Ribs are an all-time barbeque favorite, and it’s not hard to see why. But figuring out how to reheat ribs without making them dry or rubbery can be a major challenge.
Trust me: I’ve ruined my fair share of ribs while trying to reheat them.
There’s nothing worse than enjoying juicy, tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs the night before only to gnaw your way through chewy, dry, flavorless ribs the next day all because you can’t master how to reheat ribs without ruining them.
So below, you’ll find my best advice on how to reheat ribs without completely ruining them. I’ll show you some of the best ways to reheat ribs (including reheating ribs on the grill, in the oven, on the stove and lots more). And I’ll share my recommendations for each different kind of rib as well.
My goal is to save you a lifetime of ruining your meal by reheating your ribs the wrong way. Here’s what you’ll find in this article:
- 1 The biggest concerns about reheating ribs
- 2 Storing Ribs to be reheated
- 3 How long should I store cooked ribs?
- 4 Best way to reheat ribs
- 5 Best way to reheat different styles/cuts of ribs
- 6 How many times can ribs be reheated?
The biggest concerns about reheating ribs
Before we dive into exactly how to reheat ribs, it’s important to understand why reheating ribs can be such a puzzling task.
There are lots of people who wonder how many times you can safely reheat ribs.
The answer is: as many times as you want. Just ensure you’ve reheated to a safe temperature using a cooking thermometer. This way you’ll kill any bacteria that may have been lurking from the night before.
But beware, reheating ribs too many times will dry them out way too quickly. This will leave you with something that tastes about as good as stiff cardboard covered in year-old ketchup.
Figuring out how to reheat ribs without drying them out completely is an art that will take some practice.
So the real answer: ideally, only reheat ribs once. It’ll help keep them as moist and delicious as possible. Plus, it’ll reduce the risk of bacteria that may build up over time.
If you’re worried about your ribs going to waste, try cooking a half-rack of ribs at a time or freezing any leftovers. Frozen meat is never as delicious as fresh meat, but it’s definitely safer for reheating.
Storing Ribs to be reheated
Reheating ribs so they’re moist and delicious actually starts long before you fire up the grill for the second time. Or open up the microwave door.
One of the biggest factors in the quality and safety of your reheated ribs comes from how you choose to store your ribs after cooking them the first time.
Of course, you’ll want to take time to enjoy and share the ribs after they come off the grill. But as soon as you reasonably can, you should get the ribs into the refrigerator for safe storing.
This will not only keep your meat from becoming contaminated with unwanted bacteria, but it will ensure when you get the ribs back out tomorrow, they’re less tough or dry and more tender and juicy.
As a rule of thumb, cooked meat should be kept at a temperature less than 40° F (4.4° C). This ensures it stays as fresh and bacteria-free as possible. Most refrigerators will automatically be set to this chill level.
You’ll also want to cut the ribs down into smaller sizes. This will allow the food to get below that 40° mark more quickly. Plus, as an added bonus, you’ll have more manageable ribs for reheating and serving later.
But, fair warning: the smaller the pieces are, the more likely they are to dry out when reheating. So it’s good to know what you plan to do with the leftover ribs before you cut them up to store them.
How long should I store cooked ribs?
To be safe, don’t store cooked ribs in the refrigerator more than 3-4 days. Storing them longer will not only give harmful bacteria time to spread, but it will also increase the chances that your reheated ribs are dry and tasteless.
Reheating ribs as soon as possible after you originally cooked them will allow for the most freshness and most delicious taste.
Best way to reheat ribs
Now that we’ve covered the basics of storing your soon-to-be-reheated ribs, what’s actually the best way to reheat ribs after they’ve been in the refrigerator?
The truth is: there are lots of good ways to reheat ribs.
Each option has its pros and cons and depends a lot on how much time or patience you have, what resources you have available, and personal preference.
The most important thing to remember is this: there are a lot more ways to reheat food than by popping it in the microwave (although I’ll share how to do that below too). So before you reach for the microwave door, consider trying one of the options found below.
