Grilling the perfect rib is not as easy as it sounds. You could end up with your ribs being tough, chewy or even undercooked. One of the techniques is boil ribs before grilling.
If you are wondering if you should do it, let me tell you what other cooks are saying. Some will tell you boiling ribs before grilling is good. Others will tell you it’s bad, and they’ve good enough reasons for saying so.
With every recipe some know-how and skills are required and with practice comes perfection. The same goes with grilling ribs. If you know why some cooks prefer to boil their ribs before grilling and why others avoid it, you’re better equipped to make up you own mind.
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To Boil or Not to Boil Ribs
Why would a cook boil ribs before grilling? And, what is the best type of ribs to grill? These are just some of the questions every person asks when choosing to BBQ ribs. To answer the question about boiling ribs before grilling, I’m going to talk about the best types of ribs to grill, how to tenderize ribs before grilling and ways to grill ribs to perfection.
The Best Types of Ribs for Grilling
When ribs and BBQ are mentioned together most of us will think of pork spareribs. But you can also get baby back ribs and St. Louis ribs (which is a neater version of spareribs).
For quick and easy cooking, baby back pork ribs are great for the griller or smoker. It’s the more expensive style rib because of its high-quality meat.
Both the St. Louis style ribs and spareribs have little meat on them and many cooks choose to grill this style of rib.
Beef and lamb ribs are also available for grilling or smoking. They’re not as popular as the pork ribs though I must say a good piece of lamb riblet goes down well with me!
In this article, I’ll be referring to pork ribs as it’s the more common style ribs for grilling when barbequing for friends and family.
Why Some Cooks Boil Ribs Before Grilling
One of the ways to tenderize meat before cooking or grilling is to boil it beforehand. Ribs can end up being tough and hard to chew. So, to prevent this from happening, some cooks will boil their ribs before placing them on the grill.
Ribs are fatty and another reason cooks like to boil ribs before grilling is to render the fat. But, in the long run, this could end up drying the meat out. Boiling ribs also makes it easier to remove the inner skin or membrane which some cooks swear causes ribs to be tough.
Boiling ribs before grilling means cutting down on the time spent at the grill, particularly if you are grilling for many. Any food that has been parboiled is semi-cooked so your ribs will be half-way done by the time you add them to the grill.
Why Some Cooks Avoid Boiling Ribs Before Grilling
On the other side of the coin, we have the cooks who stay away from boiling any meat before grilling. Your connoisseur griller will tell you if you want the perfectly cooked ribs you need to be willing to put in the time, patience and expertise. According to these cooks, boiling ribs before grilling them is the cheater’s way to shortcutting the time spent barbecuing ribs. That aside, they also maintain boiling ribs robs them of their tasty flavors.
The other danger of parboiling ribs is the smoke will not enter the meat meaning you’ll lose out on the famous “smokehouse” flavors so typical of BBQ ribs.
And, to reinforce their reason for skipping the boiling process altogether, these cooks will tell you your ribs could easily become overcooked or end up tasting rubbery, mushy or simply, plain awful!
Ways to Tenderize Ribs
Now you know why some cooks boil ribs and why some absolutely refuse to, let’s talk about the ways of tenderizing ribs before grilling.
1. Boiling Before Grilling
If you fall into the camp which boils ribs to tenderize them then it’s important to know how to do it so you don’t ruin your ribs. You’ve a few options of doing this step so let’s take a look at them:
- Place the ribs in a large casserole and cover them with water. Boil for about 25 to 30 minutes until the meat is slightly soft. It should not be falling off the bones. Remove, pat dry, add your favorite rub and place on the grill.
- Place the ribs in a pot of water on the stovetop. Bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer for up to one and a half hours (depending on the size of the ribs). If you boil at a high temperature for too long, you’ll end up with tough meat. Some cooks like to add spices such as peppercorns, cloves and onions to the water. When done, remove from the water, dry and cover with a meat rub. Now the ribs are ready for grilling.
