Boiling Ribs Before Grilling: Yes or No?

It can be a real challenge to make the ideal ribs, cooked to perfection. It’s an art form, especially since it’s so easy to make them either too tough or undercooked. How can you minimize your chances of making your ribs anything less than perfect? Why, you can boil them first of course!

Now, you may be wondering if this technique is actually worthwhile. We get it – it’s a new technique so you’re always going to be skeptical.

As such, we’ve compiled some information about what chefs across the globe think of this technique. The opinions are divided – some say it’s a good idea, whereas others aren’t so happy. We’re also going to talk about their reasoning.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter what you’re cooking – it’s always important to have some level of knowledge and the right technique to get it right, and this may not happen straight away. You can say the same for ribs.

As a result, we’re here to give you the 411 on the reasons for boiling your ribs before you grill, and some of the reasons why other chefs think that this is a big no no. With all of this information at hand, you can better decide what you want to do. 

The Boiling Decision

First of all, you may be wondering what exactly would compel a person to try to boil their ribs before they stick the meat on the grill? Doesn’t that just take more time? Not only that, but are there certain ribs that are better to boil before you grill? 

As you can see, people have a lot of questions before diving into this technique. Ribs are no easy feat on the grill! In order to give you a nuanced response though, we first need to look into the main kinds of ribs that you should be grilling.

We’ll also cover the best ways to make your ribs juicy and tender before you grill them, and the best way to get them perfect in the end.

What Ribs Work Well For Grilling?

In most cases, we tend to associate grilling with pork square ribs. These aren’t the only kinds of ribs that work well for grilling though. In addition to square ribs, you can also enjoy St.Louis Ribs and Baby Back Ribs.

If you want to cook them with ease, then it’s usually best to put your baby back pork ribs on the smoker or griller. It will cost you more money to buy them but it’s worth it since the meat is of such a high quality.

The issue with these kinds of ribs is that they don’t have a lot of meat on them and this is a big reason why people usually grill them rather than using another kind of cooking method.

If you wish then you can also get great success from smoking or grilling lamb and beef ribs too. These ribs aren’t the most popular choice on the market but they taste oh so good! 

For the remainder of this guide though, we’re going to be discussing pork ribs since they are the main kinds of ribs that are used on the grill for family get-togethers.

The Reasons for Boiling Before You Grill

If you want to make your meat tender before you put it on the grill then the best thing to do is to boil the meat in advance.

The last thing that you want is to have overly chewy and tough ribs, but the alternative is undercooking them. To solve the problem, a lot of people will choose instead to boil the ribs before they proceed with grilling the ribs. 

This isn’t the only reason that people boil ribs, of course. A lot of people choose to boil them in order to render the fat since ribs are full of fat. This can be problematic sometimes though since it can result in drying out the meat.

One other reason that people boil ribs is because it makes it slightly easier to get rid of the membrane. This is important since a lot of people believe that it is this membrane that causes the ribs to become tough after grilling.

It has its practical advantages too. If you boil the ribs then you are spending significantly less time grilling the food, and this is beneficial if you are grilling for a large number of people. If the food has been parboiled then it’s already been half way cooked, so you don’t need to do as much when it is time to grill them.

The Reasons to Avoid Boiling Before You Grill 

It should also come as no surprise that there are a lot of people that aren’t so fond of boiling ribs before they grill them. Many experts in the realm of grilling will say that the perfect food takes patience and time to cook.

These said people would tell you that boiling your meat simply cannot happen since it is essentially cheating. The other issue that many of these chefs have is that some of the flavor is reduced when you are boiling ribs.

There’s one more issue too. If you are going to partially boil the ribs before you grill them, then a lot of the delicious smoky flavor won’t be present in the ribs because the smoke will have been unable to get into the ribs for an adequate amount of time.

Ultimately, a lot of people will tell you that boiling the ribs can sometimes result in meat that is overcooked, tastes rubbery and at worst, is completely ruined by the parboiling process. They suggest that it’s better to skip it altogether and have a little patience.

