Should You Boil Ribs Before Grilling? (Yes and No!) - BBQ Starts Here (2023)

Grilling the perfect rib is not as easy as it sounds. You could end up with your ribs being tough, chewy or even undercooked. One of the techniques is boil ribs before grilling.

Should You Boil Ribs Before Grilling? (Yes and No!) - BBQ Starts Here (1)

If you are wondering if you should do it, let me tell you what other cooks are saying. Some will tell you boiling ribs before grilling is good. Others will tell you it’s bad, and they’ve good enough reasons for saying so.

With every recipe some know-how and skills are required and with practice comes perfection. The same goes with grilling ribs. If you know why some cooks prefer to boil their ribs before grilling and why others avoid it, you’re better equipped to make up you own mind.

Table of Contents

  • 1 To Boil or Not to Boil Ribs
    • 1.1 The Best Types of Ribs for Grilling
    • 1.2 Why Some Cooks Boil Ribs Before Grilling
    • 1.3 Why Some Cooks Avoid Boiling Ribs Before Grilling
    • 1.4 Ways to Tenderize Ribs
  • 2 How to Grill Tender Ribs
  • 3 A Final Word

To Boil or Not to Boil Ribs

Why would a cook boil ribs before grilling? And, what is the best type of ribs to grill? These are just some of the questions every person asks when choosing to BBQ ribs. To answer the question about boiling ribs before grilling, I’m going to talk about the best types of ribs to grill, how to tenderize ribs before grilling and ways to grill ribs to perfection.

Should You Boil Ribs Before Grilling? (Yes and No!) - BBQ Starts Here (2)

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Should You Boil Ribs Before Grilling? (Yes and No!) - BBQ Starts Here (3)

The Best Types of Ribs for Grilling

When ribs and BBQ are mentioned together most of us will think of pork spareribs. But you can also get baby back ribs and St. Louis ribs (which is a neater version of spareribs).

For quick and easy cooking, baby back pork ribs are great for the griller or smoker. It’s the more expensive style rib because of its high-quality meat.

Both the St. Louis style ribs and spareribs have little meat on them and many cooks choose to grill this style of rib.

Should You Boil Ribs Before Grilling? (Yes and No!) - BBQ Starts Here (4)

Lamb and beef ribs are also available for grilling or smoking. They’re not as popular as the pork ribs though I must say a good piece of lamb riblet goes down well with me!

In this article, I’ll be referring to pork ribs as it’s the more common style of ribs for grilling when barbequing for friends and family.

Why Some Cooks Boil Ribs Before Grilling

One of the ways to tenderize meat before cooking or grilling is to boil it beforehand. Ribs can end up being tough and hard to chew. So, to prevent this from happening, some cooks will boil their ribs before placing them on the grill.

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Ribs are fatty and another reason cooks like to boil ribs before grilling is to render the fat. But, in the long run, this could end up drying the meat out. Boiling ribs also makes it easier to remove the inner skin or membrane which some cooks swear causes ribs to be tough.

Should You Boil Ribs Before Grilling? (Yes and No!) - BBQ Starts Here (5)

Boiling ribs before grilling means cutting down on the time spent at the grill, particularly if you are grilling for many. Any food that has been parboiled is semi-cooked so your ribs will be half-way done by the time you add them to the grill.

Why Some Cooks Avoid Boiling Ribs Before Grilling

On the other side of the coin, we have the cooks who stay away from boiling any meat before grilling. Your connoisseur griller will tell you if you want the perfectly cooked ribs you need to be willing to put in the time, patience and expertise. According to these cooks, boiling ribs before grilling them is the cheater’s way to shortcutting the time spent barbecuing ribs. That aside, they also maintain boiling ribs robs them of their tasty flavors.

The other danger of parboiling ribs is the smoke will not enter the meat meaning you’ll lose out on the famous “smokehouse” flavors so typical of BBQ ribs.

