How to Tell When Ribs are Done


Ribs are delicious and fun to cook, but they can be a little tricky. Typically they come wrapped in individual packages and so it’s tough to get a look at the meat itself.

This makes it difficult when it comes time to check the doneness of the meat. On top of that, knowing when to wrap things up is also important.

In this post, we’ll discuss the ways you can use temperature as an indicator for when your ribs are done.

How to Tell When Your Ribs Are Ready

The best way to determine the doneness of ribs is to use a meat thermometer. Insert the meat thermometer in between two bones, making sure it doesn’t touch bone.

You want it touching the meat and not above or below it. Ribs can be a tricky meat to cook properly.

The USDA guidelines for cooking ribs are to take them up to 145°F before taking them off the grill.

Bend Test

The most common method is the bend test. This is where rib rack or slab is bent slightly and held for a second.

When done correctly, the rack or slab looks slightly like it wants to break. A piece should bend without much effort and hold its form. Time pulling, not breaking in this case!

Twist Test

Grab ahold of the very end of one of the bones on opposite ends. Try to twist with a fair amount of force. If it starts to break free from the meat, you’re good to go.

That means that collagen in the connective tissues has melted and turned to gelatin, which is what gives really smoky, cooked-low-and-slow barbecue its wonderful texture and flavor.

Pop-Up Test

The pop-up test is whether the flesh at the long ends of the bones closest to where the ribs join the spine pulls up about one-quarter of an inch. It is easier with a well-trimmed rack of spareribs. With untrimmed slabs, you can lift the tips and look for exposed bone.

Basically, you want to let the meat cook as is at a consistent temperature until it starts to pop up like a toast coming out of your toaster.

Taste Test

This method involves you taking a small chunk of the meat from the grill and tasting it. More often than not, this will be enough to confirm its readiness.

If it easily pulls away from the rib and has a nice smokey flavor, it’s deemed ready to eat. If it’s too chewy, cook it for a while longer.

Toothpick Test

The toothpick test is a simple way to see if your meats are done.

Insert a toothpick into the ribs. If it slips into the meat without resistance, then the ribs are cooked.

If it takes a little extra effort to push the toothpick through the meat, then your ribs need more time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Overcook Ribs?

Yes. The best way to avoid overcooking ribs is to judge the temperature properly. There is no way around it. You need a meat thermometer.

If you don’t have an instant-read digital probe thermometer for this job, we recommend getting at least one.

What Do Undercooked Ribs Look Like?

Ribs that are too raw will have a bright red color. The bones and the outside area of the meat can look pink but this is only because of the intensity of the light being shined on them. When ribs are cooked properly, you should be able to see some browning.

Bobby Johnson

When he's not writing about barbecue, you can find Bobby smoking meat for friends and family. He's been a backyard pitmaster for roughly half his life, and has worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands-on guide to teach them BBQ, but that's what Bobby hopes to do with Electric Smoker HQ. He wants to help people create amazing food that they can be proud of.