Whether you love baby back ribs or spare ribs, you want to know how to reheat ribs properly so you don’t dry them out, turning all that beautiful, tender, smoked meat to ruin. So what’s the best way to reheat ribs? Arguably the two best options are using your oven or using your smoker. Both ways allows you to reheat ribs at a low temperature so you can get up to a minimum of 145°F internal temperature without much of a chance of overcooking or drying out your ribs.
So who are we to talk about reheating ribs? Here at Angry BBQ, we’ve spent some time around a lot of racks of ribs. We’ve cooked them on offset smokers, on pellet grills, and even on charcoal grills using indirect heat. We’ve done the work and the research on both cooking and reheating ribs.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the different options for reheating ribs, what the pros and cons are of each, give you a little insight on how to tell if your ribs have gone bad, and even share our favorite way to prepare ribs.
How To Tell If Your Ribs Have Gone Bad
What’s even worse than over-reheated, dried-out ribs? Ribs that have gone bad and will make you and anyone else who eats them sick. All that hard work and preparation gone to waste. So how do you properly protect your ribs from going bad and how do you tell if they’ve gone bad?
For a deep dive on caring for your ribs and how to tell if they’ve gone bad, check out our write-up on how long ribs last in the fridge. For a quick reference guide, The United States Department of Agriculture says you want to reheat or freeze your leftover ribs within four days of smoking them. That means properly storing them in your fridge that’s set for below 40° Fahrenheit in an airtight container or bag. Air is the enemy of keeping leftovers.
As for telling if your ribs have gone bad in the fridge, trust your sense of sight, smell, and touch. Do the ribs look drastically different than when you put them in the fridge? Is the meat graying or turning other colors? How do they smell? Do you smell wood smoke and the sauce or rub, or do you smell something sour or something like ammonia? Do they feel the same or is the texture breaking down? If you’ve answered that your ribs are looking different, smell bad, or feel weird, they’ve likely gone bad. Otherwise, you can proceed with reheating!
How To Reheat Ribs
Like it or not, we’ve all been there. We’ve smoked delicious ribs, whether just sticking with a dry rub or sauced/glazed, but there are actually leftovers. Maybe we had found a great sale, somebody backed out at the last minute, or our kids decide that they dislike ribs today. Regardless of the reason, you’ve got leftover ribs.
Hey, bonus lunch of ribs, right? The last thing you want to do at lunchtime is not reheating your ribs properly and ruin them. Ribs are supposed to be tender, not dry. So what are your options for reheating ribs?
What’s The Proper Internal Temperature For Reheating Ribs?
Just like cooking ribs, you’ve got a target internal temperature for reheating ribs, not an exact time. Per the USDA, you’ll want to take any leftovers that you’re reheating, not just ribs, to 165°F internal temperature.
Should I Let My Ribs Rest At Room Temperature?
You may have heard that you should let your ribs rest on the counter for half an hour before reheating them so they can come up to room temperature. This practice is okay provided you do not let them sit out for much longer than that. You do not want your ribs to spend much time in the “Danger Zone” of 40°-140°F.
Is this a necessity? No, you can reheat your ribs straight out of the refrigerator or freezer.
Reheating Ribs In The Oven
One of the most common ways to reheat ribs in in the oven. It’s easy to manage the temperature, you’ve got room whether you’re reheating three bones or multiple racks, and you don’t have to go far to use your oven.
Use Your Smoker
Your smoker is a great option for reheating ribs, and who doesn’t love firing up their smoker? If it’s great for smoking ribs in the first place, it should be great for reheating them low-and-slow so they don’t dry out. You can even get a little bit more smoke flavor, too.
Can You Reheat Ribs On The Grill?
Maybe you don’t want to fire up your smoker just to reheat some ribs. The process of getting your smoker started and dialed in, especially if you’re using an offset smoker, can be a little time-consuming. You can use your grill to reheat ribs as well. Just set it up for indirect heat and you can even throw some wood chips in for a little extra wood flavor.
Reheating In An Air Fryer?
Air fryers are one of the most popular cooking appliances out there right now and for good reason. They’re simple to use, are versatile, and you can get crispy food without submerging them in quarts of oil (not that we aren’t against deep-fried food, but everything in moderation!) Is an air fryer good for reheating ribs, though? An air fryer can get the job done quickly, especially if you’re only reheating a few bones, and it can add a little crispiness to the bark for a different experience.
Reheating Ribs Via Sous Vide
While sous vide may be more commonly used for cooking, you can certainly reheat ribs using a sous vide method. This works quite well if you’ve stored your ribs in a vacuum-sealed bag. It ensures you don’t lose any moisture while reheating because of the vacuum-sealed bag and you don’t run the risk of burning the exterior of the ribs.
Can You Reheat Ribs In The Microwave?
