
Step 1: Get Ready
- No matter how you plan to cook your ribs, you first must decide on the wood style and flavor you want to use.
- Are you going to use wood chunks, small pieces or logs?
- To soak or not to soak? Many chefs believe strongly in soaking their wood before smoking their meat. When soaking wood, you will see a lot of white smoke after you pull it out of the water and place it in the smoker or on the grill. It is important to point out that the smoke you are seeing is really condensation. You are not getting any more time from the wood.
- Pick your flavor! Any flavor works well with pork! Some of the most popular options include: Alder, Apple, Cherry, Hickory, Maple, Mesquite, Oak, Pecan and Walnut.
- Prepare the Ribs – Click here for a short how-to video!
- Season the Ribs – Click here for a short how-to video!
Step 2: Smoke, Grill or Oven
Smoker or Grill
- Always use indirect heat and a temperature of 225-250⁰F for smoking. If using charcoal for heat, start it without lighter fluid – use a charcoal chimney instead. Once the charcoal is in the smoker or grill, add the wood.
- Cooking times can vary by even an hour or more depending on the unit you are using.
- Here's a great cooking suggestion: Cook ribs for 2 hours with smoke. Remove ribs from smoker or grill, place into tin foil, add a cooking liquid like apple juice or a clear soda or bourbon. Wrap ribs tightly, return to the smoker/grill or place into a 250⁰F oven to finish. After an hour of cooking, check. The total cooking time is usually 3 ½ -5 hours.
- Here's a great oven cooking option: Preheat oven to 225⁰-250⁰F. Place ribs in a pan. Add a cooking liquid like apple juice or a clear soda or bourbon. DO NOT SUBMERGE ribs with the liquid. Tightly seal the pan with aluminum foil. Place into oven. Let cook approximately 2 hours and then check. Depending on your ribs, oven and how often the oven door is opened, cooking time will take 3-4 hours. Ribs in the oven should take less time than they would on a smoker or grill due to the consistency of an oven.
Step 3: Are They Done Yet?
How do you know when the ribs are done? There are two great tests you can use to check!
- The bend test. If you lift a rack of ribs with a tongs, the ribs should be able to bend easily and even crack at the meat between the bones when done.
- Fork or toothpick test. If you can insert a fork or toothpick into the meat between the bones with no resistance, the ribs are done.
Note: Pork is safe to eat at 145⁰F. While this is true even for ribs, you will not have tender, juicy ribs unless you get them to at least 160⁰F (when the tissue starts dissolving). A good finish temperature for ribs is approximately 180-195⁰F.
Step 4: Serve or Chill
- It’s time to serve or chill the ribs!
- If you plan on serving your ribs immediately, you can place them on a hot grill meat side down to get a nice sear. Flip them and sauce them with a couple of thin layers of sauce (or just serve them naked)…or place them on a baking sheet, brush with sauce (or just serve them naked) and place into a 450-500⁰F oven until sauce is tacky (if you sauce them).
- If you plan on chilling and holding the ribs until an order comes in, lay them flat and completely cool them. Then use the same method as stated above to heat to proper temperature and serve.