How to Tell When Ribs are Done?

When it comes to grilling, ribs are among the top choices. It’s a great recipe that provides a generous helping of meat, and it tastes even better with sauce. Ribs that are overcooked or undercooked are two examples of things that might go wrong on the grill.

There are situations where you will find the ribs are too tough. Such a scenario can spoil the barbeque session. It calls for skills in knowing the doneness of your ribs. If you want your ribs to come out in the best state, you are in the right place. We will guide you on the various things to know about doneness. The main focus will be on how to tell when ribs are done.

Are my Ribs Done?

Are your ribs done? Here are some of the methods to try to know if they are ready for the plate.

  • Look at the Color

Looking at the color maybe quite misleading, and you may have a chewy cut on your plate. However, it gives you a hint of how long you should have the ribs on the grill before serving. Most of the time, the ribs assume a golden brown color when done.

You have to factor in the spices you used to coat the beef when checking on the color. Some coatings will cook faster than the entire meat cut and take on a golden brown appearance. In this instance, you should cut the meat to check on the layers.

If the cut appears bright on the inside, having a deep pinkish hue, you have to leave it for some time before it is ready. If the inside is slightly brown, the dish is ready for serving.

  • The Bend Test

The bend test is one of the most reliable measures to know if your ribs are ready. Here, you will grab the ribs using your grilling tongs at their center. Try to slightly bounce it, paying attention to cracks on the surface.

If there are cracks on the ribs’ surface, or some pieces falling off, it means it is ready. If there is a slight crack on the ribs, it means you have to give it some time before serving.

The idea behind the bend test is that when cooked, the connective tissues break down. A slight disturbance will make them loose, and the meat will start falling apart. Experienced chefs will know the readiness and doneness of the ribs using this method.

For the bend test, you need top-grade tongs. The Weber 6610 tongs are some of the best you can get, offering you a firm grip. They are also durable and dishwasher safe.

  • The Twist Test

Similar to the bend test, the twist test relies on the connective tissues’ strength to determine if it is ready. In this test, you will firmly hold the rib bones and try to pull them out. Do not exert much force when pulling the bones.

If they pull out freely, it means that the meat cut is ready. You have to feel how the meat eases from the bones to get a clear picture of its doneness. If it appears firm and hard to remove, it means you have to give the ribs more time.

  • Use a Toothpick

The other method to rely on to check on your ribs is by using a toothpick or splinter. In this case, you poke the flesh between the ribs with your toothpick and gently press it down. If it freely moves in the flesh, then you can serve the ribs.

However, if the flesh seems firm and pushing the toothpick seems hard, you may have to cook the ribs longer. Check other areas with the toothpick to be sure of an even consistency of the ribs.

  • The Taste Test

You can try tasting the meat to see if it meets your expectations. Cut pieces from different regions and taste them to see if they have cooked right. This method is entirely accurate, though it might do away with a large share of the meat.

  • The Time Test

The time test can let you know if the meat serving is ready. For the time test, the heat must be constant at around 225-degrees Fahrenheit. At such a temperature, the ribs will be ready in 4-5-hours. As it cooks, you should turn it for it to be even.

The time test depends on many variables for perfection. If the meat is from a young animal, it will take a shorter time, maybe 2-3 hours. The same applies if you have too much heat. With excess heat, you have to be around as you risk burning it.

  • Meat Pop-Up

Another way to check the readiness of ribs is through the pop-up test. It relies on the assumption that when meat cooks thoroughly, it shrinks and exposes the bones. If you see exposed bones, it is an indication that the meat serving is ready.

The downside is that the bones might show, even if the meat is not ready. This is common when there is too much heat, and the upper layers shrink. The shrinkage will expose the bones, though some parts may still need some heat exp

Related: Types of beef ribs

The Doneness Factor in Preparing Ribs

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When preparing ribs, there is the doneness factor that you have to pay attention to. Doneness refers to how ready it is for the table. It brings along other aspects, such as juiciness and taste.

Additionally, you should pay attention to safety, where the meat has to be in the right condition for the table. Lightly cooked meat can expose you to various conditions like salmonella. To prevent the disease, it is advisable to cook the ribs at around 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Doneness Levels for Ribs

Sometimes when preparing ribs, someone may tell you that they want theirs rare. Another may want it middle rare. These are the different doneness levels of meat cuts.

Let us look at the different doneness levels for better understanding.

Extra Rare

Extra rare is the lowest level of doneness, at times referred to as blue. The meat is quite red, and the cooking temperatures are 115-125 degrees Fahrenheit. Extra rare, without any spices or additives, may have a gamey taste.


Rare rib cuts will have a red and tender center. When cut, its juices are mostly pinkish, bordering on red. For rare ribs, the cooking temperature is 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit.

Medium Rare

You prepare medium-rare at 130-135 degrees Fahrenheit. The flesh is firmer with a red center. The juices are quite heavy, with a light pink hue.


For a medium cut of ribs, you cook it at 135-145 degrees Fahrenheit. The meat is quite tender, assuming a uniform pink. The juices might be colorless and heavy with a distant hue of pink.

Medium Well

A medium-well cut of ribs will be grey, with some pinkness at the center. The juices are clear but minimum. To achieve medium-well doneness, you cook the ribs at 145-155 degrees Fahrenheit.

Well Done

A well-done rib is very firm, with no juices. It is entirely grey, and the meat is so soft that it may fall off the bone. To achieve this level of doneness, you prepare ribs above 150 degrees.


Overcooked ribs are quite leathery, and, at times, you may not feel its taste. It may be black all over, more so the crust, with the center being slightly grey. An overcooked cut cooks at over 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rare to well done are the preferred cooking methods. It is so, as there are some moisture content and taste.
Cooking Time

Time is a crucial variable when preparing your ribs. What is the ideal cooking time for ribs? The ideal question to this answer is that it depends on various factors. You cannot put a concrete figure on the cooking time, though the average maybe 4-5 hours.

Let us look at some of the factors that can determine your ribs’ cooking time.

  • Type of Cut

There are different types of rib cuts that vary in thickness. The thicker the cut, the longer it will take to cook. For example, St. Louis cuts are relatively thick and may take 5-7-hours to be ready. On the other hand, the baby’s back ribs are relatively thin and tender. They may take 3-5 hours to prepare.

  • The Cooking Temperature

If you cook the ribs at high temperatures, they will take a shorter time to be ready. The converse is true for low temperatures. However, low temperatures are perfect for even doneness.

  • Altitude

Altitude also determines your cooking time. The higher the altitude, the more cooking time you need, almost 24% more than the standard.

Check this if you want to know how to reheat ribs and keep them tender

Meat Falling Off the Bone, is it a Great Thing?

Many people assume that meat falling off the bone means that it is perfectly cooked. For grilled meat, this is not the sign to look for. Most of the time, meat falling off the bone will have a mushy texture. It is suitable for boiled and steamed cuts, but not for grilling.

For grilled ribs, focus on firmness, tenderness, and taste.

Closing Remarks

When preparing ribs, it may be hard to know if they are ready. This article is an asset to you if you find yourself in such a situation. Among the things that point to their doneness include their texture, taste, and appearance. Follow this piece to know how to excellently prepare your rib cuts.

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