Skip to Content

Resting Ribs | 9 Points Explained

Resting ribs after smoking

Plan on resting ribs, but not a lot of time is required.

Ribs are much thinner than most other cuts of meat and do not need a lot of time to cool off or reabsorb juices. 

When resting ribs, let them rest at room temperature with a sheet of aluminum foil sheet lightly laid on top to protect it from any flies.

After 10-20 minutes, cut and serve!

The science behind resting a cooked piece of meat is to allow large pieces like pork shoulder and brisket the chance to reabsorb any juices that might have escaped during the smoke.

Typically when resting these cuts of meat, they are wrapped so the juices and moisture have nowhere else to go except back into the meat. 

Ribs, however, do not need as long to rest.

Ribs are a much smaller cut of meat with half being the rib bones.

Due to this, ribs do not lose as much moisture and juice compared to pork shoulders or briskets and do not need time to reabsorb whatever liquid has escaped. 

Large pieces of meat also need time to rest so the juice within the meat can redistribute throughout the cut making each bite extremely flavorful.

Ribs will not need this time for redistribution because they smoke for much shorter and do not experience the moisture in the meat heading towards the surface of the meat as intensely.

They are a comparatively thin piece of meat and the moisture in the ribs does not need time to redistribute. 

How long to let ribs rest before cutting

You can let ribs rest at room temperature anywhere from 10-20 minutes before cutting them. 

This will give time for the heat trapped in the ribs to spread out evenly, stopping the cooking process, and leaving the meat tender.

The meat juices also need a few minutes to reabsorb into the meat, creating an extremely flavorful bite anywhere in the ribs. 

This resting time is also the perfect amount of time for the meat to cool off so you can eat without worrying about burning your mouth.

If any bbq sauce was added to the ribs at the end of the cook, this is its chance to cool off and thicken. 

Resting ribs in Cooler

You can rest ribs in a cooler anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours. 

If you are looking to rest and hold the ribs for up to an hour or two, wrap the ribs in foil, followed by a towel, and place them in a cooler.

You can also place a towel on the bottom of the cooler as well as on top. 

If you are looking to hold the ribs longer than 2 hours, heat the cooler up by pouring a pot of boiling water in and letting it “preheat” for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, dump the water out, and immediately place a towel on the bottom, followed by the wrapped ribs, and a towel on top.

This will allow you to hold the ribs for closer to 4hours.

Be careful to not let the ribs fall below an internal temperature of 140 degrees.

Ribs are a much thinner piece of meat compared to pork shoulders and brisket and will lose heat much faster. 

How Long Can Ribs Rest In Cooler

Ribs can rest in a cooler for roughly 2 – 5 hours.

This helps to ensure that the meat will decrease in internal temperature, and allows for the moisture to seep back into the meat.

Don’t slice into the ribs until at least a couple of hour have passed.

Not slicing into the ribs while resting will make sure you are doing everything possible to keep the moisture content within them intact.

If you were to slice too soon, you risk severely drying them out!

Resting ribs in Oven

Resting ribs in an oven is an option, but look to keep the temperature as low as possible.

Ovens can be an option for resting your ribs as you can guarantee the ribs will stay above 140 degrees.

When holding ribs, you want your oven to be as low as possible to avoid overcooking the ribs. 

Most ovens have a warm setting, however, this temperature is usually 170-200 degrees.

If you hold your ribs at this temperature your ribs will continue to cook and be extremely overdone.

They will be falling off the bone and mushy due to the collagen in the meat continuing to be cooked and losing its texture. 

Another risk to consider is If your oven runs hot you might accidentally raise the temperature of the ribs to over 210 degrees.

At this point, the moisture within the ribs is evaporating leaving you with extremely dry and tough ribs.

Look to use an oven as the last resort and if you need to hold the ribs longer than 4 hours.

Another option if you need to hold for 4 hours or longer is to refrigerate after cooking and reheat them closer to serving time. 

Resting Ribs After Grilling

Similar to smoking, you do not need to rest ribs for more than 15-20 minutes 

Ribs do not need a ton of time to rest.

They are a thinner cut of meat so, unlike pork butts and briskets, the meat does not need time to reabsorb any juices that might have left or let the juices redistribute inside the meat. 

Is the best way to rest ribs, in foil, butcher paper, or naked?

The best way to rest your ribs if you are looking to eat soon is naked. 

When you rest your ribs, you do not want to increase the internal temperature at all.

If you used the “bend test” and your ribs developed a large crack when checking and were hanging vertically, the ribs are the perfect temperature and do not need to be cooked anymore.

Wrapping ribs right after taking them off the smoker will raise the internal temperature resulting in overcooked ribs. 

Since ribs do not need to rest for more than 10-20 minutes, wrapping them in foil or butcher paper is not needed.

Simply resting foil over the top of them to prevent flies from landing on them is plenty. 

If you are looking to hold the ribs for 20 minutes or more, look to wrap the ribs to keep the internal temperature high enough to be food safe.

Ribs are a thin piece of meat compared to other cuts of meat and resting any longer than 20 minutes unwrapped will lower the internal temperature significantly. 

If you need to rest the ribs for a longer period of time in a cooler, look to wrap in foil rather than butcher paper.

As your ribs rest within their wrapping, moisture will begin evaporating from the meat.

If you wrap your ribs in butcher paper, the paper will become wet and with your ribs touching the butcher paper, your bark will become soft and lose its flavor.

The foil will allow the ribs to retain their bark even with the moisture within the wrap. 

Resting ribs and preserving the bark

If you rest ribs for 10-20 minutes, there will not be any negative impact on the bark. 

Holding ribs longer than 20 minutes will require you to wrap the ribs and this will have an impact on the bark of the ribs.

When wrapped, ribs will produce some steam creating a moist environment for the ribs to be held in.

This is okay for the meat, but it will leave your bark softer than if you didn’t wrap and hold. 

The longer you hold the ribs, the softer the bark will become.

As you begin to move towards the 4 hour mark, the bark may start to lose its flavor as the moisture begins to dilute the rub on the bark. 

An option to try and recreate any bark you may have lost is to put your grill on high and grill the ribs for a few minutes.

This can help in creating some char texture in the bark.

Can you rest ribs for too long?

Yes, anything longer than 20 minutes uncovered or about 4 hours in a cooler will result in the ribs going below the food-safe temperature of 140 degrees for pork. 

Resting your ribs too long will not only result in an unsafe temperature, but it will result in the softening of the bark along with losing its flavor. 

If you rest the ribs at room temperature any longer than 20 minutes you run the risk of the meat going cold and losing the texture of the bark.

Resting the ribs any longer than about 4 hours in a cooler and your ribs will be in danger of dipping below the 140 degrees required to be food safe.

Ribs do not hold their temperature well compared to thick pieces of meat like pork shoulders and briskets.

Since ribs are so thin, the heat escapes quicker giving you less time to hold them at a safe temperature.

In addition to this, the longer you hold ribs the softer its bark becomes.