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How to Store and Reheat Smoked Pork Ribs

rack of pork ribs

I get a lot of emails asking how to reheat smoked pork ribs and we are going to cover that from top to bottom in this post.

This method will apply to smoked baby back ribs, smoked spare ribs and smoked St Louis style spare ribs.

Here’s our recipes for how to smoke ribs in case you need help with that part of the equation

Storage and Preparation for Storage

There are three main ways to store already smoked pork ribs for reheating later:

  1. Vacuum sealed in a plastic bag
  2. In a foil pan covered tightly with foil
  3. In a freezer zip top bag

Another consideration is how long it’s going to be before you eat the smoked ribs. Store the ribs in the fridge if you plan to eat them within 1-2 days. Otherwise they need to be stored in the freezer for the best flavor and to ensure they do not dry out or lose their “just cooked” quality.

If you vacuum seal the ribs, that’s easy! Just place them in the fridge or freezer depending on how long it’s going to be before you eat them.

Here’s a vacuum sealer that I like:

vacuum sealer food saver

If you do not have a vacuum sealer, then a foil pan will work for refrigerating them but they’ll need to go into a freezer zip top bag if you are placing them in the freezer.

For the foil pan option, place the whole rack(s), slices or portions of the rack into a foil pan and cover tightly with foil.

For the freezer zip top bag option, it’s best to go ahead and cut them up into individual ribs or at least into portions with 2 to 3 ribs each. Also, try to press out as much air as possible when you are zipping them up.

Thaw the Ribs Before Reheating

I highly recommend thawing the ribs before you reheat them. There are (2) main ways to thaw meat safely:

  1. In the fridge
  2. In cold water

To thaw the ribs in the fridge, simply remove them from the freezer and place them in the fridge about 24 hours before you want to reheat them.

To thaw the ribs under cold water, place the sealed bag of ribs into the sink and run cold water over them to cover. Drain and replace the cold water every 30 minutes until they are thawed to your liking.

This will usually take less than 2 hours depending on how many ribs are in the bag.

Note: if you are thawing them in a zip top bag, ensure the bag is tightly sealed before covering the bag with water.

Reheating Methods for Smoked Pork Ribs

Vacuum Sealed Pork Ribs

If you are fortunate enough to have a vacuum sealer, that is the best way to go to ensure they retain their flavor, juiciness and tenderness whether you plan to eat them a day later or a month later.

Vacuum sealed ribs allow you to reheat in boiling water as well as in the oven, grill or smoker. You have more options.

Reheat in Boiling Water

Fill a large pot about half way with water and bring it to a slow boil over high heat. Once it reaches a slow boil, turn the heat down to maintain.

Lower the bag with the ribs inside down into the water and let them reheat for 20-30 minutes.

Remove them from the water with a set of tongs and cut the bag open with scissors or kitchen shears.

Slice the ribs into individual portions and serve immediately.

Reheat in the Oven, Grill or Smoker

Preheat your oven, grill or smoker to 275°F (135°C) and once it’s ready, place the foil covered pan into the oven and leave them in there until the ribs get to a good eating temperature.

The time will vary depending on how many ribs are in the pan but 30 to 60 minutes is usually adequate.

I usually pull the foil back after about 30 minutes and stick my finger down into the middle of the ribs to test the temperature.

Smoked Pork Ribs Stored in a Foil Pan or Zip Top Bag

To reheat pork ribs that have already by smoked and store in a foil pan (or similar) or a zip top bag, you will likely need to use the oven, grill or smoker.

I have heard of people reheating ribs in a zip top bag in boiling water but as I have not tested this method and it is my understanding that is not what the bags are made for, I do not recommend it.

Reheat in the Oven, Grill or Smoker

Preheat your oven, grill or smoker to 275°F (135°C) and once it’s ready, place the foil covered pan into the oven and leave them in there until the ribs get to a good eating temperature.

The time will vary depending on how many ribs are in the pan but 30 to 60 minutes is usually adequate.