Reheating ribs on your grill
Perhaps one of the most obvious ways you can reheat ribs is by cooking them in the same place you cooked them the first time around: the grill.
That’s right, you can use your charcoal or gas grill to reheat ribs and relive the deliciousness you experienced the first time around.
How to reheat ribs on your gas or charcoal grill:
- Preheat your grill to around 250° F (120° C). Place the ribs you plan to reheat on two layers of sturdy aluminum foil.
- If you prefer, you can re-apply some barbecue sauce with a grill brush at this stage.
- Next, lightly lift the foil around the edges of the ribs. This ensures less burning and improves moisture retention in the ribs themselves.
- Close the grill and let the ribs reheat in a nice even heat for around 6-8 minutes.
- Open the grill to check on the ribs. If needed, flip them over on the foil to ensure a more even reheating (don’t flip the foil itself). Try to keep all the barbeque sauce, juice, and moisture contained in the foil “bowl” you’ve created as much as possible.
- After around 15-20 total minutes, cut through a new piece of meat in order to ensure you’ve heated it through.
Because your meat has already been cooked once, you should err on the side of not cooking it long enough. Better to be forced to give it a few more minutes on the grill than to eat dry, crunchy ribs.
If you’re worried your reheated ribs will be too dry, you can also add a little extra water or juices from the first time you cooked the ribs (if you kept any) into the aluminum foil bowl. These liquids will steam your ribs as you reheat them on the grill.
Reheating ribs in the oven
Reheating ribs in the oven is much like reheating ribs on the grill.
- First, preheat your oven to 250° F (120° C). Next, line a large cookie sheet with foil and add an extra sheet of foil on top for folding around the edges of your ribs.
- Once you have two layers of aluminum foil, place your ribs on the cookie sheet. Fold the ends of the foil up around the edges of your ribs. This will ensure they don’t dry out or burn on the tips.
- If you’re worried your ribs may be too dry, you can add water to the bottom of the foil “bowl” you’ve created. This will steam the ribs as they reheat, adding moisture and flavor back to your ribs. Adding barbecue sauce to the top of the ribs can also help retain and add moisture to the rack.
- From there, put the ribs in the oven. You’ll want to keep them in for around 6-8 minutes before you check them.
When you check them, they may be finished depending on how thick the meat is. Cut into a new slice and feel the meat with your finger.
If it’s done, great. If not, consider flipping the ribs, adding a bit more water and bbq sauce and repeating the process above.
It shouldn’t take more than about 20 minutes to reheat your ribs no matter how thick they are. Remember, the longer you reheat ribs, the more likely they are to be dry and brittle.
If you have a griddle pan, you can forego the aluminum foil, put a little water into the pan itself and stick it right in the oven. This is particularly true of cast-iron pans as they’ll give you a very even reheating of your ribs.
Reheating ribs on the stove
If you don’t have access to the grill from the night before (or maybe you’re reheating restaurant ribs) and you don’t have the time to preheat your oven, you can reheat ribs on the stove with a little extra effort.
- First, find a medium-depth frying pan with a lid. Place the ribs in the pan and add a little water or meat juices to the bottom of the pan. If desired (I recommend it) add a little more sauce to the top of the ribs. This will help the ribs maintain their moisture while reheating on the stove.
- Next, turn the stove to medium heat. Do not leave the ribs unattended as they’ll reheat extremely quickly.
- Instead, shuffle them around in the pan every couple of minutes, checking for tenderness and temperature.
On a medium heat, you shouldn’t need to reheat ribs longer than about 8-10 minutes in a pan—depending on the thickness and quantity of your ribs.
Reheating ribs in a crockpot, slow cooker, or instant pot
Another way to reheat ribs without risking burning them or making them far too dry is to use a crockpot, slow cooker, or instant pot.
This will ensure you can re-add lots of liquid in the form of water or barbecue sauce and allow the ribs to reheat without losing that delicious moisture.
The downside of reheating ribs in a crockpot or slow cooker? You guessed it: it’s slow. It can take a while to reheat ribs this way.
