How Long to Let Ribs Rest? The Rate of Resting!

September 22, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

You should let baby back ribs rest for 10 minutes, spare ribs rest for 15 minutes, and beef ribs rest for up to 20 minutes at a time.

One of the earliest lessons that my BBQ crazy family taught me was about resting meat. I was surprised to learn that you also had to rest ribs as there was so little meat on them. Still, my family showed me the right period and technique for resting ribs.

In this post, I will show you how long to let ribs rest and provide you with the top tips for getting this process just right!

how long to let ribs rest

How Long Should You Rest Smoked Ribs For?

This can depend on the type of ribs that you are cooking. For instance, when it comes to pork ribs, these ribs are fairly small and don’t have a lot of meat on the bones.

Due to this, you should rest pork ribs for about 10 to 15 minutes at a time. For baby back ribs, rest ribs for around 10 minutes, and a few minutes longer for spare ribs.

Beef ribs are larger and there is more meat on the bones here. Due to this, I would suggest that you rest beef ribs for around 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

When determining how long to rest ribs, take the size and amount of meat on the bones into consideration first.

What is the Reason to Rest Ribs?

I know what you are thinking – why should you bother resting ribs, let alone pork ribs? Isn’t this reserved for larger cuts like pork butt?

Well, I would argue that it is even more important to rest pork ribs! This is because there is so little meat on the bones. And, when you cook ribs, there is a higher chance of the meat drying out.

See, when you are smoking ribs, the meat heats up, causing the tissues in the meat to contract and push water out. When you rest ribs, though, the meat is given a chance to cool down. The pork ribs are then able to reabsorb this moisture.

This makes for far more tender ribs as a result!

Should Ribs Rest Covered or Uncovered?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to resting ribs. After smoking ribs, some people simply place the ribs on the platter or cutting board and leave them there.

Others, however, will tent the smoked ribs in aluminum foil. This is so that the heat is trapped inside the foil wrap, ensuring that the ribs stay nice and warm after resting.

So, what is the right way?

I would argue that there is no right answer here, it is all about what you prefer. Now, personally, I don’t tent my resting ribs, but you are certainly free to!

How to Tent Ribs?

Place the smoked ribs on a wooden cutting board. Then, use aluminum foil to create a loose covering around the ribs – much like in the shape of a tent.

Make sure that there are several inches between the ribs and the foil. If the foil is wrapped too close to the ribs, then they will continue to cook and dry out as well.

Don’t cover ribs completely. There should be an open section to ensure that moisture doesn’t build up around the ribs.

When you are ready to serve the ribs, you can remove the tenting.

Beef Ribs Grilled on Flaming BBQ Grill

Resting Pork Ribs in a Cooler

If you are like me, then you like to start smoking your ribs a few hours before you need them to be done. This is because there is a lot that can go wrong and it is always a good idea to give you some wiggle room, especially if you are cooking for guests.

The problem is when the cooking process goes according to plan and your ribs get done at the perfect time. Here, you let the meat rest but the guests haven’t arrived but the time they are done.

What should you do then?

Well, this is where the faux Cambro comes into play. It is essentially a cooler box that has been prepped so that it can keep your ribs warm for several hours after cooking.

So, not only do your ribs rest but they are also kept warm at the same time. To make such a contraption yourself, follow the guidelines below:

Step 1: Clean the Cooler

Start by washing out the cooler carefully. Remember, you will be storing meat here so it needs to be completely sanitized.

Step 2: Pour Hot Water

You can use tap water for this step. Pour very hot water into the cooler. You may want to fill up the cooler to the halfway point.

Then, close the lid and let the water sit there for 30 minutes.

Empty out the water.

Step 3: Place Towels

Roll up several towels and place them on the bottom and around the inside of the cooler.

Tent the ribs in foil and then place them in the cooler.

Close the lid and keep it until needed.

How Long Can You Let Ribs Rest in a Cooler?

So, how long to rest ribs in the cooler?

Well, typically you can do so for about 2 to 3 hours before you need to serve the ribs.

Remember that after a certain point, the temperature will drop to a point in between the danger zone. This means that bacteria can begin growing and multiplying on your ribs.

When this happens, there is a higher risk of food poisoning. Not to mention, you also get closer to serving cold meat.

To avoid this, serve the ribs at around the 2 hour mark.

Top Tips for Resting Ribs

The key to perfectly smoked ribs is to rest them properly – here are the top tips that can make this happen for you:

Pork Ribs Grilled with Barbecue Sauce

Take Ribs Out at the Right Time

If you are cooking spare ribs, then you should follow the 3-2-1 method. Here, you cook the pork rib rack for 3 hours uncovered, and 2 hours covered, you apply barbecue sauce, and then cook for another hour uncovered.

For baby back ribs, it is the 2-2-1 method. In this case, you smoke the ribs uncovered for 2 hours. Then wrap them in foil and cook for 2 hours. Then, you unwrap the ribs and cook for another hour.

In the first scenario, the total cooking time is six hours. The second one is five hours.

As you get close to the end of the cooking time, pick up the ribs by the middle of the rack. Use a pair of tongs.

Then, bounce the ribs a little. If the ends bend downwards and the rack starts to crack in the middle, it is done.

Make sure to take the ribs out at this exact moment. Remember, they continue cooking during the resting process. So, if you don’t want to overcook ribs and want juicy meat, take them out at the right time.

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Apply BBQ Sauce at the Right Time

It can seem that more sauce equals more flavor, but this isn’t exactly the case. The sauce should only be added once while the ribs are smoking – after they are unwrapped and cooking for the final hour.

Once you take the ribs out of the smoker, let them rest before adding the sauce. Otherwise, you will mess with the resting period.

Serve the ribs with a side of sauce instead.

Don’t Rest the Meat for Too Long

There is no need to rest the ribs for longer than 15 minutes at a time. This is because there is not enough meat to justify a longer period.

Not to mention, if left out for too long, the ribs are going to start drying out. So, it is best to serve them before this begins to happen.

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Wrapping It Up

Now you know just how long to rest ribs each and every time. Now that you know this secret, sit back and watch as you are able to take your ribs to the next level!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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