What to Do With Overcooked Ribs

by | Aug 29, 2023 | Grilling | 0 comments

What to Do With Overcooked Ribs

No matter how much of an expert you are at grilling ribs, there are times when you might end up overcooking them. 

However, the question is what are you even supposed to do with overcooked ribs? Is there a way to fix them? 

The best way to fix overcooked ribs is to rub a mixture of apple cider vinegar and barbeque sauce on the overcooked ribs. Then, put it in a foil paper and place it in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour. You can also go for shredding the meat and using it as a filling. 

In this article, I’ve talked about overcooked ribs, what to do with them, how to avoid overcooking and many more. So, let’s get into it!

Signs of Overcooked Ribs 

Some people don’t even realize the reason why the ribs don’t taste good is because they’re overcooked.

Now, there are a few sure-shot signs to recognize overcooked ribs. These are listed below. 

  1. Meat is Falling Off the Bone 

This sign sounds surprising, doesn’t it? We often read about how the rib meat should fall off the bone after cooking. So, how is the meat overcooked? 

Well, here’s the truth. You don’t need to cook ribs until the meat falls off the bone. Instead, you need to stop cooking right before that. This way, the meat is tender, soft, and cooked to perfection. 

You should be able to remove the meat from the bone easily. It shouldn’t come off by itself. 

  1. Dry and Chewy Texture

The biggest problem with overcooked ribs is that they become dry. 

When you overcook the ribs, the juices and moisture required to keep the meat tender evaporate. 

So, when you consume the meat, you’ll have to keep chewing on it as if it’s a piece of chewing gum!

  1. Internal Temperature

The internal temperature of cooked ribs needs to be between 190 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature goes beyond 205 degrees Fahrenheit, you might’ve overcooked the ribs. 

  1. Clear Signs of Overcooking

You don’t even have to check for signs of overcooking sometimes. You’ll notice that the meat looks more brown and burnt than usual. It may also smell burnt instead of smelling aromatic and smoky. 

What Can You Do With Overcooked Ribs?

If the ribs are completely burnt, there’s not much that you can do apart from throwing them in the bin (sadly). 

However, if the ribs are slightly overcooked, there are certain ways to fix them!

  1. Cook You Ribs More

You should go for this solution if you are just craving grilled ribs. It may take a little more time, but trust me, the end result is better than eating dry and chewy ribs!

All you have to do is mix apple cider vinegar and barbecue sauce in a 1:1 ratio. You can also make your own liquid mix.  Then, apply the paste generously on the overcooked ribs. 

Once you’ve applied the mix, wrap the ribs in foil, and put them in an oven or smoker. Just let them cook in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit temp for one hour. 

The benefit of applying the marinade and baking in the oven is that the ribs will absorb the steam and moisture again. This way, it won’t be as dry as before. 

Keep in mind that adding apple cider vinegar and BBQ sauce is bound to alter the taste of the ribs slightly. So, it won’t be the same as perfectly cooked ribs.

  1. Repurpose the Meat and Use as Filling 

If you don’t like the extra flavor of vinegar and BBQ sauce with ribs, you can go for this option. 

Instead of eating ribs raw, you can repurpose the meat and use it as a filling. You need to separate the meat and the bones, shred it, and then add it to any dish. 

I usually dump the ribs into a food processor and let it works its magic. This way, I end up with perfect and uniform shredded pieces of meat. 

Then, use the filling in dumplings, soups, stew, casseroles, burgers, tacos, and many more! The other ingredients and sauces in these dishes will make up for the dryness of the overcooked ribs. 

How to Avoid Overcooked Ribs?

In my experience, cooking ribs is a tough job. There are many things that you’ve to get right. Even then, you might mess up a little bit and end up with overcooked ribs. 

After multiple tries (some failed and some successful) of cooking ribs, I’ve found the best ways to prevent overcooking ribs.

  1. Invest in a Thermometer 

If you don’t have a thermometer, you should get it immediately. Trust me, you can avoid so many failed attempts by using a simple thermometer. 