But what you sacrifice in time, you make up for in the taste and texture you retain by using a slow cooker.
Here’s how you do it:
- First, set the ribs in the slow cooker. Add a little more water (no more than 2 Tbs per rib) to the crockpot and put more sauce on top of the ribs if desired.
- Set the slow cooker to “warm.” If your crockpot doesn’t have a “warm” setting, then select “low” instead. When set to such a low temperature, reheating ribs will take anywhere from 1-3 hours depending on how many ribs you have to reheat and how thick they are.
- Check the ribs every 30-60 minutes turning as needed (although, you shouldn’t have to turn much). Add more liquid occasionally if necessary.
Reheating ribs in the microwave
If you don’t have 3 hours to spend reheating ribs in the crockpot or slow cooker, then reheating ribs in the microwave is a great obvious choice.
While reheating ribs in the microwave can dry them out more, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of ruining the ribs.
First, make sure you have a microwave-safe container. I recommend glass, but microwave-safe plastic will work fine as well. With glass, you tend to get a bit more of an even cook.
- Place the ribs in the container. If possible, you should try to have only one layer of ribs in the container. If the container or microwave isn’t big enough, you can do 2-3 layers, but be sure to spread them out and add some sauce to ensure they don’t dry out and cling together.
- Add a little water or meat juices to the bottom of the container and microwave for 2-3 minutes.
- Depending on the number of ribs you’re reheating, that may be enough. If not, give them a gentle stir, add liquid again if needed, and repeat the process.
Note: Reheat the ribs in 2-3 minute intervals to ensure you don’t overcook or burn them.
Reheat ribs Sous Vide (sealing and boiling)
Instead of reheating ribs on the stove using a traditional pan, consider reheating ribs Sous Vide.
Sous Vide is just a fancy word that means to use water to cook your food. But it works fabulously for reheating ribs because you won’t risk losing moisture or tenderness in your ribs due to re-exposing it to harsh heat like you might find in an oven or grill.
Here’s how you do it:
- Seal your ribs in an air-tight and water-tight bag. You should probably do this the night before when you’re putting your leftover ribs away. If you didn’t, you can still just take the ribs out of their container or bag and place them in an air-tight plastic bag.
- While you’re preparing that, place a large pot of water on the stove and set to high. When the water is boiling, you’re ready to go.
- Remember, water boils at just 212° F (100° C) which means it’ll produce a nice even temperature for reheating.
- From there, you can insert the sealed bag into the water. Don’t open the bag or break the seal in any way. We’re not looking to dilute or soak our leftover ribs here, we’re looking to reheat them without ruining them.
- Leave the ribs in the water for 8-10 minutes or until any moisture inside the bag has been boiling for at least 60 seconds.
- Remove the bag and let cool for 1-2 minutes. Open the bag, remove the ribs and test for warmth. They should be nice and warm all the way through.
Using this method to reheat ribs ensures they’ll be nice and moist too! For more details, review the video below:
Reheat ribs using Steam
Lastly, you may want to reheat ribs using steam. Steam can retain, or even add, a lot of moisture to the ribs during the reheating process.
Although it takes a bit longer than, say, popping them in the microwave for a few minutes, reheating ribs using steam guarantees you don’t lose any of that delicious rib moisture and texture.
- To start, fill a steamer (or use a pot or slow cooker) with water or apple juice. Around ¼ cup will do the trick, but the measurements don’t have to be precise.
- Allow the liquid to boil before you move to the next step.
- Once the water is boiling, place the ribs on the steam rack (if you’re using a steamer) or hang the ribs above the boiling water using a colander, shish kabob sticks, chopsticks, or other kitchen gadgets (if you’re using a pot or crockpot).
- Cover with a lid or tin foil.
As you reheat the ribs, try to avoid checking on them which releases the steam and slows the process. After around 20-30 minutes, take the ribs out and serve.
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|Types of Ribs|
|Reheat Pulled Pork|
|Remove Membrane from Ribs|
Best way to reheat different styles/cuts of ribs
Depending on what kind of ribs you cooked the night before, you’ll want to consider a few things when reheating ribs. For example, different kinds of ribs have different textures and moisture levels.
