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How to Tell When Grilled Baby Back Ribs are Done

If you’re like most people, grilling ribs is not something you do every day. In fact, it might be something you only do a few times a year.

But when summertime rolls around and the weather is begging you to fire up the grill, there’s nothing quite like grilled baby back ribs smothered in your favorite BBQ sauce.

The problem is, if you don’t know how to tell when grilled baby back ribs are done, they can easily become dry, tough, and burnt. No one wants that!

So how can you tell when your ribs are perfectly cooked? Keep reading for the best way to test for doneness.

Rack of baby back ribs on a flaming grill

How to tell when baby back ribs are done grilling

Grilling ribs is easy, but knowing when they’re done can be tricky. Use this guide to learn how to tell when grilled baby back ribs are done so you can enjoy them at their best.

Temperature Tests

One of the best ways to judge when baby back ribs are done grilling is by testing their internal temperature.

To do this, you’ll want to use a thermometer with a thin probe. Insert it into the meatiest part of the ribs, avoiding the bone.

The ideal temperature for cooked baby back ribs is around 180-190° F.

Twist Test

The twist test technique is a great way to determine when your baby back ribs are done grilling.

This test involves gently twisting an exposed bone tip from the center of the slab to check if the connective tissues have broken down and if the ribs are ready.

If the rib easily twists away from the meat, then the ribs are done.

Bounce Test

To use the bounce test, lift the rib rack with a pair of tongs and gently bounce it up and down. If a deep crack appears down the middle, then the ribs are done.

If the crack is still small, then the ribs need to be cooked a bit longer.

Alternatively, you can use the Bend Test, which involves picking up the ribs in the middle with a pair of tongs and using the light force of the wrist to try to bend the rib.

Look for cracks or how the meat pulls away from the bone. If the ribs are not cooked enough, there will only be a small crack.

Thumb Test

To test if your grilled baby back ribs are done, place your thumb between the bones and press down.

If the ribs are done, the meat should give easily and the bones should separate with minimal effort. If the ribs don’t move, they need more time to cook.

Color

When it comes to baby back ribs, color can also be a good indicator of when the ribs are done.

You can cut into the ribs themselves and check for a white or tan center and no pink juices.

Additionally, to tell when baby back ribs are done through color, you should look for the dry rub adhering to the meat and no longer sticking to your fingers.

However, this test does mean you will have to cut into the ribs that may not be ready, so you may have to repeat the test with other sections.

Have you ever wondered what the difference between back ribs vs. baby back ribs is? Check out my post to learn more.

How long does it take to cook ribs?

Cooking ribs can take anywhere from 3-7 hours depending on your rack, its thickness, your cooking temperature, and other external factors like humidity and airflow.

Baby back ribs should be cooked for 3-4 hours, while spare ribs and St. Louis ribs typically take 5-6 hours before they’re done. If you’re using a rib rack, add up to an extra hour of cooking time.

At What Temperature Are Pork Ribs Done?

According to the USDA, pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F, however, for maximum rendering for ribs, the meat should be cooked to an internal temperature between 195°F and 200°F.

For tender, juicy ribs, it’s best to cook them until they reach 195°F to 200°F. Cooking the ribs for too long can result in the meat drying out and resembling sawdust more than anything else.

What temperature should you cook ribs on the grill?

Cooking ribs on the grill can be tricky, but with the right temperature and a few tips and tricks, you can make sure you get the perfect results every time.

To ensure you don’t burn the ribs, it’s best to keep the heat of your grill at a moderate level of 225-250°F.

If you have the luxury of time, you can set the grill to low and slow. If you’re pressed for time, you can ramp up the temperature a bit to speed things up, but be careful not to let the meat dry out.

If you somehow manage to have leftovers, you can learn the best way to reheat ribs in this post.

What are undercooked ribs like?

Undercooked ribs will usually have a pale pink color and will not have the desired bark that is created when cooked correctly.

The ribs will also not have the flavor or texture that fully cooked ribs have.

Ribs that have not been cooked long enough lack the smoky flavor that comes from grilling and also the tenderness and juiciness you would expect from ribs that are cooked to perfection.

With this, your meat also won’t have rendered and will still be attached to the bone.

If you have BBQ sauce that is too runny to baste your ribs with you can find out here how to thicken BBQ sauce.

FAQ

The answer is yes! When grilling ribs, you should start by cooking them bone side up and then flipping them over when brushing them with BBQ sauce.

Generally, when grilling ribs, you should keep the lid closed to ensure that the temperature stays consistent and the ribs are able to cook evenly.

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