You don’t even have to do much. Just check the internal temperature of the ribs. When it’s between 190 degrees Fahrenheit and 200 degrees Fahrenheit, stop cooking it. The max temperature should be around 203 degrees Fahrenheit. After this point, the juices start evaporating and drying up the meat from the ribs.

  1. Don’t Open the Smoker Repeatedly 

Oh trust me, I know the compulsive need to open the smoker repeatedly only to check whether the ribs are done or not. 

However, as hard as it is, you should avoid opening the smoker. The reason behind it is simple. 

When you open the smoker frequently, it loses some of its heat. 

There might also be an uneven distribution of heat. This leads to an increase in the cooking time and also increased chances of overcooked ribs.  

  1. Ensure a Proper Cooking Time 

Although it’s not easy to gauge the cooking time of ribs, you can still have an approximate idea. 

For instance, if the oven temperature is around 300 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll require three hours of cooking for babyback ribs. 

On the other hand, if you’ve covered the ribs in foil, you can go for higher temperatures and shorter cooking times. 

If the oven’s temperature is around 350 degrees Fahrenheit, two hours is enough, and for 400 degrees Fahrenheit, it can be around 1.5 to two hours. 

Keep in mind that if the ribs are fattier (spare ribs and St. Louis cut ribs), then it may take more time than usual (five to seven hours).

  1. Go Low and Slow!

Whenever you read any ribs recipe, you’ll always come across this phrase – go low and slow. 

It is because you need to cook pork ribs on indirect and slow heat. If you try to fasten the process by using high heat or opting for direct heat, the ribs may end up getting overcooked or even burnt!

So, always try to follow the indirect heat approach and keep a low temperature. 

  1. Don’t Forget to Remove the Membrane! 

Sometimes, it’s the membrane (present on the back of the ribs) which causes the ribs to seem overcooked. On grilling, the membrane may harden, become rubbery, and ruin the texture of the ribs.

It’s easy to remove the membrane as you just need to use a knife and a paper towel. 

How to Tell When Ribs Are Done?

You can also avoid overcooking the ribs by knowing when ribs are fully cooked and ready to serve. Given below are some techniques that will help you out. 

  1. Bend Your Ribs 

In this technique, you’ll require a pair of tongs. Next, just lift the rib rack, bounce it a little, and check if the meat cracks. 

The size of the meat crack denotes the doneness of the ribs. If the crack is too little, let the ribs cook for some more time. 

  1. Use a Toothpick

You can also use a toothpick to check if the meat is cooked or not. 

The toothpick should penetrate into the meat without any resistance. This shows that the ribs are well-cooked. 

You should also poke holes in various parts of the ribs to ensure that the rib is cooked uniformly. 

  1. Check the Meat Color

Lastly, the color of the meat can also tell a lot about its doneness. 

If you’re sure that the ribs are grilled, you can cut the meat and check the color. The meat should be pale and white in the center. If you see any pinkness around the edges, don’t worry as that’s normal!

However, if you see any pinkness in the center, the ribs are undercooked. Let them cook for more time. 

Final Thoughts

Overcooking sucks the life out of ribs, quite literally! It causes the smoked ribs to become dry, and also become flavorless. Yet, you can braise the ribs, add more liquids to them, and recook them to get back the original texture. 

You can also prevent overcooking the ribs by following the suggestions in this post. I hope they help you out!

Related Questions

How long does it take to soften ribs?

It may take anywhere between 1.5 to two hours to soften ribs like baby back ribs. The time may be more for fattier ribs. 

How do you save a burnt rib?

If you have a burnt rib, try removing the blackened sections. Then, apply some apple cider vinegar and barbeque sauce to it, and reheat it in the oven. 




Colin has been grilling, smoking, and barbecuing in his yard for as long as he remembers.  His favorite dish is pork belly smoked on his favorite offset smoker. Read more about Colin here.


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