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Cooking the perfect BBQ ribs is an art-form, but it’s also a science. Knowing exactly when your ribs are done is key to achieving that perfectly tender yet juicy texture.
Overcook them and they become tough, undercook them and they remain hard and chewy. Fortunately, there are several methods for determining whether or not your BBQ ribs are done.
3 Different Ways To Tell If Ribs Are Done
Use A Thermometer
The first method we recommend is to use a food thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the rib, making sure that it’s not touching any bone. The internal temperature should read between 145-155°F (63-68°C). If it’s at this level, your ribs should be perfectly cooked.
These days it’s easy to find thermometers that are bluetooth capable so you can use it in the oven or smoker without having to open the lid to check your temperature.
The key here really is to make sure you are probing a thick section of meat. Probing too close to a bone will lead to inaccurate readings!
The Bend Test
Another option is the bend test. Gently pick up a piece of rib with tongs and allow them to bend. If it bends about 45º without breaking, your ribs are perfectly done. This method may require some practice to get right, but once you do, you’ll be able to tell when your ribs have achieved that perfect texture.
Obviously, if your ribs totally fall of the bone they can be served and definitely don’t need to be cooked more.
The Poke Test
Finally, the poke test is another great way to check on your ribs. Gently poke a rib with your finger. If it feels soft and tender, then it’s done. This method isn’t as reliable as the others but can still be useful for checking in on your BBQ ribs periodically while they cook.
Which Method Is Best?
The thermometer method is going to get you the most accurate and precise answer to whether or not your pork ribs are done because you’ll know right then and there if your ribs have reached an ideal internal temperature.
If you’re just getting started with BBQ, we’d recommend using the thermometer method simply because it’s the most straightforward way to know if your pork ribs are done.
However, don’t sleep on the bend test! It’s a really easy method and yields surprisingly good results. The 45 degree bend point is a great indicator and usually means your ribs have been cooked all the way through and broken down to a point where they are nice and tender without falling off the bone.
What Temperature Are Pork Ribs Done At?
No matter how you’re cooking your pork ribs, whether it’s on the grill, smoker, or in the oven, you want any type of pork ribs to reach an internal temperature of 190-205ºF.
While they are technically safe to eat according to the USDA after they reach 145ºF, they will be much too tough if you try to eat them after only cooking to this temperature.
Ribs that reach 190-205ºF have had plenty of time and heat to have fats and collagens broken down so that your meat will be perfectly tender and full of flavor.
What Happens When You Don’t Get Ribs Right
Cooking ribs for too long can have a devastating effect on their flavor and texture. Not only will they become dry, tough, and chewy, but they may also develop an unpleasant acrid taste that can ruin the entire meal.
Overcooking ribs can also cause them to lose moisture and fat content which makes them much less tender and flavorful.
Cooking ribs for too short a time can also result in an unsatisfactory result. If ribs are not cooked for long enough, they will still be quite chewy and lack the tenderness that comes with slow-cooked, flavorful ribs.
Additionally, when ribs are undercooked, the fat content within them is not rendered properly. This fat aids in the flavoring of ribs and should not be ignored.
No matter which method you use, it’s important to remember that time and temperature play a huge role in the quality of your BBQ ribs.
If you have any questions about when your ribs are done, always consult a food thermometer for consistent results. With practice, you’ll soon become an expert rib-cooker.