How to Easily Cook Pork Ribs 3 Different Ways
Crowd-pleasing pork ribs can be jazzed up with different rubs and marinades every time you make them. Here you'll learn how to roast ribs in the oven, braise them in a slow cooker, or take them outdoors to the grill so you can make your favorite pork ribs recipe using whichever method you like best.
Knowing how to make tender, juicy pork ribs is a must for any cook or grill master who loves country-style pork ribs, dry-rubbed ribs, or just ribs in general. We have the answers to all of your questions about making pork ribs, including how to choose your ribs and how to season them, plus three different cooking methods (including how to cook pork ribs in the oven, on the grill, and in your slow cooker). We'll also share some of our favorite pork rib recipes so you can be ready to serve this favorite meal for any upcoming occasion.
How to Roast Pork Ribs in the Oven
Making pork ribs in the oven is an easy way to cook them because it's mostly hands-off. Once the ribs are cut into portions (if desired) and seasoned as you like with a rub, you need to follow just two steps. Here's how to roast pork ribs (specifically pork loin back ribs) expertly:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Place rib portions or rack of ribs, bone sides down, in a shallow roasting pan ($40, Bed Bath & Beyond). Roast, covered with foil, 2 to 2½ hours. Drain fat.
- If desired, brush ribs with sauce. Continue to roast, uncovered, about 15 minutes more or until the ribs are tender, basting once with sauce, if desired. Try the method in these saucy roasted ribs and use a sweet and spicy rub.
How to Grill Pork Ribs
Take advantage of gorgeous weather by cooking your pork ribs on the grill ($200, The Home Depot). They'll be juicy and tender with an added smoky flavor from the grill. To grill pork ribs, follow these steps:
- For a charcoal grill, arrange medium-hot coals around a drip pan. Test for medium heat above the pan. Place ribs, bone sides down, on the grill rack over the drip pan.
- Cover and grill for 1½ to 2 hours or until the ribs are tender, using a basting brush ($10, Target) to coat occasionally with desired sauce during the last 15 minutes of grilling.
- For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Adjust for indirect cooking and grill as above, except place ribs in a roasting pan. Try grilling these reggae baby back ribs (pictured above) at home and see how delicious grilled ribs can be.
How to Cook Pork Ribs in a Slow Cooker
Cooking pork ribs low and slow requires a little extra patience but yields super-delish results. You can get these ribs started in the morning, then come home at the end of the day to a mouthwatering dinner. Here's how to slow-cook pork ribs:
- If desired, brown the ribs under the broiler. Preheat broiler. Place the rib portions on the unheated rack of a broiler pan ($35, Bed Bath & Beyond). Broil ribs 6 inches from the heat about 10 minutes or until browned, turning once.
- Transfer the ribs to a slow cooker ($70, Target). Pour a purchased or prepared sauce over the ribs as directed in your recipe.
- Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 3½ hours. Skim fat from sauce in slow cooker; serve sauce with ribs.
Cooking Pork Ribs: The Basics
There are a few different types of ribs. Most of our recipes call for pork loin back ribs, but here are the types of pork ribs you'll find in your grocery store:
- Spareribs are cut from the belly (side) and have up to 14 ribs per slab (also called a rack). Look for a slab that weighs at least 3 pounds, is well trimmed, and has good layer of lean meat on the ribs, especially on the larger end of the slab. Plan on having three servings per slab.
- Loin back ribs come from the blade and center section of a pig's loin and are also called baby back ribs because they are smaller than spareribs. Back ribs should be meaty and lean, so look for ribs with at least 1 inch of meat attached to the bone. Each slab usually contains 10 to 13 ribs and weighs 1-1/2 to 2 pounds. Figure on about half a slab per person. These also make great appetizers when cut into individual ribs.
- Country-style ribs are the meatiest of the rib varieties and are cut from the sirloin end of the pork loin. They are better for fork-and-knife eating than as finger food and are just as versatile as the other rib cuts. This cut is often used for braising and it does well in the slow cooker. Country-style ribs are sold in slabs and individual servings.
Cutting the Ribs and Seasoning Ribs
If desired, cut the ribs into serving-size portions. Using a chef's knife, cut between the rib bones to make two- to three-rib portions. Before cooking the ribs, you can boost the flavor with a marinade or a dry rub. This step is optional, but it will definitely make your ribs tastier.
- To marinate: Place ribs in a clean resealable bag inside a dish or a covered container. Add desired marinade and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, turning ribs occasionally.
- To add a rub: Sprinkle each rib section evenly with a spice or herb mixture and rub it into the meat with your fingers. If possible after adding the rub, refrigerate ribs, covered, for 2 to 24 hours before cooking to allow the flavors to soak into the meat.
How to Tell When Ribs Are Done
There are several helpful cues to tell when your ribs are done cooking.
- Bone Tips: When the ribs are close to being done, the meat will begin to retract, exposing the rib tips.
- U Shape: Hold the rack of ribs in the middle with tongs. When they are cooked, the rack will sag in a reverse U shape. The meat may crack, too, which is a good doneness sign.
- Rib Twist: Grab an exposed bone tip with tongs and gently twist. If the bone turns easily, the ribs are done.
- Toothpick Test: The rib meat is tender when a toothpick easily penetrates the meat between the ribs.
Put your pork rib knowledge to good use by grilling some chili-rubbed baby back ribs. Get sticky with our slow-cooked barbecue country-style ribs. Or try Trisha Yearwood's amazing oven-baked ribs. Oh, and don't forget to pair with some classic sides such as coleslaw, baked beans, and corn on the cob.