The answer is technically yes, but this method is where you run some of the biggest risks of doing damage to your ribs. You can easily dry your ribs out or even overcook them while trying to bring them up to temperature. A microwave is one of the ways that you have the least control over, especially compared to methods like the oven, smoker, or sous vide. However, we have some tips coming up for how to help microwave your ribs as best as possible, so make sure you keep reading.
Now that we know some of the common ways of reheating ribs, let’s dive into why the smoker and the oven are the best options, and how to reheat ribs in all these different ways.
How To Reheat Ribs On The Smoker
If you’re curious about how to reheat ribs properly, it likely means you’re a fan of wood-smoked ribs. So it makes a lot of sense to use your smoker to reheat those same ribs. You’ll get to add a little more smoke flavor and you can ensure that you’re reheating the ribs at a nice low-and-slow pace to help keep them full of moisture. This is one of our favorite ways to reheat ribs.
So what’s the proper way to reheat your ribs on the smoker? If you’ve got an offset smoker, start your fire and set your vents to keep it steady at 250°F. If you’ve got a pellet grill or any other electronically-controlled smoker, set it to 250°F and let it preheat. If you like sauced ribs, you’ll want some extra sauce on hand, otherwise some honey and butter or your preferred liquid (like apple juice or apple cider vinegar) will do the trick. This will help create extra moisture to keep the ribs from drying out. You’ll also need some aluminum foil to wrap the ribs. You can also put them in a disposable roasting pan as well.
- Preheat your smoker to 250°F
- If using aluminum foil, cut off enough foil to wrap the ribs securely in two layers. Otherwise, place the ribs in the roasting pan.
- Coat the ribs in your preferred barbecue sauce if you want sauced ribs, or add three pats of 1 tbsp each butter, a drizzle of honey, and some fresh barbecue rub if you do not want sauce, then wrap the ribs tightly. You can also add a small amount of apple juice or apple cider vinegar.
- Wrap the ribs or cover the roasting pan tightly with aluminum foil.
- Place the ribs on the preheated smoker to begin warming
- Monitor the internal temperature using an instant-read thermometer like the ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE. Once the temperature reaches 145°F, pull the ribs out of the wrap and return them to the smoker.
- Once the temperature reaches 160°F, remove them from the smoker and let them stand for 10 minutes. Then enjoy!
How To Reheat Ribs In The Oven
The other best way to reheat leftover ribs is in the oven. While it doesn’t add any extra flavor like the smoker, it still offers the same degree of control as the smoker while in some cases being more convenient. The process is largely the same as well. Preheat your oven to 250°F, wrap your ribs in aluminum foil or place them in a roasting pan, and reheat them until the proper temperature. You can even get your barbecue sauce to caramelize a little bit in the oven, too!
- Preheat your oven to 250°F
- Cut enough aluminum foil to wrap your ribs securely with two layers
- Lay out the two layers of aluminum foil then place the ribs in the top layer
- Sauce your ribs or simply add three tablespoons of butter, divided, honey, and extra barbecue rub. Then wrap the ribs tightly.
- Place the ribs in the preheated oven.
- Monitor the internal temperature of the ribs with an instant-read meat thermometer
- Once the ribs have reached 165°F, open the wrap and turn your oven’s broiler on low.
- Let the ribs broil for two to three minutes aside until you get the caramelization/charring you desire, then remove them from the oven and enjoy!
How To Reheat Ribs On The Grill
Once you get away from reheating ribs on the smoker or in the oven, the majority of the reheating options have some more pronounced drawbacks. While reheatings ribs on a charcoal or gas grill can be a reasonable option instead of on a smoker, it isn’t quite the same. You may not get your temperatures dialed in exactly like you would with a smoker. A gas grill doesn’t offer the same great taste, but you can mask that with wood chips.
If you want to reheat your ribs on the grill, you’ll need the same basic ingredients as you did for the smoker or the oven: aluminum foil and barbecue sauce or butter, honey, and dry rub. You’ll also want wood chips for some wood flavor at the end.
- Set up your grill for indirect heat, aiming for as close to 250°F on the indirect side as possible.
- Cut enough aluminum foil to wrap your ribs tightly in two layers.
- If you like your ribs with sauce, coat them liberally with your favorite BBQ sauce. Otherwise, add three pats of butter, a drizzle of honey, and your favorite dry rub. Then wrap the ribs tightly.
- Place the ribs on the indirect side of your grill.
- Prepare wood chips for the grill by wrapping some in a foil packet and poking it full of holes.
- Once the ribs have reached around 155°F, remove them from the grill. Add the foil packets over the heat source, then return the unwrapped ribs to the grill over the heat.
- Cook them to your desired level of char and caramelization, then remove and let rest 10 minutes. Enjoy!
