Are Spare Ribs Tender Or Tough?


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Ribs can be a difficult food to master on the grill. When you think of grilling in the summer, you think of brats, burgers, and chicken. After a few cookouts with your family, you get the feel for how to cook the brats, burgers, and chicken to everyone’s desired palate. 

Ribs can be difficult to cook since they are not a typical, everyday grilling item. 

Just because ribs may not be on the grill every week in the summer doesn’t mean they won’t ever be, they are a delicious meal to be had. However, if the ribs aren’t cooked properly, they won’t taste that great. 

How should ribs be cooked? Are spare ribs supposed to be tender or tough? 

Ribs should be tender and juicy with a little crispy layer on the outside. If your spare ribs have turned out too tough to chew, they probably weren’t cooked long enough or were cooked at too high of a temperature. 

If you cook your ribs quickly and at a high temperature, they will turn out tough instead of tender. Ribs are naturally tough, which is why they must be cooked properly in order to achieve the perfect level of tenderness. 

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How Do You Soften Ribs? 

Tough to chew ribs are not exactly a great dinner. You can hear the scrapes of the knife on the plate as your family saws their way through the rib meat. 

Is there a way to soften the ribs to avoid the awful sound of knife scrapes on the plates? 

Since the reason for tough ribs is due to undercooking or cooking too fast you can add some extra moisture to your ribs to help soften them up and add flavor by adding sauce and time. 

Use apple cider vinegar and barbecue sauce to create a sauce for the ribs. Pour the sauce onto the ribs and wrap them in foil. Place the ribs back into the oven on low heat, around 300ºF. 

The sauce that you added to the ribs will put moisture back into the ribs. Leave the ribs in the oven for about an hour longer for tender ribs. 

How Do You Know If Spare Ribs Have Gone Bad? 

Backyard barbecues are a great way to spend time with family and friends in the summer. You can go with the typical grilled foods like burgers, brats, and hot dogs, or you can spice things up and cook spare ribs instead. 

You always want to make sure that you serve your guests the best which includes good meat. How do you know if spare ribs have gone bad so you don’t accidentally serve some spoiled ribs? 

The best way to know if your spare ribs have gone bad is by smelling and looking at them. If the spare ribs have a sour smell, they have gone bad. If the spare ribs have any discoloration and are slimy, they are no longer edible. 

How Do You Know If Your Ribs Are Done?

Ribs taste best when they are cooked for a long time at a low temperature. If you plan on making ribs, you need to set aside quite a bit of time to make sure they are cooked properly. 

However, even following a recipe can sometimes still result in overdone or undercooked ribs. How exactly do you know when ribs are done and ready to go? 

Ribs are done when their internal temperature is 195ºF. If you do not have a meat thermometer, you can use these methods to see if your ribs are done. However, using a meat thermometer is the best way to know if your ribs are properly cooked. 

  • Peek Test: When about a quarter-inch of the bones are showing, the ribs are probably okay to take off the grill. The rib meat will often shrink when cooked under high temperatures, revealing the bones. However, just because the meat starts to pull back from the bones does not mean it is fully cooked. The ends may pull back before the center is done cooking and other times the pulling back of the meat may not happen until the meat has been overcooked. 
  •  Bend Test: You can check by grabbing the ribs with a pair of tongs and lightly bouncing it up and down. If the rack or ribs wiggles and bends in the middle, your ribs are done. Practice makes perfect, after a few times using the bend test, you should be able to tell when the ribs are done and ready to enjoy.
  • Toothpick Test: This method is one of the easiest to use and won’t cause any visible damage to the ribs. Take a normal toothpick and insert it in the rib meat between two of the rib bones. Use the thickest part of the rib to gain the best accuracy of whether or not the meat is done. The toothpick should slide in and out easily; cooked ribs will offer little resistance and raw meat is more difficult to stick a toothpick into. 
  • Timing Test: This is the best method for those that are new to cooking ribs. Set your grill for 225ºF and cook your ribs for three to four hours. If you are making spare ribs, you will need to increase the time to five to six hours. If you are making barbecue ribs, add an additional 10-15 minutes. 
  • Twist Test: If you are planning on just placing the ribs on your plate and don’t care about the presentation, this may be one of the best ways to ensure that the ribs are fully cooked. Grab a small, sharp knife and separate one of the rib bones from the rest. Grab the separated rib in the middle and give it a quick twist. If the meat falls off the bone, the ribs should be done.   
  • Taste Test: Another good way to know that your ribs are not overcooked is by tasting them. Take a small piece of meat and eat it to see if you have reached the desired level of texture. You will want to make sure that the ribs are close to being done to avoid any chance of a food-borne illness from undercooked meat. 

Final Thoughts

Spare ribs start out tough until they are cooked properly. Properly cooked spare ribs should be tender and fall right off the bone. 

If you want to add some extra moisture to the spare ribs, you can create a sauce that will help make sure your spare ribs become tender and will not stay tough. 

Hannah R.

Hey, I'm Hannah and I'm the founder of Get Eatin'.

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