Tenderizing Methods for Ribs

You now have a little bit of background about why some people may think that it’s a good idea to boil ribs, and why others may be opposed to the idea. So, what are some of the main methods for tenderizing your ribs that you can potentially use?

1. Parboil then Grill

You may decide that you would prefer to boil your ribs, and that’s okay! What’s not okay is using an incorrect method and risking potentially having terrible results. As such, it’s important that you know how you should be doing it in order to get the best results. There are a couple of ways that you can boil your ribs, and we have listed these below.

  • First, get a casserole dish and put the ribs inside of it. Then put water all over them, allowing them to boil for roughly 25 to 30 minutes. You should not be removing the meat until it is soft, but don’t let it get to the point where it’s so tender that the meat has started flaking away from the bone. When it’s time to remove the meat from the boil, you should pat it dry, season it as you prefer and then begin grilling.
  • Alternatively, you can get a pot of water and boil the ribs inside of it on the stove. Allow the ribs to come to the boil, and then you can start to simmer them for roughly one and a half hours. This will vary depending on how large the ribs you are boiling are going to be. Don’t boil them at an overly high temperature for too long, as this can often result in the meat becoming tough. At this point you may also wish to add a little spice to your meat using things like onions or garlic cloves in the water. Eventually it will be time to remove the meat from the boil, and you should then dry it and season it as needed. Then you can add it to the grill.
  • Finally, you can boil the ribs in some barbeque sauce on the top of the stove. This way, you are getting flavor right off the bat before you even add your seasoning. Allowing it to simmer for up to 40 minutes and then transfer it straight onto the hot grill. You should grill them for roughly 20 to 40 minutes. 

2. Using Brine

If you want to keep the ribs tender then one method that may work well for you is brining them throughout the night before you intend to cook them. It’s fairly simple to do, too. You will need to make a concoction of salt and water and then put your ribs inside of this fluid.

Ideally you are going to need one cup of salt for each gallon of water that you use. If you want to then you can actually boil the formula, but a lot of people will just choose to let the salt dissolve in some hot water and then they will add the ribs to the mix.

When it’s all done, you can then put the ribs in the refrigerator to allow them to brine through the night. If you are feeling a little more daring, then you can do things like adding mustard powder, peppercorns and more to add some flavor.

3. Using a Marinade to Tenderize

If you’re tenderizing ribs then there’s a good chance that you have at least considered marinading. It’s a popular choice, and one that’s especially effective if vinegar is in the marinade.

Apple cider vinegar and white vinegar work really well for helping to tenderize meats, which is something worth keeping in mind if you are planning on creating your own marinade. You can also use other things to add flavor that will help with tenderizing such as citrus juices, onion powder, spices and honey.

Allow them to soak in the marinade for around 24 hours maximum while they are in the refrigerator. This method is especially great for tenderizing since the method helps to add more flavor to the meat.

4. Steaming the Ribs

You don’t have to boil the ribs when you can steam them instead. You will get deliciously tender meat from doing this, and you can also get extra flavor from it. All you have to do is get some apple cider vinegar and put it into a roasting pan filled with water. Then you can put the ribs in the mix and then put aluminum foil on top. 

When you have done this, put the pan into an oven that’s pre-heated to a temperature of 350 degrees, and then allow them to steam for an hour. Take them out when finished and then grill them for roughly 30 minutes, turning them as you go. It’s a good idea to get rid of the membrane too in order to get the ideal results.

Grilling Tender Ribs

Now you know some of the methods of tenderizing, how can you grill some delicious ribs? For starters, consider whether you need to take the membrane off.

When you have made your decision, allow the meat to marinade or sit in brine through the night. Put the rub on the meat the next day, and put the ribs onto some oiled racks.

Keep the lid on the grill and cook them, removing the lid to the grill after an hour and allow them to grill for another hour or so. Add basting sauce and eventually you can remove the meat, allowing them to sit for 20 minutes before you serve.