How To Cook Ribs

There is nothing quite like the taste of juicy, tender, flavorful ribs, whether it’s from a rack of classic pork ribs or a smoky slab of beef. While cooking ribs may seem intimidating to home cooks, it’s actually quite simple once you master a few key techniques. In this article, we will guide you through the process of cooking ribs and answer some frequently asked questions to help you perfect your skills in the kitchen.


– Ribs (pork or beef)
– Dry rub or BBQ sauce
– Foil
– Wood chips (if smoking)

Step-by-Step Guide:

1. Choose Your Ribs: There are two main types of ribs – pork and beef. Within each type, there are different cuts and styles, like St. Louis-style pork ribs or beef short ribs. Whatever type of ribs you choose, make sure they are fresh, high-quality, and suitable for the cooking method you plan to use.

2. Remove the Membrane: On the underside of each rack of ribs, you will find a thin, translucent membrane that can toughen up as it cooks, making the ribs harder to eat. It’s important to remove this membrane before cooking to ensure tender, mouthwatering ribs. To do this, use a paper towel to grip the membrane on one end and gently pull it off in one piece.

3. Season the Ribs: Before cooking, you can apply a dry rub or BBQ sauce to the ribs to add flavor and enhance the natural taste of the meat. A dry rub usually includes a blend of spices like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and brown sugar. Rub the seasoning all over the ribs, making sure to cover every part evenly. If you’re using BBQ sauce, brush it onto the ribs in a thin layer.

4. Prep Your Grill or Smoker: Depending on your cooking method, you will need to prep your grill or smoker. For grilling, you will want to set up a two-zone fire, with one side of the grill hot and the other side cooler. For smoking, you will need to choose the right wood chips for your desired flavor (hickory, mesquite, and applewood are popular choices), soak them in water for at least 30 minutes, and add them to the smoker.

5. Cook the Ribs: Once your grill or smoker is ready, it’s time to cook the ribs. If grilling, place the ribs on the cooler side of the grill (indirect heat) and close the lid. Check on the ribs every 30 minutes, flipping them over and rotating them for even cooking. If smoking, transfer the ribs to the smoker and close the lid. Smoke the ribs for 2-3 hours until they reach an internal temperature of 195°F.

6. Wrap the Ribs: To prevent the ribs from drying out and to infuse more flavor, you can wrap them in foil during the cooking process. For grilling, wrap the ribs in foil after the first hour of cooking and return them to the grill. For smoking, wrap the ribs in foil after they have smoked for 2 hours and return them to the smoker. Cook for another hour or until they reach an internal temperature of 203°F.

7. Finish and Sauce: Once the ribs are cooked to perfection, it’s time to finish and sauce them. For grilling, brush the ribs with your favorite BBQ sauce during the last 20-30 minutes of cooking, creating a sticky glaze on the meat. For smoking, remove the ribs from the foil and place them back in the smoker for 30-60 minutes, brushing them with sauce every 10 minutes or so.


1. How long does it take to cook ribs?

The cooking time for ribs can vary depending on the cooking method and the size of the ribs. As a general rule, pork ribs take between 3-4 hours to grill or smoke, while beef ribs can take up to 8 hours. It’s important to use a meat thermometer to ensure the ribs have reached the appropriate internal temperature (195°F for pork, 203°F for beef) for safe consumption.

2. What kind of wood should I use for smoking ribs?

The type of wood you use for smoking ribs can affect the flavor of the meat. Some popular options include hickory, mesquite, applewood, and cherry wood. Choose a wood that complements the natural taste of the meat and pairs well with any seasonings or sauces you plan to use.

3. Can I cook ribs in the oven?

Yes, you can cook ribs in the oven using a similar process to grilling or smoking. Preheat your oven to 250°F and place the seasoned ribs on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan. Cover the ribs with foil and bake for 2-3 hours until they reach the desired internal temperature. Finish by brushing with BBQ sauce and broiling for a few minutes to create a caramelized glaze.

4. How do I reheat leftover ribs?

To reheat leftover ribs, wrap them in foil or place them in a covered dish with a little water or broth to keep them from drying out. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 20-30 minutes until heated through. You can also microwave the ribs for a quick and easy option, but the texture may not be as tender or flavorful as reheating in the oven.

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