Perfect Ribs: Are They Done Yet?

Grilling is a mixture of art and science. On the scientific side, you need to figure out how hot and how long you should grill and the tricks and methods to use. You also must calculate the right amount of ingredients to be able to achieve great combinations of flavors. Ribs are notorious for being hard to tell whether they are done or not and it seems like each chef have their own “foolproof” way of telling it.

In cooking, it is important that your food is prepared in the most appetizing way as much as possible. The same is true when preparing for barbeque. Cooking meats, especially the ribs, requires a lot of skills, technique and patience to achieve the perfect tender juicy variety that everyone is looking for. You must make sure that you know how to tell when ribs are done before you serve your food at your dining table. Remember that the way to any person’s heart is through the stomach. Here are some of the ways that you can use in your next grilling activity.

Difference Between
“Done” and “Ready”

There is a difference between saying “done” and “ready” especially when it comes to barbecue. A meat is “done” when the temperature at the thickest part reaches a point where it is safe for a person to eat it however it does not mean that it is “ready.” According to the United States Department of Agriculture, when the internal temperature of the ribs reaches 145°F, it is considered “done” but it may still be tough. But if you heat the ribs up to a 190 to 230°F, the fats and the collagens in the meat melt and makes the meat juicier and tender. This is considered as “ready.”

Kinds Of Ribs

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Spare Ribs

These are the most traditional choice of meat. It comes from the bottom side section above the belly section of the pig or cow. They are larger than baby back ribs in both height and weight. There are less meat and more fat and usually contains long bones. These type is the most flavorful despite the least amount of meat due to larger amount of fat.

Baby Back Ribs

Baby back ribs or also known as loin back are taken from the top of the ribs at the back of a pig or cow, hence the name. They are smaller in comparison with other rib meats. These are usually short, easy to hold and meatier than the latter type. Because it contains loin meat, there are less amount of fat and the whole rack would only weigh around 1 ½ to 1 ¾ pounds. Beef baby back ribs is very tender than others. This type is rather popular due to its flavor and price.

St. Louise-Style

Also belonging to the most popular type of ribs, these are actually spare ribs only trimmed further to remove the breastbone as well as the cartilage tips. This way, it would look like a rectangular-shaped rack.

Country Style

This type of ribs is cut from the shoulder end of the loin. It has the least amount of fat and the highest meat-to-bone ratio among all other types of ribs. This type is often mistaken as “pork chops”.

How To Check Your Ribs

Temperature Check

Ribs should be done when temperature reaches 180°F and should be pulled out in between 180°F to 190°F. But the ideal cooking temperature is around 225°F. To be able to get an accurate reading, the best method is to use a thin probe digital thermometer which can be easily purchased from stores. This is not however possible when checking baby back ribs because of the small quantity of meat it contains.

The Bend Test

This is the most favored test among advanced cooks. It includes using a pair of tongs or hand gloves. Hold up the rack of ribs on its thicker end with a firm grip horizontally so the entire weight of the rack rests upon the grip of your tongs. If the rack bends downward easily, then the meat is done. It is often coined as the “fall-off-the-bone” tender. This way, you can determine if the ribs is not just cooked but done.

Meat Color Test

Look at the meat on the cracked part of the rack. You will see a pinkish outer layer and the rest of the meat is white, sometimes a little pinkish. If there is any liquid on the meat, then it is certainly not done. If ever you see a light brown meat, pull it out from the heat. It is certainly done.

The Popup Test

Some say that your ribs are ready once you can see the meat pull back and exposing the tips of the bones. However, this is not necessarily a sign that they are done. Heat can cause this phenomenon to happen.

The Toothpick Test

This method requires poking a toothpick into the meat in between the bones. If the toothpick slides down easily, then you have well-done ribs.

Fall Off The Bone Tender?

“Fall off the bone tender” is a term coined for perfectly cooked ribs. If the ribs are cooked the right way, the meat would be tender and juicy to literally “fall off the bone.” To test if you have achieved this, you should remember that the meat should be easily tear from the bone when you sink in your teeth and pull out the bone away. This is what you should aim for everytime you cook ribs.


Achieving perfectly cooked ribs requires a lot of patience. You must learn the basics on how to tell when the ribs are done through various tests and temperature checks to assure the quality and taste of the food that you prepare. Aside from going in with your gut, you should invest in high quality equipments such digital thermometers. And don’t forget, practice always paves the way to success. Do a lot of practice and you’ll be able to whip up the perfect spare ribs for every family occasion.