What is the Perfect Temperature to Cook Pork Ribs?

If you’ve been to a pork restaurant or barbecue restaurant lately, you might have eaten pork ribs. When cooked properly, the meat practically falls off the bone and the meat can melt in your mouth. Replicating this can be hard to do at home if you don’t have much experience with cooking ribs. With the right technique and ingredients though, you can make delicious pork ribs right in the comfort of your own kitchen. 

One of the keys to getting fall off the bone meat is to actually cook the pork ribs past the temperature of doneness. This process is called rendering and will slowly melt the fat of the ribs and then relax the collagen. The relaxed collagen allows more water into the muscle fibers, which makes gelatin. 

Technique and Temperature for Cooking the Perfect Pork Ribs 

Smoking or slow roasting is the best way to restaurant-quality moist ribs. Slow roasting is an easy technique to master and the results are consistent, so you never need to worry about messing it up. 

Follow these steps to get started:

  • Prepare the ribs with your favorite rub or buy a nice rub from the grocery store or a meat market.
  • Preheat your smoker. If you don’t have a smoker, you can use a charcoal grill or a gas grill. Preheat it to 225 degrees. 
  • Smoke or slow cook them for 3 hours always using indirect heat. Don’t put them directly over the fire or the heat. 
  • After 3 hours, wrap the ribs in foil with some of the cooking juices. 
  • Continue cooking for 2 hours. 
  • Unwrap the ribs and then cook for one more hour. 
  • You can now add the sauce you want to use on the ribs. 
  • Either sear them after adding the sauce or slow cook for another 30 to 60 minutes. 

Sauce for the Ribs 

Wondering what kind of sauce to put on the ribs? Basically, anything works, but here are some choices you can use if you aren’t sure what to use. 

Barbecue Sauce

Use store-bought barbecue sauce and add in some Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and brown sugar 

Spicy Barbecue Sauce

Combine barbecue sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, oregano, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, and cayenne pepper

Sweet Barbecue Sauce

Ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, raspberries, sweet onion, garlic, ground mustard 

If you don’t have any ingredients to add to the barbecue sauce, you can always use your favorite barbecue sauce on its own. Just make sure you coat the ribs evenly in a sauce that will add maximum flavor to the ribs you’re making. 

Cooking the Ribs Past Done 

As mentioned in the introduction, you will want to cook the ribs past done. While you only need to cook the ribs to 145 degrees F to be safe to eat, this temperature is not hot enough for the ribs to start making gelatin. The ribs need to at least reach 165 degrees F to become tender. 

It’s recommended you keep cooking the ribs until they reach 195 degrees F and up to 203 degrees F for the best flavor and quality. You can use a meat thermometer, but make sure you are cooking it properly. The meat closer to the bones will always be warmer than the meat in the middle, so try to measure different temperatures in different parts of the meat. Thinner meat probes will also work better than thick ones. 

How Do I Know When My Ribs are Ready? 

These techniques often work better than the meat probe because the probe can be pretty unreliable when it comes to ribs. There are several different tips and techniques you can use to make sure your ribs are ready to eat and have reached the perfect temperature. 

One easy way to tell if the ribs are done is to use the bend test. Use tongs to bounce or bend them gently. Cracks should appear on the meat between the bones. 

You can also twist the bone in the middle and see if the meat starts to break free. The bone should not slide out though. 

You can also use a wooden toothpick and press it between the bones. There should be little to no resistance. 

Final Thoughts 

Cooking pork ribs can be easy and fun with the right technique. Cooking the ribs past done will allow the collagen to melt and give you meat that falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. 

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