How To Tell If Ribs Are Done: Tips & Tricks For Grilling

It is best to cook ribs for a very long time at a low temperature. However, sometimes it can be difficult to know when the ribs are actually done. There are several methods that you can use to determine when the ribs are done.

However, there are so many methods you can use, experts can’t choose which is the best method that you should be using. 

In this article, we will be discussing how you can tell when your ribs are done. While also mentioning some other tricks and tips and to help you along the way.

How To Tell If Ribs Are Done Tips & Tricks For Grilling

When Are Ribs Cooked?

Generally, when you are cooking ribs, you should have an internal meat thermometer. This piece of equipment will help you to tell the internal temperature of the ribs. Then once the drugs hit their desired temperature, then you know the ribs are cooked.

Ideally, you want your ribs to hit an internal temperature of around 195 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you don’t have a thermometer to use, there are other methods that you can use.

There is the twist test and the toothpick test, to name a couple. However, we will go into more detail about these methods further on in the article. 

Grilling Pork Ribs

When it comes to grilling and cooking pork ribs, you need to cook them for a long time. This is to allow the fat to render down, but also reducing the chances of your meat drying out as well.

It can be tricky to master rendering the fat and not drying the meat out. 

The main aim is to get the ribs to an internal temperature of 195 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the ribs are considered as done.

This is because at this temperature, the connective tissue and fat have completely broken down and  made the meat really tender.

Is It Possible To Overcook Ribs?

Just like with anything, you can overcook it. Thus, you can overcook ribs. However, once you have read through all the methods, you will learn that the meat of the ribs should separate from the bones quite easily when you apply light pressure to them.

Although, if the meat is actually falling off the bone, then we have a problem. This means that the ribs have been cooked for far too long. 

Tough Ribs

If you have cooked your ribs, and they are quite tough, then the cause for this is that the ribs haven’t been cooked for long enough. Tough ribs are a sign of undercooked ribs. 

This is because pork ribs contain a lot of connective tissue and fat. Thus, ribs are already naturally quite tough before they are cooked.

Then during the long and low cooking process, this helps to render the fat down and relax the connective tissue. Which then causes the meat to become really tender to eat. 

To make sure that your ribs are tender, you need to cook them at a low temperature for a long time. For example, baby back ribs need to be cooked for around 3 to 4 hours.

Compared to spare and St Louis ribs that need 5 to 6 hours until they are fully cooked.

However, you should be careful how long you cook your ribs. This is because when pork is cooked past 203 degrees Fahrenheit, the meat will begin to dry out and have a very much-like texture.

Hence, once the meat reaches 195 degrees, take them off the meat and start the rest period. 

Can You Eat Pink Ribs? 

When it comes to smoked ribs, they will have a slight pink tinge around the edges. The pink will remain even if the ribs are fully cooked, it’s a normal reaction that takes place, and nothing to worry about. 

Apart from smoked ribs, if your ribs are pink, that means that the meat isn’t fully cooked. Thus, you need to get the  ribs back on the heat to fully cook through. 

7 Methods That Tell You That Your Ribs Are Cooked

7 Methods That Tell You That Your Ribs Are Cooked

The Peek Test Method

With ribs, they are cooked with their bones still in. Therefore, you can use these bones to help you decide whether the ribs are cooked.  

Typically, you can tell if the ribs are cooked by looking at the edges of the rack. If there is around 1/4 of an inch of the bones peeking out, then this is a sign that the ribs are cooked and ready to come off the heat. What causes this is a reaction often referred to as pull back. 

However, it is always useful to have a meat thermometer on stand by, to give your meat a double check. Normally, when meat is exposed to high temperature, it will shrink even if the meat in the middle is undercooked.

Alongside that, if you have been cooking your ribs at 225 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the commonly recommended temperature when it comes to grilling ribs.

The pullback reaction may not happen until quite late on in the cooking process. This then will increase your chances of overcooking the ribs. 

The Bounce Test Method

The bounce test can also be referred to as the bend test. This method will take a bit of practice until you master it. However, for a lot of people, once they have mastered it, it will become one of your favorite methods to use. 

For this method, you need to grab one end of your ribs using a pair of tongs. Then lift the rack of ribs up gently and bounce them up and down. If a crack develops in the middle of the ribs, then this is a sign that they have reached the desired temperature.

If the crack is only just beginning to show and quite small, then put the ribs back on the heat. You want this crack to be quite noticeable. 

The bounce test helps you notice what cooked meat feels like compared with undercooked ribs. 

Toothpick Method

The toothpick test is really easy and anyone can do it. Also, it is the most common method that people use on a lot of cooked meats.

What a lot of people love about this method is that no visible damage is caused on the surface of the ribs. Which is ideal when you are serving the meat or bis to guests. 

With either a round or flat toothpick, insert it into between two of the bones in the meat. If the pork is cooked, then there won’t be much resistance pushing the toothpick in.

Compared with raw meat, that creates a barrier and offers a lot of resistance. 

We suggest that you insert your toothpick into the thickest part of the ribs. As this is the meat that will take the longest to cook. Thus, once it is cooked when you know the rest of the ribs will be cooked as well. 

Time Test

Those of you who are new to grilling will prefer this method. As this method gives you an estimate of how long to cook your ribs for.

Start by setting your smoker or grill to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Then cook baby back ribs for 3 to 4 hours and spare ribs for 5 to 6 hours. You can also add a layer of BBQ sauce to the ribs, but let the meat cook for a further 15 minutes. 

For this method, you really need to use a meat thermometer to ensure that the meat has reached the ideal internal temperature. Although, if you use these time frames, then there shouldn’t be too much of an issue. 

The Tasting Method

For the tasting method, you just need to cut a small piece of the meat off and eat it. By eating a little,  you will be able to tell if the ribs have reached the right consistency.

However, with this method, you will want to wait until you are sure that the ribs are done. This will prevent you from eating undercooked pork.

However, pork is safe to eat once it has reached 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Twist Method

By using a small knife, you need to separate one of the bones from the rest of the rack of ribs. Hold the bone in the middle, and shapely twist it. If the meat falls off the bone, then you know that the ribs are done.

You don’t need to twist the bone that hard. The meat falling is due to all the connective tissue breaking down, and the meat should easily slide off the bone once cooked. This isn’t a popular test, when cooking for large crowds. 

Visual Test

Wait until you are pretty confident that the meat is cooked and cut into the meat and have a look. When you cook the meat and see that the meat has white edges and becomes tan or white towards the center, then the ribs are ready.

However, if you notice any pink spots, this is a sign of blood and that the pork still needs to be cooked some more. The meat may be rare to medium rare. 

However, as mentioned above, smoked ribs and the edges of the meat will remain pink even when cooked. As a beginner, it is wise to use this method until you become more confident in cooking ribs.

However, as you gain more experience and confidence with cooking ribs, then you can start to look at using some of the other methods that we have mentioned above. 

This isn’t an ideal method, because once you cut into meat, then that area becomes exposed. This then increases the chances of the area becoming overcooked before the ribs are fully cooked. 

Final Thoughts

We have now gone through the 7 methods which you can choose between when testing when your ribs are done.

All these tests will tell you if your ribs are cooked, but the bounce or toothpick test are favorites that don’t affect the visual appearance of the ribs. The more you cook ribs, the more confidence and easier it will become for you to tell when they are gone.

We hope that you have found this article useful and have the perfect method for you to use next time you cook ribs.

Connor Smith