And, to reinforce their reason for skipping the boiling process altogether, these cooks will tell you your ribs could easily become overcooked or end up tasting rubbery, mushy, or simply, plain awful!

Ways to Tenderize Ribs

Now you know why some cooks boil ribs and why some absolutely refuse to, let’s talk about the ways of tenderizing ribs before grilling.

1. Boiling Before Grilling

If you fall into the camp which boils ribs to tenderize them then it’s important to know how to do it so you don’t ruin your ribs. You have a few options for doing this step so let’s take a look at them:

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Should You Boil Ribs Before Grilling? (Yes and No!) - BBQ Starts Here (6)

  • Place the ribs in a large casserole and cover them with water. Boil for about 25 to 30 minutes until the meat is slightly soft. It should not be falling off the bones. Remove, pat dry, add your favorite rub, and place on the grill.
  • Place the ribs in a pot of water on the stovetop. Bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer for up to one and a half hours (depending on the size of the ribs). If you boil at a high temperature for too long, you’ll end up with tough meat. Some cooks like to add spices such as peppercorns, cloves, and onions to the water. When done, remove from the water, dry, and cover with a meat rub. Now the ribs are ready for grilling.
  • Boil the ribs in a barbeque sauce on the stovetop. This is a great way for adding flavors to ribs. Simmer in the sauce for about half an hour to 40 minutes before placing it on a hot grill. You’ll only need to grill the ribs for about 20 to 40 minutes.

2. Brine solution

Most cooks will recommend brining ribs overnight to keep them moist and tender. This involves making a salt and water solution and adding your ribs to the mix. To make the brine solution you want to add a cup of salt to every gallon of water. Some cooks will boil this solution while others simply dissolve the salt in hot water before adding the ribs. The ribs are then placed in the refrigerator overnight to let the brining do its magic.

If you’re an adventurous cook you may want to add spices such as peppercorns, mustard powder, cloves, chilies, and anything else that takes your fancy to the brine solution.

3. Tenderizing Marinades

Marinades are an excellent way of tenderizing ribs especially if they contain vinegar. Both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar are known for tenderizing meats so make sure you add them to your marinade recipe. Other ingredients could include Worcestershire sauce, orange or lemon juice (also perfect for tenderizing tough meats), spices, onion and garlic powders, honey, and brown sugar.

The ribs are soaked in the marinade sauce for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Marinades don’t only help to tenderize tougher meat cuts but they also add deep, rich flavors.

Should You Boil Ribs Before Grilling? (Yes and No!) - BBQ Starts Here (7)

4. Steaming Method

Another way to tenderize ribs before grilling is to use the steaming method. Not only will this method result in tender meat but it’ll also add moisture and flavor. Place apple cider vinegar or beer into a roasting pan with water. Add the ribs and cover with aluminum foil.

Place the roasting pan into a pre-heated oven of 350°F and steam the ribs for about one hour. Once done, remove from the oven and place onto a hot grill cooking them for about 30 minutes. Turn the ribs over a couple of times to get even grilling. It’s recommended to remove the membrane on the ribs before steaming to get the best benefits of using this method.

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5. Smoke Ribs Instead of Grilling

You’ve chosen to grill your ribs and there are no problem cooking ribs this way. But, fans of smokers will tell you the ideal way to guarantee tender ribs is to smoke them and not grill them. Low and slow cooking is one of the best ways of tenderizing meat and every smoker user knows smoking entails low consistent temperatures and patience. Ribs can take anything between six to eight hours in a smoker.

Which is why you’re opting to grill your ribs, isn’t it? The thought of waiting nearly a whole day for tender ribs may seem rather crazy to some people. While smokers can be a great way to produce the smokehouse type ribs we all love, it takes dedication to use one. So, if you’re still fixed on grilling your ribs, then make sure you prepare properly for the optimum results.

