If you manage to cook them right, a rack of ribs can taste as succulent as a steak. Get things wrong, though, and you’ll end up with a dry and tasteless mass.
When you’re grilling, leftovers come with the territory, but how can you reheat your leftover ribs without turning them into a dried out monstrosity?
Well, we’ll walk you through this today with the options of several different methods. Before anything else, though, you need to get the basics of rib storage in place.
I. Rib Storage: Get Things Started The Right Way
If you’re left with a pile of leftover ribs, it’s vital to store them correctly. Leave cooked meat sitting around and it will dry out at the same time as allowing bacteria to accumulate.
When you’re keeping cooked meat, it should be stored below 40F or above 140F for safety’s sake.
As soon as meat comes off the grill and starts cooling, it enters the danger zone. Wait no more than 2 hours before putting any leftover ribs away. If it’s especially hot outside, bacteria will thrive and proliferate even more rapidly. You need to stash cooked ribs within the hour when the mercury rises to 90F or above.
Now, if you’re faced with a substantial rack of ribs, cooling the whole rack to below 40F quickly can be challenging. Instead, cut the rack down to size pre-storage. This will help them to chill more efficiently, and it will also ensure the ribs are in convenient portions for reheating – more on that below.
If you pay attention to these temperature guidelines, a properly stored rack of pork ribs will last 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator. As ribs age, they will lose their taste and they can also become contaminated. Frozen ribs should last almost indefinitely, although they are best consumed within 2 or 3 months.
OK, before we showcase how to reheat ribs the easy way, a few words on the right temperature to use when you’re doing this.
II. What Is a Safe Temperature for Reheated Ribs?
Different kinds of meat have different minimum internal temperatures you should shoot for so they are safe to eat. How about when you’re reheating meat, though?
Well, according to USDA guidelines, pork and beef must be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145F to kill all the bacteria. Since you will likely have cooked your ribs even hotter than that, probably around 160F, these initial bacteria will, of course, remain dead.
Unfortunately, new bacteria can make its way into your meat between cooking and refrigerating or freezing. This occurs while the meat is cooling down.
So, you’re well advised to bring your ribs back up to at least 145F when you’re reheating them to err on the side of caution.
Right, now for the main event today with our quick guide to bringing leftover ribs safely back to their best – or as close to their best as possible!
III. How to Reheat Ribs in the Oven
Reheating beef ribs in the oven couldn’t be easier.
- Set the oven to 250F and allow it to preheat. Reheating your ribs more slowly at a lower temperature like this allows you to retain as much moisture as possible in the process
- Place a large sheet of aluminum foil so it completely wraps the ribs without fitting too snugly. You need some room for the moisture to take effect
- Pop your ribs on this sheet of foil
- Add a quarter cup of water and then wrap the foil around the ribs. Add some beef broth at this stage if you fancy
- Place the ribs inside the oven on a baking sheet
- Cook the ribs for as long as required to hit an internal temperature of 165F. A smoker thermometer is ideal for measuring temperature when you’re grilling. It will likely take around 30 minutes to reheat your ribs in the oven
IV. How to Reheat Ribs on the BBQ
- Preheat your grill to 250F
- Wrap your ribs in some aluminum foil. Use a second layer to lock in as much moisture as possible when you’re reheating those ribs
- Place the ribs on the grill in a zone with indirect heat
- Warm the ribs until the internal temperature hits 165F and serve!
V. The Best Way To Reheat Ribs: Sous-Vide
Sous vide cookery is a cooking technique professional chefs have used for years, but it’s more commonly used in home kitchen these days.
While sous vide might look complicated, it’s actually very simple. It also happens to be arguably the best method for reheating ribs.
The principle of sous vide is straightforward: you cook food using hot water. Controlling the temperature of water in a pot boiling on the stove is simple. When you immerse your meat or ribs in a sealed bag in this water, you know you’ll get a consistent temperature that will never exceed 212F (the boiling point of water, and you know that you will never burn the meat either.
When you use this technique for reheating ribs, you avoid exposing them to fire or heated elements, both liable to dry out your ribs.
You can use a dedicated sous vide machine, or you can use a large pot of water and the stove top.
- Bring your machine or a pot of water to 165F
- Add your vacuum bags of ribs to the water or machine
- The bags should sit in the bath of hot water for 45 minutes for each inch of thickness
- When reheating ribs from frozen, add 30 minutes to the cooking time
Even if this method takes the better part of an hour, it’s hassle-free and gives you guaranteed results with moist ribs that will fall of the bone.
VI. Can You Microwave Ribs in an Emergency?
While reheating ribs using the sous vide method is widely recognized as the best option, microwaving them is potentially the worst. It also happens to be the most convenient option, though, so nuking ribs rates a mention in closing.
When you’re reheating ribs, moisture is crucial. If you’re planning to microwave your ribs, try soaking a couple of paper towels in water and then wringing them out. Place one over the container with your ribs, and one underneath it. This water will turn rapidly into steam in the microwave, so your ribs will stay moist and tender, and the fat and BBQ sauce shouldn’t end up splattered all over the walls of your microwave.
You should microwave ribs on medium power for between 2 and 3 minutes, pausing to check the internal temperature. Once they reach 140F, the ribs are ready to serve. If you need a little more heat, cook the ribs in bursts of 30 seconds until you reach the desired internal temperature.
VII. Don’t Forget To Add Moisture
Before we round out today, we’ll return to the comment we’ve made repeatedly about moisture. Moisture is your friend when you’re reheating ribs.
It never hurts to give your ribs a helping hand on this front. Adding water into the broiling pan or foil when you’re cooking ribs will introduce some steam and moisture into the meat.
You could also try applying an extra layer of BBQ sauce, as this will also add some precious moisture.
Many people swear by saving the juices and drippings for reheating ribs.
Many other liquids can work just as well as water, though. Apple cider and apple juice both work wonderfully with pork ribs.
Beef ribs, on the other hand, respond very well to beer and beef broth. Coke also works well and adds a new dimension to the flavor.
Whatever liquid you choose, pour it directly over your ribs or pour some into the bottom of your foil wrap and allow it to pool. You just need to keep a close eye on proceedings if you’re using coke so you don’t end up with the ribs burning.
Well, as you can see from today’s guide on how to reheat ribs, there’s more than one solution to this age-old problem.
While you may never have experimented with sous-vide cookery before, it’s well worth giving this innovative cooking method a try if you want succulent reheated ribs done to perfection.
If this seems like too much trouble, you can always reheat your ribs using the oven or grill. At a push, you could even microwave leftover ribs, but you won’t achieve the same lip-smacking taste.
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