How To Reheat Ribs Without Drying Them Out – Six Different Ways

A rack of ribs should be one of the most popular items at any barbecue. Alongside burgers, steaks, and brisket, you may have simply provided too much food and ended up with a few racks of ribs leftover. 

How To Reheat Ribs Without Drying Them Out - Six Different Ways

You cannot let them go to waste so it’s time to find some methods to reheat them properly without allowing them to dry out. They will still be good in a couple of days as you will not lose all that delicious tenderness. 

As long as you have wrapped them up properly and put them in the refrigerator as soon as you realize they will be considered as leftovers then there are several ways to reheat them. 

In this guide, we will look at the safe way to look after leftover racks of ribs and the variety of methods you can use to reheat them. All without drying them out yet keeping that delicious flavor.

How To Deal With Leftover Ribs At A Barbecue

You should be careful with any leftover meat as you have a certain window of time to keep them safe for consumption.

There are around two hours following when you have cooked your rack of ribs to when you can store them to keep them safe for consumption. 

Any longer and you are running the risk of the meat spoiling.

There is some science behind this as colonies of bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Staphylococcus thrive when meat is left in dangerous temperatures between 40 and 140°F.

Once you have retrieved your leftover racks of ribs from the grill, you should cut them up into smaller pieces.

This is best done as individual portions so consider chopping your rack of ribs into two or three pieces and then wrapping them up. 

The ribs should last for around three to four days in the refrigerator if wrapped up tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

In a pinch,  a vacuum-sealed bag can also keep in that moisture efficiently too. You could also use an airtight container though you can also freeze them and they should keep for around two to three months. 

In The Oven

How To Reheat Ribs Without Drying Them Out - Six Different Ways

One of the easiest ways to reheat ribs without the worry of drying them out is to use your trusty oven. This is an ideal method of reheating to keep those ribs moist and keep that delectable smoky flavor.

Make sure you have still got some of that barbecue sauce leftover too.

Start by preheating your oven to between 225 and 250°F for some low and slow cooking.

While the oven preheats, remove your leftover ribs from the refrigerator and give them half an hour to hit room temperature then add a bit more sauce onto the ribs and this should prevent them from drying out while baking.

Ideally, you want the heat to get to your ribs but a double layer of aluminum foil will protect them, ensure even cooking to kill any microbes, and retain that much-desired moisture.

Place your foil-wrapped ribs into the oven and use a meat thermometer to check when they have reached that magic internal temperature of 145°F.

At that temperature, any lingering bacteria should be killed off and it may take between 20 and 30 minutes of baking. 

Remember that every time you unwrap your ribs you will be releasing the heat they require to cook which will prolong the cooking time. 

To finish off the leftover ribs, add a layer of barbecue sauce and you can cook them unwrapped for around ten minutes.

Any longer and you risk burning them and overcooking the meat which would lose the tenderness you have worked so hard to retain.

You could forgo another layer of barbecue sauce as dry-rubbed ribs can be deliciously dipped in any leftover drippings.  

Using An Air Fryer

To produce a crispy crust on your leftover ribs without losing the meat’s moisture, you should try using an air fryer.

While you can use the low and slow method in the oven, with an air fryer you should opt for a higher temperature of 350°F to kill off any microorganisms.

Part of your preparation should also be cutting the ribs up into chunks rather than trying to air-fry the whole rack as you may miss out on even cooking.

An optional step is to add a teaspoon of oil as this can add a bit of juiciness to the ribs once they have completed cooking.

It should not take very long at all to air-fry a rack of ribs, especially when they are cut up. At that higher temperature, you can expect them to be done after around five to eight minutes. 

Steaming Them

A healthy and easy method of reheating a set of ribs is to steam them. Not only will they cook efficiently but you can also protect their moisture and nutritional value.

If you are keen for your ribs to retain their protein and get as much benefit out of them as possible, you should consider steaming them. 

This may seem like a more complicated method than simply placing them in the oven or chopping them up to reheat in an air fryer yet it is rewarding.

Find a steaming pot and boil a broth with some simple base ingredients such as apple juice, orange juice, or even ale.

This broth provides the moisture for your ribs to prevent them from drying out and can also add some interesting flavors. 

As the broth begins to boil, lay your rack of ribs on the steamer basket to place over the broth.

You should give your ribs around half an hour to infuse though you could leave them for up to 45 minutes if you wanted them to be extra juicy. 

With enough broth leftover, you can pour that onto the ribs for an even more juicy flavor.

If there is one lesson to be learned it’s that you really should be wasting any product when cooking, whether that’s a rack of ribs or the broth used to reheat them.

Back On The Grill

How To Reheat Ribs Without Drying Them Out - Six Different Ways

If you barbecue quite often, even a couple of times a week, the easiest way to reheat your leftover ribs is to simply put them back onto the grill.

That way you can benefit from using the same method of cooking and the same checks that you used initially. You also get that delicious smoky taste when they come straight off the grill.