Should You Boil Ribs Before Grilling? (Yes and No!) - BBQ Starts Here (8)

How to Grill Tender Ribs

Let’s talk about how to grill your ribs so they turn out moist, tender, and most of all, full of flavors. By now, you’ll know I always emphasize the importance of preparing your meats no matter which type you’re grilling or smoking. If you want to impress your friends and family with your grilled meats then do the prep beforehand.

The first step is to decide whether to remove the membrane or not. Then you want to place the ribs in a marinade or brine solution overnight. The next day, prepare the meat rub and spread it onto the ribs. Have your grill ready and hot before placing the ribs onto the oiled racks. For the first hour, keep the lid on the grill, turning the ribs once after 30 minutes. This allows the ribs to be slowly cooked with indirect heat. Make sure the grill doesn’t go over 200°F or else the ribs will end up being tough and chewy.

After one hour, remove the lid and let the ribs grill for another 40 to 60 minutes. This is the time to add a basting sauce to the ribs. Turn the ribs over a couple of times to ensure the meat is evenly cooked. Once ready, remove from the grill and let the ribs sit for another 20 minutes. This allows for the juices to settle into the meat and keep them moist. Cut into pieces and serve up to your guests.

A Final Word

Every cook has their preferred way of grilling ribs. Some like to boil their ribs before grilling while others choose to steam, marinade, or use a brine solution to tenderize their ribs. I always say give each way a try and see which one you like. After all, cooking is meant to be an adventure and you can have fun trying out the different methods and recipes.

Should You Boil Ribs Before Grilling? (Yes and No!) - BBQ Starts Here (9)

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Should You Boil Ribs Before Grilling? (Yes and No!) - BBQ Starts Here? ›

Boiling the meat not only renders out the fat but it also naturally releases the natural juices of the spareribs

Spare ribs, also called "spareribs" or "side ribs," are taken from the belly side of the rib cage, below the section of back ribs, and above the sternum (breast bone). Spareribs are flatter and contain more bone than meat but more fat, making the ribs more tender than back ribs. › wiki › Pork_ribs
, both of which are important to maintaining the true flavor of the ribs.

Is it better to boil ribs before BBQ? ›

The reason you would boil ribs before cooking them is simple. This process helps tenderize the ribs and makes them more juicy. It not only shortens the cooking time significantly, but it also helps make the meat far easier to chew.

Can you boil ribs and then grill them? ›

Boil until the ribs are slightly soft but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. Prepare a grill for high heat. Transfer the ribs to the grill, meatier-side down. Grill for 10 minutes; brush with glaze if you like and then grill another 3 minutes.

How long should I boil my ribs before I put them on the grill? ›

Place ribs in a large pot and cover with water. Stir in kosher salt, garlic powder, and pepper, and bring water to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil until ribs are tender, 40 to 45 minutes.

Should I broil ribs before grilling? ›

If you want succulent, fall-off-the-bone BBQ ribs then the only way to go is to bake them in the oven first, and then finish them off on the grill.

Do ribs get more tender the longer you boil them? ›

What longer cooking times do to beef ribs. You would think that longer cooking times would simply mean more tender, succulent beef. Sadly, this is simply not the case. Cooking any kind of meat for too long will usually leave it dry, tough, and utterly unappealing.

Does boiling ribs take away flavor? ›

Boiling the meat not only renders out the fat but it also naturally releases the natural juices of the spareribs, both of which are important to maintaining the true flavor of the ribs. Parboiling doesn't remove much of the natural flavor, but there will still be some loss.

How do you pre boil ribs? ›

What is this? Heat over a medium-high heat until the water comes to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low boil. Cook gently until the ribs are slightly soft - not falling apart - which should take around 25 minutes. Carefully remove the ribs and pat them dry, then prepare as desired.

Should I bake ribs before grilling? ›

Follow this tip: Pre-cooking the ribs before they hit the grill not only gives you more control over the cooking temperature, but it can also make for more tender meat. You can oven-bake, boil, or even use the slow cooker for pre-cooking before firing up the grill.

