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How Long Can Ribs Rest In Cooler? | Explained

How Long Can Ribs Rest In Cooler? | Explained

How Long Can Ribs Rest In Cooler?

Ribs can rest in a cooler for 2-3 hours and still be above a food-safe temperature for eating.  

There are a couple of steps to implement when trying to rest your ribs for a long period of time.

While the ribs are still cooking, add a pot of boiling water to your cooler and let it preheat for 15 minutes.

After this time period, empty the cooler and line the bottom of the cooler with towels.

Pull the ribs off of the smoker and wrap them in foil and towels.

Place the ribs in the cooler and throw another towel on top. 

Using this process will allow you to rest ribs for about 2-3 hours depending on the quality of the cooler and the outside temperature.

Before eating, double-check your ribs are above an internal temperature of 145 degrees to be considered food-safe. 

It is important to note, ribs will not handle a long rest as well as other pieces of meat.

Ribs can be easily overcooked and during a long rest in a warm cooler, the collagen in the meat will continue to break down.

This collagen is the connective tissue holding the meat’s protein fibers together.

With a long rest, almost all of the collagen will break down leaving the ribs extremely tender and will fall off the bone as you try and eat them.

Some people prefer this tenderness for their ribs so it might be okay, but rib meat should have a bit of pull when a bite is taken and stay on the bone. 


How long should you rest ribs in a cooler?

15-20 minutes of resting is the perfect amount of time for ribs.

Ribs do not need as much rest as other pieces of meats for a couple of different reasons. 

First, ribs can be easily over cooked when compared to brisket and pork shoulders.

Ribs should be cooked to an internal temperature of about 185-190 degrees.

This temperature will allow the rib meat to be extremely tender and juicy without the meat falling off of the bone.

If you rest ribs wrapped in a foil in warm cooler, the ribs will continue to cook leading the collagen to continue to break down.

After a long rest, your ribs will have no structure to them and will be extremely difficult to handle without falling apart.

This will also lead the the rib meat falling off the bone when a bite is taken.

In the professional world of bbq, this is a tellltale sign of overcooked ribs. 

Secondly, compared to brisket and pork shoulder, ribs are a much smaller cut of meat and do not need as much time for its juices to redistribute.

Brisket and shoulders need a lot of time for the juices to move from the surface of the meat to the center.

Ribs on the other hand are so thin, the time needed is minimal.

Along with this, ribs will lose heat very rapidly.

A 10lb brisket will stay warm on the counter for hours, but after 20 minutes ribs will cool significantly.

If you wait too much longer than 20 minutes you risk the ribs no longer being food safe. 


Do you have to rest ribs in a cooler?

Depending on how long you need to wait before eating your ribs, you do not have to rest your ribs in a cooler. 

A minimal amount of time is needed for ribs to rest before eating.

If you pull the ribs off the smoker and you are ready to eat right away, let them rest on the counter for 15 minutes then cut and serve!

If you have an hour or two before the time to eat, this might be a good time to wrap them in foil and store them in a preheated cooler. 


Alternative resting methods for ribs?

If you need to hold the ribs longer than an hour, the best option would be to refrigerate your ribs immediately after pulling them and reheating them closer to serving time. 

For reheating ribs in the oven, there are a couple of steps to follow to ensure your ribs do not dry out during the process:

  • Preheat your oven to 250 degrees
  • Place the ribs in a pan and cover with foil
    • An optional step is to add some moisture to the ribs before reheating. Apple juice or apple cider is a great option. Depending on the size of your pan and the number of ribs you are cookng, a quarter cup of liquid should be plenty. 
  • Cook the ribs until they reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees
  • If you want, you can add some sauce to the ribs at this point and leave them uncovered in the oven for an additional 10 minutes. This will give the sauce a chance to caramelize and add a little crisp to the bark. 

Wrapping ribs while in the cooler

Ribs can be wrapped when they are in the cooler to stop any moisture from escaping out of the meat. 

For most pieces of meat, wrapping will allow it to keep warm for a long time period, increase the tenderness of the meat, and let the meat reabsorb any moisture that might have escaped.

For ribs, they should not be resting for a long time so the wrapping’s main purpose becomes to prevent the ribs from losing any moisture.

If you are planning on eating the ribs right away, simply resting the ribs on the counter with foil tented on top for 15 minutes is perfect. 

It is important to know, wrapping the ribs in foil will affect the bark.

Wrapping traps all the moisture with the ribs leading the bark to become soft over time.

If you are wrapping the ribs for only 15 minutes, there shouldn’t be a big change.

If you are wrapping and holding the ribs for a long period of time, the bark will become soft which could be undesirable for some pitmasters. 


Internal temp for resting ribs?

A safe internal temperature for ribs to reach is 145 degrees.

Anything below this temperature for a long time period and the ribs are no longer considered food safe. 

The ideal internal temperature to cook ribs to is about 190 degrees.

Typically most pitmasters cook to feel rather than temperature for ribs, but it ends up being around this temperature that the ribs are pulled.