As long as you have enough space on your grill for the entire rack of ribs then it can take less than ten minutes. 

Get your grill to a high temperature, as you would for the rest of the meat and vegetables you are cooking.

While the grill is heating up, remove your rack of leftover ribs from the refrigerator and let them reach room temperature which may only take a couple of minutes.

Coat your leftover ribs with either the same barbecue sauce that you used initially or a new one that you know works well. 

Use some aluminum foil to loosely wrap your rack of ribs then lower the temperature on the grill from high to medium heat.

The direct heat of a grill works differently from the convection heat of the oven so it helps to give your ribs some room to breathe in the foil. 

Place your wrapped ribs on the grill and turn over the rack around halfway through the cooking time, so after around five minutes.

Just like the other methods of reheating, you should use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature and ensure that it at least hits 145°F though ideally, it should be as much as 165°F. 

A Sous Vide Machine

If you do have a Sous Vide machine, you can use it to reheat a rack of leftover ribs.

This is an unconventional method for many home grillers as it is typically used by chefs when they want to warm up meat without exposing it to any extra cooking.

The Sous Vide machine actively helps the meat retain its tenderness and prevents a rack of leftover ribs from drying out.

You should think of putting your meat in a Sous Vide machine as giving it a long, luxurious bath so it slowly warms up to your desired internal temperature.

Begin by allowing your rack of leftover ribs to hit room temperature first which means leaving them on the counter for between 20 and 30 minutes.

Use a vacuum-sealed bag that is large enough to contain your entire rack of ribs, though you can chop up the rack and use a couple of bags. 

It may be surprising to know that you do not have to slather on any barbecue sauce as the Sous Vide machine will retain the meat’s moisture anyway.

That is if you fill the Sous Vide machine with enough water so that it wholly covers the ribs. Set the Sous Vide machine to 150°F then drop in the vacuum-sealed bags and let them sit in the hot water.

Set a timer or simply watch the clock as the timing is crucial with a Sous Vide machine. If you have already measured your leftover ribs then around 45 minutes per inch of thickness should be sufficient. 

However, after around an hour, the leftover ribs should have matched the temperature of the surrounding water so should be ready to eat.

At this point, you should probe the ribs with a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature though you can leave them to soak for longer as they should not dry out. 

Using The Microwave

How To Reheat Ribs Without Drying Them Out - Six Different Ways

For such a simple kitchen appliance to use, a microwave can be seriously tricky when it comes to reheating leftover ribs without drying them out.

There can be little leeway and little time to waste as you should look to cook the ribs quickly to retain their moisture.

The longer they are left to cook in the microwave, the higher the chances that moisture is removed. This can be considered a last resort as the other methods give you more control, even though it takes longer to cook.

Firstly, slice up the leftover ribs into separate pieces and place them between two damp (not wet) paper towels. These surrounding damp layers will introduce some moisture to the ribs as it evaporates in the microwave.

You can also become creative and forgo dampening the paper towels with simple water in favor of beer or a meat marinade that you have leftover from the barbecue. 

Even in the microwave, you can never be too hasty when it comes to killing off any microorganisms. Grab your meat thermometer and check that the internal temperature of 145°F has been reached before serving.

You may see steam yet that does not necessarily mean that the ribs are sufficiently cooked and the best way to find out is by checking the internal temperature.  

Final Thoughts

You may only have a limited period of time to keep leftover ribs so you should quickly figure out how you want to reheat them.

There are six different methods detailed here, each designed to retain the moisture and even enhance the flavor.

From returning the ribs to the grill to using an oven, air fryer, Sous Vide machine, a steamed broth, or simply the microwave.

Whichever method you decide to use, use a meat thermometer to ensure that the ribs hit an internal temperature of 145°F so you know that any microorganisms have been killed. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Eat Cold Leftover Ribs?

While resting in the refrigerator, you may be tempted to take a nibble of your leftover ribs. As long as you cook them properly on the grill and they hit that internal temperature of 145°F, you can safely eat them.

For a cut of meat that you are accustomed to eating fresh from a hot grill, it may not be the best way of eating them but it is possible.

When you do decide to eat them cold, you may want to warm up some dips or some barbecue sauce for some extra flavor.

What Is The Best Way Of Storing Leftover Ribs?

First things first, you want to remove your leftover ribs from the grill as soon as possible then get them chilled below 40°F as temperatures above that can prove dangerous.

Once the cooking process has finished you can begin what’s known as The Wozniak Method.

This is named after Mike Wozniak who is best known for being the pitmaster of Quau who won the 2010 Kansas City Barbeque Society Team of the Year.

Wrap your leftover ribs tightly in foil then cover them in a watertight plastic bag. The whole package can then be placed in a cooler and surrounded by ice.

Check the temperature and once it has dipped below 40°F, you can move the package to the refrigerator and enjoy peace of mind.

That comes from knowing that the higher fridge temperature should not spoil those delicious leftover ribs. 

John Rinder
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