What is the best way to season ribs? ›

Best spices for rib dry rub
  1. Brown sugar.
  2. Paprika.
  3. Chili powder.
  4. Granulated garlic.
  5. Granulated onion.
  6. Black pepper.
  7. White pepper.
  8. Cayenne.
May 31, 2020

How long should I cook ribs? ›

Depending on the heat of your grill, your ribs should take about 1 ½ to 2 hours in total. Use visual cues to know when your ribs are done—you want them to be tender and easily pierced with a fork, but not completely falling off the bone.

What's the best way to cook a rack of ribs? ›

The best, most fool-proof way to make sure that your ribs are fall off the bone tender is to bake them, covered, at a low temperature in your oven. We bake our ribs in a 275° F oven for two to three hours. It is this simple method that guarantees tender ribs!

Why are my ribs not pulling back from the bone? ›

If the meat falls off the bone, it's overcooked. It should have a little chew to it. On the other hand, if the meat doesn't pull away from the bone, it's undercooked.

Should ribs be directly on grill or foil? ›

While using foil to cook ribs may seem like an unlikely concept, it actually speeds up the cooking process without sacrificing flavor and tenderness. The tight packet helps to trap the flavors in, keeping the meat tender and juicy while cutting the grilling time in half.

Do you flip ribs on the grill? ›

A rack of back ribs will take between 1 1/2 -2 hours to cook (with lid closed), and you should flip them approximately every 20 minutes. Baste with BBQ sauce each time you flip. To check for doneness and tenderness, insert a sharp-knife between two ribs, it should insert without any resistance.

How do restaurants make ribs so tender? ›

Brisket & ribs require a lot of time at low temperatures to render fat & connective tissues out to make the meat tender & juicy. this means 18 or more hours ahead of serving time for brisket and 4–6 hours for ribs.

Are boiled ribs good? ›

The Ribs are Tender and Flavorful! As long as you've stored cooked ribs properly in the fridge, and they smell good, then you can go right ahead and enjoy them cold. You can even make a cold meat sandwich or a nice fresh meat salad. However, sometimes you just want to sink your teeth into some hot, juicy ribs.

What happens if you over boil ribs? ›

One thing is certain about ribs and pork: If you overcook them, they do become dry and tough. There is something very important to learn with the “low and slow” cooking method employed here. One thing is certain about ribs and pork: If you overcook them, they do become dry and tough.

Why boil ribs in vinegar? ›

Essentially, the vinegar solution "cleanses" the meat and makes the flavors shine through without any "gamey" flavor. According to Elizabeth, you don't need a charcoal grill to achieve deliciously-barbequed ribs.

Why do you soak ribs in soda? ›

These beauties are marinated for 24 hours in Coca-Cola (my all time fav soft drink) which breaks down the meat and makes it extra tender and it leaves the ribs infused with just the right amount of sugar.

What tenderizes ribs? ›

Rub both sides of the ribs well with lime juice. Remember, we're not making this taste like lime, lime is a natural meat tenderizer. Lime is a natural meat tenderizer.

How long does it take to parboil pork? ›

Put the entire pork belly in a stockpot and add enough water to cover the meat completely. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium. Parboil the pork belly, uncovered, for 20 minutes, continuously skimming off the scum that forms on the surface. Drain, and let the pork belly cool.

Should I boil ribs in beer? ›

The first secret to making these ribs is the prep. Boiling them in beer until they are tender and cooked. Then placing them on the grill to get that small amount of 'char' and covering them in homemade BBQ sauce.

How long to cook ribs in oven at 350 after boiling? ›

Bake for 45 mins. on 350ºF. To cook on the grill, after boiling, cook for approximately 20 minutes over medium heat, turning the ribs frequently. Keep a water bottle handy in case of flare ups from pork drippings.