- Boil the ribs in a barbeque sauce on the stovetop. This is a great way for adding flavors to ribs. Simmer in the sauce for about half an hour to 40 minutes before placing on a hot grill. You’ll only need to grill the ribs for about 20 to 40 minutes.
2. Brine solution
Most cooks will recommend brining ribs overnight to keep them moist and tender. This involves making a salt and water solution and adding your ribs to the mix. To make the brine solution you want to add a cup of salt to every gallon of water. Some cooks will boil this solution while others simply dissolve the salt in hot water before adding the ribs. The ribs are then placed in the refrigerator overnight to let the brining do its magic.
If you’re an adventurous cook you may want to add spices such as peppercorns, mustard powder, cloves, chilies and anything else that takes your fancy to the brine solution.
3. Tenderizing Marinades
Marinades are an excellent way of tenderizing ribs especially if they contain vinegar. Both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar are known for tenderizing meats so make sure you add them to your marinade recipe. Other ingredients could include Worcestershire sauce, orange or lemon juice (also perfect for tenderizing tough meats), spices, onion and garlic powders, honey and brown sugar.
The ribs are soaked in the marinade sauce for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Marinades don’t only help to tenderize tougher meat cuts but they also add deep, rich flavors.
4. Steaming Method
Another way to tenderize ribs before grilling is to use the steaming method. Not only will this method result in tender meat but it’ll also add moisture and flavor. Place apple cider vinegar or beer into a roasting pan with water. Add the ribs and cover with aluminum foil.
Place the roasting pan into a pre-heated oven of 350°F and steam the ribs for about one hour. Once done, remove from the oven and place onto a hot grill cooking them for about 30 minutes. Turn the ribs over a couple of times to get even grilling. It’s recommended to remove the membrane on the ribs before steaming to get the best benefits of using this method.
5. Smoke Ribs Instead of Grilling
You’ve chosen to grill your ribs and there’s no problem cooking ribs this way. But, fans of smokers will tell you the ideal way to guarantee tender ribs is to smoke them and not grill them. Low and slow cooking is one of the best ways of tenderizing meat and every smoker user knows smoking entails low, consistent temperatures and patience. Ribs can take anything between six to eight hours in a smoker.
Which is why you’re opting to grill your ribs, isn’t it? The thought of waiting nearly a whole day for tender ribs may seem rather crazy to some people. While smokers can be a great way to produce the smokehouse type ribs we all love, it takes dedication to use one. So, if you’re still fixed on grilling your ribs, then make sure you’re prepare properly for the optimum results.
How to Grill Tender Ribs
Let’s talk about how to grill your ribs so they turn out moist, tender and most of all, full of flavors. By now, you’ll know I always emphasize the importance of preparing your meats no matter which type you’re grilling or smoking. If you want to impress your friends and family with your grilled meats then do the prep beforehand.
The first step is to decide whether to remove the membrane or not. Then you want to place the ribs in a marinade or brine solution overnight. The next day, prepare the meat rub and spread onto the ribs. Have your grill ready and hot before placing the ribs onto the oiled racks. For the first hour, keep the lid on the grill, turning the ribs once after 30 minutes. This allows the ribs to be slowly cooked with indirect heat. Make sure the grill doesn’t go over 200°F or else the ribs will end up being tough and chewy.
After one hour, remove the lid and let the ribs grill for another 40 to 60 minutes. This is the time to add a basting sauce to the ribs. Turn the ribs over a couple of times to ensure the meat is evenly cooked. Once ready, remove from the grill and let the ribs sit for another 20 minutes. This allows for the juices to settle into the meat and keep them moist. Cut into pieces and serve up to your guests.
A Final Word
Every cook has their preferred way of grilling ribs. Some like to boil their ribs before grilling while others choose to steam, marinade or use a brine solution to tenderize their ribs. I always say give each way a try and see which one you like. After all, cooking is meant to be an adventure and you can have fun trying out the different methods and recipes.