How To Reheat Ribs In An Air Fryer
This one might throw you for a loop. Reheating ribs in an air fryer? This will quickly reheat your ribs and add a level of crispness to the ribs’ bark. You should probably only do this if crispy ribs sounds enjoyable to you. This doesn’t require a lot of extra ingredients which is nice, but you do need to do a little bit of extra preparation if you haven’t already cut up your leftover ribs. Also make sure you have a large enough air fryer like the Ninja below.
- Preheat your air fryer to 350°F. If your air fryer is a little older, just run it at 350°F for five minutes prior to placing ribs in the basket.
- Slice your ribs into individual bones. This allows the air fryer to heat everything more evenly.
- Lightly cover your ribs in oil. This will help both with the crispiness factor as well as help with keeping your ribs moist.
- Place your ribs in the air fryer basket and set the timer for five minutes.
- Check the internal temperature. If the ribs have reach 160°-165°F, they are done. If not, add time as needed.
- Warm up some barbecue sauce in the microwave or on the stove for dipping and enjoy!
How To Reheat Ribs Using A Sous Vide Method
Typically, we think of sous vide being used to cook steaks prior to searing. However, you can put a hot water bath to good use for reheating your ribs. This method will ensure perfectly-reheated ribs that do not lose any amount of moisture due to the vacuum-sealed bag. However, this method does require you to have a sous vide machine and vacuum-sealing capabilities. You could possibly heat water and monitor its temperature constantly, but you cannot safely reheat ribs using this method without having them sealed properly in a water-tight bag.
Just know that this method will also take longer, as the typical rule of thumb is that reheating via sous vide takes roughly 45 minutes per inch of the food’s thickness. If you don’t have a Sous Vide, check out the unit below. Quality and affordable.
- If you haven’t already, use a vacuum sealer to seal the ribs. You can add sauce or extra rub if you’d like, but it’s not a necessity as you are going to use temperatures that won’t dry the ribs out.
- Preheat your water to 165°F in a large pot or other container large enough to hold the ribs and withstand the heat from the sous vide.
- Place the sealed bag of ribs into the water.
- Let the ribs warm up at the rate of 45 minutes per inch thickness. Since you are reheating at 165°F, the target temperature, you can let it go a little longer if you aren’t completely sure.
- Remove the ribs from the water, open the bag, and enjoy!
Should I Reheat My Ribs In The Microwave?
Let’s face it, most of us think of the microwave as our first option when reheating leftovers. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it shuts off when the timer ends. However, using the microwave isn’t the most consistent way to reheat food. The energy produced by microwaves is more efficiently absorbed by food with a higher moisture content while foods with lower moisture content reheat more slowly.
That efficiency can also backfire, causing your food to dry out. That’s what we’re trying to prevent here, right? However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use your microwave to reheat your ribs in a pinch. You just need to make sure you’re accounting for that inherent moisture loss.
There are two main ways you could help ensure your ribs don’t dry out in the microwave. The first one is by getting two paper towels soaked in water then putting the ribs on top of one and laying the second on top of the ribs.
The second option is to put a small microwave-safe bowl or cup filled with water in the microwave. This can help keep moisture in the meat and even potentially add steam.
Regardless of which method you choose, make sure you’re doing something to keep the moisture in your ribs if you’re microwaving them.
- Either A: Soak two paper towels in water, then sandwich the ribs in between them on a microwave-safe dish, or B: Place the ribs on a microwave-safe dish and place it in the microwave with a microwave-safe cup filled with water.
- After the ribs are prepared in whichever method you choose and are in the microwave, reheat them on medium power for 1-2 minutes depending on your microwave power.
- Check the internal temperature using that instant-read thermometer mentioned earlier to see if it has reached 165°F.
- Continue to reheat the ribs as needed in short intervals to ensure you don’t overcook them.
- Once the ribs have reached 165°F, remove them and let them rest for five to 10 minutes, then enjoy!
Wrapping It Up (Just Like The Ribs)
If you’re reheating leftover ribs, the best way in our opinion is to fire up your smoker and reheat them there. You’ll help add more smoky flavor at the end, plus we just love getting to use our smokers. An oven is just as easy and can be even more convenient, especially if the weather is bad.
If you’re struggling to cook the perfect rack of ribs, check out Michael Haas’ article on why you shouldn’t use the 3-2-1 method. This will help you get tender ribs without the fall-off-the-bone overcooked texture.
Do you have a go-to dry rub or barbecue sauce for when you’re smoking ribs? Let us know in the comments!
Q: Is there a difference between reheating pork ribs and beef ribs?
A: There is no major difference in the process between the two types of ribs. The only thing to consider is whether you sauce your beef ribs or not. If you don’t, then use apple juice or apple cider vinegar to help keep the ribs moist during the reheating process. Otherwise the target temperatures and processes are the same.