How do you keep ribs juicy on the grill? ›

Adding Moisture while Smoking Ribs

A simple rib spritz is equal parts apple cider vinegar and apple juice or water. So for one cup of apple juice you add one cup of apple cider vinegar. The added moisture to the cooking chamber really helps with color on the smoked ribs and keeping the texture moist.

Do you put oil on ribs before grilling? ›

You can coat the ribs with olive oil or mustard first to help it stick. Then, use your hands to spread it evenly on the surface of the ribs. The thick coating of the rub will keep the meat moist and tender while giving it a flavorful exterior.

Why did my ribs turn out tough? ›

If your ribs are chewy, you either forgot to remove the membrane from the back of the ribs or you didn't cook them long enough. If your ribs are dry, you likely cooked them too hot and fast.

When should I season my ribs before grilling? ›

Seasoning: You can clean and season the ribs the night before or about an hour before smoking. If you will season the night before, make sure to place them on a metal rimmed tray and cover with plastic wrap air-tight. (Keep in refrigerator if holding them overnight.)

Do you bake ribs meat side up or bone side up? ›

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil, then place the meat side down. The extra fat on the bone side of the rib will cook down and add more flavor as they bake. You can flip them when you stop to baste the ribs for even cooking.

Do you put mustard or rub on ribs first? ›

A very popular technique in the BBQ community is to rub your ribs in mustard before applying your rub. It is said to help the rub adhere to the meat.

How do you give ribs more flavor? ›

The best rubs start with sugar. I love brown sugar as a base for rib seasoning because it caramelizes as it cooks. Sweet flavors and pork are a perfect match. Adding in paprika gives it a tasty, earthy kick.

Should I use spices or sauce for cooking ribs? ›

Use Both a Rub + a Sauce

As a fatty cut, ribs take well to spice rubs, but we love our ribs with some sticky barbecue sauce too. Just apply the rub as you normally would before cooking, and then brush the glaze on in the last 5 minutes on the grill to achieve the perfect crusty, gooey ribs.

Is it better to cook ribs slow or fast? ›

Indirect, low heat will help create tender meat that will easily tear off of the bone. It can be tempting to try and grill them faster over direct, high heat, but going low and slow will allow you to create some ribs that will impress your guests, and your taste buds.

At what temp are ribs most tender? ›

Most ribs hit their sweet spot for doneness around 198 degrees F, but some take until 203 degrees F to be perfectly tender. This spread in final temperature is one reason why thermometers are a great jumping off-point for rib perfection, but not the be-all-end-all indicator.

Should ribs be cooked covered or uncovered? ›

Do you bake ribs covered or uncovered? You can cook ribs either covered with foil or uncovered. Foil is used to stop the meat from drying out but is not essential. If cooking uncovered and you notice the meat is drying out or browning too quickly, you can cover with foil for the remaining cook time.

Do you cook ribs on the bottom or top rack? ›

Rib meat is stiff and takes a lengthy period to break down and become soft, and an oven is an excellent place for gradual and consistent cooking. Placing the ribs on a baking sheet on top of a rack allows the heat to flow evenly around them.

What ribs are best for grilling? ›

Louis-style ribs are the meatiest and most flavorful cut of ribs. There is a lot of bone that yields a high amount of fat giving them a lot of flavor and tenderness.

Why do my ribs hurt and stick out? ›

If your rib cage is slightly uneven or protruding, it may be due to a muscle weakness. Your abdominal muscles play a large role in holding your rib cage in place. If your muscles on one side of your body are weaker, it may be causing one side of your rib cage to stick out or sit unevenly.

How long does it take for a rib to go back in place? ›

Sometimes, the dislocated rib will heal on its own without any treatment. This usually takes about 6 weeks.

Why do my ribs keep popping out of place? ›

Causes of slipping rib syndrome

Slipping rib syndrome occurs when intercostal cartilage between the ribs weakens and allows movement. This movement is often known as hypermobility. Movement of the cartilage may occur due to physical damage, congenital anomaly, or be of unknown origin.