I usually pull the foil back after about 30 minutes and stick my finger down into the middle of the ribs to test the temperature.

Do you have other tips, tricks or methods for reheating pork ribs? Post them in the comments section below.

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28 Comments

  1. If I know that the ribs that I am making will be frozen and eaten later, do you suggest that they be partially cooked (almost done, but not quite)? Or is that really not needed?

    1. Steve, I recommend cooking them all the way to done and then freezing them for later.

      If you are using the 3-2-1 method, you can skip the last stage since the ribs are technically fully cooked by the end of the 2nd stage.

      If you’re not familiar with the 3-2-1 method (spares and St. Louis style) or 2-2-1 method (baby backs):

      This is a method by which you cook them 3 hours directly on the grate, 2 additional hours wrapped in foil then another hour once again unwrapped and directly on the grates. The smoker maintains 225°F (107°C) during this entire time.

      If you use the 3-2-1 method and are planning to freeze the ribs for reheating later you can skip that last hour of cook time since that step is designed to firm the ribs back up and also gives you time to sauce them if you want to.

  2. I haven’t tried the boiling water route either. But if you’re going to vacuum seal the ribs, then what about sou vide at like 140 degrees for an hour or an hour and a half (straight from the freezer)?

    1. You can definitely reheat them from frozen in a sous vide situation.. another commenter suggested 165°F (74°C) for about an hour if they were thawed and I’m thinking frozen would probably take an extra 30-40 minutes at most.

  3. I used one of the COVID economy stimulus checks to purchase the Anova Precision Oven. It’s a home-sized combi-oven that cooks with or without steam, wet- or dry-bulb sous vide modes, and more. Set at sous vide mode, 150F, and 100% steam, leftovers are heated to the perfect temperature without risk of drying out. Well worth the money!

  4. If following the usual 3-2-1 method, does it make sense to freeze after the “2”? Or do you recommend completing the full cook and then freezing?

    1. With the 3-2-1 method or the 2-2-1 method (baby backs), you can freeze after the 2nd stage and save the finishing hour for right before you eat them whether that’s a few days later or a month later. That last stage is more about firming them back up, adding the sauce, etc..

  5. To squeeze out more air in a Ziplock bag after putting your product in the bag–“partly” close the seal on the bag. Fill a large container or sink with water deep enough to submerge the bag almost to the seal. Close the seal while the bag is submerged. Make sure you use a new bag to ensure that the bag does not leak.

  6. If was going to use an 18 qt roaster oven to reheat them after vacuum packing them would you suggest putting them in a foil pan and using the oven method?

    Also I am assuming your suggestion is to remove them from the vacuum bag and placing them in the foil pan and not leaving them in the bag like you mentioned for boiling them.

    1. Yes, if you’re not reheating them in hot water, remove them from the vacuum bag to reheat. I like using a foil pan covered with foil since that’s easy cleanup but you can definitely use almost any other covered pan/dish that’s oven proof.

  7. I did put the vacuum sealed pouches in a sous vide system at 210F for a few hours: the ribs were falling off the bones.
    Question is: should I put them in the sous vide immediately while still frozen OR should I proceed after they being thawed at room temperature?
    Thank you.

    1. Marc, I haven’t gotten into sous vide yet, maybe at some point. Several others in the comments have given tips for sous vide ribs that turn out perfect. Sounds like you need a lower temperature around 165°F (74°C) for about an hour. If they are frozen you may need an extra 30 minutes or so.

  8. Sous Vide will maintain and control ideal temps for hours.
    I use mine (Joule) along with my sealer (Hamilton Beach) for all meats.

    I give a lot of my pulled pork away packaged in 1 pound vacuum sealed/frozen portions.

    I include intructions to limit the water temp to 185, and add more time (45+ minutes).

    It results in perfectly reheated and moist meat. I insist on a ‘no sauce’ trial, and get rave reviews for my (free) que!

    I use your rubs frequently, and label the portions as such.