Each method used to reheat ribs listed above adds a certain level of moisture back into your ribs.
Use the wrong one and you might find your ribs are too soggy or too crunchy; too watered-down or too dry.
So here’s some advice for reheating ribs of different varieties and cuts.
Best way to Reheat Beef Ribs
One of the most common ribs to cook on the grill would be your traditional beef ribs.
The best way to reheat beef ribs is most likely going to occur back on your grill or in the oven.
Why? Because beef ribs will benefit from a lot of contained moisture. This can be more difficult to achieve using methods such as steaming or microwaving.
When reheating beef ribs, use the following method (works for both grill and oven):
- Preheat your oven or grill to 250° F (the optimum temperature that won’t burn up or dry out your reheated ribs).
- While the oven/grill is preheating, wrap your beef ribs in foil. Leave an inch or two around the ribs so the moisture can circulate while they reheat.
- Place the wrapped ribs on a cookie sheet or other large pan.
- Add the liquid by opening one end or the top of the foil wrapping and adding around ¼ cup of apple juice, beef broth, or water to the package.
- Once the oven/grill reaches 250° F, you’re ready to go. Throw the rib packet into the heat.
- After about 35 minutes (or when the ribs reach over 165° F, you’re ready to eat!
Best way to Reheat Baby Back Ribs
The biggest difference between reheating beef ribs (above) and reheating baby back ribs is that baby back ribs can dry out much more quickly. This happens for two reasons:
First, the ribs have less meat on them overall, so it can be really easy to overcook them—thus drying them out.
Second, they have a lower fat content than thicker pork or beef ribs. Because fat provides moisture (and absolute deliciousness) to your ribs, there’s less for them to work with and a higher risk of ruining them when you reheat your ribs.
When reheating baby back ribs, the best option is probably to use the Sous Vide method outlined above.
But if you’re in a hurry you can microwave baby back ribs for around 30 seconds on medium heat.
You may want to add a tablespoon of liquid to the plate they’re on. Then cover the entire plate with a large microwave-safe bowl.
After 30 seconds, they should be ready to eat again. Use the thermometer to check the internal temperature. And if it’s not above 165° F, repeat the process until the ribs are reheated to perfection.
Best Way to Reheat Spare Ribs
Of course, some of the most common ribs to be cooked (or reheated for that matter) are spare ribs.
You probably loved the taste of your spare ribs because of the extra fat content these ribs come by naturally.
And it’s that same fat content that will keep your ribs from drying out when you reheat them.
For spare ribs, try following the technique for reheating ribs on the grill as explained above. If this is the second or third time you’re reheating these ribs, consider making a foil packet (as shown in the section on reheating beef ribs) and adding a bit of apple juice or water.
This brings me to my final thought which centers around the number of times you can safely expect to reheat ribs.
How many times can ribs be reheated?
You might find yourself in the awful (but delicious) situation of having so many leftover ribs you’re not quite sure what to do with them.
Even after reheating the ribs once, you find you still have leftovers and you start to wonder just how many times you can safely reheat ribs.
The answer to this question comes by understanding the proper temperature for food (particularly meat storage).
Each time you warm meat above the 40° F safe zone, you risk activating and spreading bacteria.
This means, if you do think you’ll want to reheat your ribs multiple times, try only reheating what you’re going to eat immediately. Save the rest of the ribs for another time.
My biggest piece of advice when it comes to reheating ribs
With all that’s been said above, there’s one thing I’d like to drive home about reheating ribs: it’s all up to you.
If you find that the microwave is the best way for you to personally enjoy your reheated ribs, don’t let some grill snob like me tell you otherwise.
And if you’re just not feeling the Sous Vide lifestyle, who cares? Find the method of reheating ribs that works best for you.
Through trial and error, you’ll find your favorite method. And in the meantime, I guess you’ll just have to keep grilling up more and more meat until you figure out the perfect way to reheat ribs.
Good luck and keep grilling!