How long do you boil ribs before barbecuing? ›

Boil until the ribs are slightly soft but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. Prepare a grill for high heat. Transfer the ribs to the grill, meatier-side down. Grill for 10 minutes; brush with glaze if you like and then grill another 3 minutes.

Which side up for ribs in foil? ›

The dull side of the foil should wrap around the meat (shiny side out). Lay the ribs meat side down on the middle half of the foil. Add ingredients to add extra flavour and moisture underneath and on top of the meat.

How long to cook ribs on grill before wrapping in foil? ›

5 – Put the ribs, bone side down, on the 180 degree grill for 2 hours. 6 – After 2 hours, it's time to wrap the ribs in foil. Place the ribs meat side down on the foil and wrap tightly. 7 – Put the ribs wrapped in foil back on the grill and increase the grill temperature to 250 degrees for 1 hour.

Do you grill ribs with lid open or closed? ›

With charcoal, the rush of oxygen can burn the food. You'll want to close the lid for things like barbecue chicken, steak, and ribs, and should try not to open it until it's time to flip or remove the food (though you may need to move food more frequently if your grill has hot spots).

Which side of ribs grill first? ›

Place the ribs, bone side down, in the center of the grate over the drip pan and away from the heat. (If your grill has limited space, stand the racks of ribs upright in a rib rack.) If cooking on a charcoal grill, toss half of the wood chips on each mound of coals. Cover the grill and cook the ribs for 45 minutes.

How long do you grill ribs on each side? ›

Place the ribs right on the grill, using tongs to maneuver them into place. Grill, covered, over indirect medium heat for 30 minutes on each side. After the first hour, move the ribs to direct medium heat and cook 20-40 minutes longer, or until the pork is tender (more on this in a minute).

Should you boil meat before grilling? ›

It also can help safeguard against overcooking when grilling. Boiling the meat in brine can give you all of the benefits of a dry brine while also reducing the amount of time you'll need to finish the meat on a grill, stovetop, or oven afterwards.

What is the best technique for grilling ribs? ›

Pretty much every rib recipe out there calls for using a low and slow, indirect grilling method. Grilling them over direct, high heat is a great way to overcook them and have them turn out tough. Indirect, low heat will help create tender meat that will easily tear off of the bone.

What do you soak ribs in before cooking? ›

Soak ribs in apple cider vinegar for two hours. Remove from vinegar, pat dry, and coat ribs with rub evenly on all sides. Place meat-side up in a shallow baking dish, add enough water to coat the bottom of the dish, and wrap tightly with foil. Cook for 3 hours at 300 degrees F.

Why do people boil meat before cooking it? ›

Traditionally, cheaper cuts of meat were used; boiling makes the meat more tender than roasting. It was usually cooked with onions and served with carrots and boiled potatoes. It was not uncommon for the beef to be salted in a brine for a few days, then soaked overnight to remove excess salt before it was boiled.

Should you Precook meat before BBQ? ›

1) Precook Your Meats

Not only will save you time when it comes to grilling your food, it also gives you reassurance that the food is cooked through properly. Most importantly though, less time in front of the bbq means you get more time to socialise with your friends.

What happens if you boil meat instead of simmer? ›

Simmer a pot roast and it becomes tender and moist. Boil it, and you'll be left with tough, chewy meat. Similarly, boiling pasta renders it a perfect al-dente, while simmering makes it gummy and glue-like.

Is it faster to cook ribs in oven or grill? ›

Ovens also have the added benefit of cooking faster than BBQ. Sometimes you can save a half hour, others you can save up to 2 hours of cooking time. If aluminum foil is used, drying out the ribs is impossible, if properly wrapped.

How long do you bake ribs at 350 before grilling? ›

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cut the racks of ribs in half crosswise. ...
  3. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the meat begins to pull away from the ends of the bones and the ribs are just tender, about 1 hour. ...
  4. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat.


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