    Thanks!
    JC

  9. Yep, I reheat mine in the air fryer. It makes them a little less messy and they get good and hot. I also buy hot wings already made from the Winn Dixie deli and put them in the air fryer. They taste just like the ones you order out and are not all gooey.
    .

  10. I use a broiler over to re-heat my ribs. I wrap my left over ribs in butcher paper, place them in a zip lock bag and refrigerate as well for up to 3 days. After removing from the refrigerator I cut them into individual ribs then bring them up to close to room temperature. I then set the broiler over to 350 degrees. I place the ribs on the broiler pan with a bed of foil (easy cleanup too) and place in the broiler oven. Once they are in is when to the hit start button to begin the process of reaching the 350 deg. temperature. This allows for a slow reheat of the ribs as the temperature rises and helping to keep them moist. They are generally warm enough when the temp reaches 350, apply any sauce wait a couple minutes more or longer to your desired “ready to serve” warmth.

  11. I use the Vacuum sealed bag method in boiling water. Been using it for years. The ribs always turn out great! Sometimes I thaw them first but not always. It just takes a little longer. If I don’t thaw them, I will put them in the pot of water while the water is still cold and slowly bring it to a boil. It seems to work well for me in the case of “we forgot to get anything out for dinner”. It usually only takes a 15 to 20 minutes longer for two servings.

  12. Hey Jeff, just a typo correction… in the paragraph about vacuum sealing, here:

    “…juiciness and tenderness weather you plan to eat them a day later or a month later.”

    THE WORD WEATHER should be WHETHER instead. Just noticed it, little things can change opinions of how professional one may look, some people take things too far and look down on others, it can be cruel out there, just thought I’d tell you the error quickly before anyone can form opinions! You don’t need to publish this!

  13. You can also reheat ribs using a sous vide machine. This works for ziptop bags as well as vacuum seal. Set sous vide temperature to 165, let it heat up and drop your sealed ribs into the water for about an hour. They won’t get above 165, so they won’t dry out. I usually get the 3 pack of ribs at Costco, cook them all and vac seal into 2-person meals.

  14. Many years ago, I worked with a fellow who later ran a BBQ restaurant in Guthrie. He told me that he cooked most of his ribs ahead of time, and then reheated them for sale to the public. In a nutshell, he said that smoked ribs must be reheated slowly if they are to retain their great flavor. I have found this to be true. I have cooked as many as a case (18 slabs) for the Lodge, wrapped them in foil, cooled them down in the frige, transported them in coolers and reheated them the next evening in the oven at 250…with great success I might add.
    Keep up the good work!
    Dennis

  15. Sous Vide works really well without having to boil ribs,chops,steak and id especially good for delicate meats like fish or chicken. Usually about 10 degrees below pull temp. for an hour or so depending on size of bag.

  16. We almost never plan meals very far in advance so when we want brisket or ribs or pulled pork, I take a vacuumed pack of them out of the freezer and nuke them in the microwave until the vacuum bag expands like a balloon then I know it’s ready to eat! Just like fresh off the smoker!!

  17. Jeff and all,

    I’ve had pretty good luck restoring the flavor and texture of leftover ribs by putting about a pint of water into a multi-cooker, heating it until it is just barely steaming, and then placing the ribs (cut into one- or two-rib portions) into one of the strainer inserts ABOVE the gently steaming water.

    Heat on low for seven to 10 minutes, then check the temperature of the ribs with a Thermopen and serve them when they get to the correct eating temperature. (I prefer 140-145 degrees; you may prefer them a little warmer.) Then very lightly dust them with a bit more rub and serve immediately.

  18. I store them in ziplocks and when ready to reheat, lay on foil, spill a bit of beer on the rack and wrap. IMHO, it helps distribute the heat while adding any moisture that may have been lost in storage.

  19. I use the vacuum seal and hot water method exclusively whether it’s been days or weeks since it was cooked. I think it actually improves the moistness and tenderness of the meat. But I keep the water temp at no more than about 160 F. It takes longer but the wait is worth it!