Here's How You Should Be Reheating Ribs

If you're a fan of BBQ, chances are you've sunk your teeth into your fair share of ribs. And whether you love spareribs, St. Louis-style ribs, or baby back ribs, go for a dry rub or prefer a wet mop, you've probably encountered the situation of leftover ribs, either from your own cookout or from your favorite BBQ restaurant. 

While the best freshly barbecued ribs are a study in tender, falling-off-the-bone meat, those same ribs can turn tough and stiff once refrigerated, and it's no small feat figuring out how to reheat them properly without drying them out. So whether you're turning to your oven, your toaster oven, your air fryer, or your stovetop, here's how to reheat ribs back to their fresh-out-of-the-smoker deliciousness.

Reheating in the oven

Of all the ways in which you can reheat leftover ribs, the most successful method by far is reheating in a low, slow oven. According to Southern Living, oven reheating is your best chance for restoring ribs to their tender, juicy state — without risking drying them out. To do so, place leftover ribs in a pan, cover it tightly with aluminum foil, and slip it into a gentle 250-degree oven until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 130 to 140 degrees — about half an hour, give or take. 

Matthew Register, owner of Southern Smoke BBQ in North Carolina, recommends applying another layer of whatever flavoring you used on the ribs in the first place. If they were barbecued with sauce, uncover the ribs about halfway through reheating, brush on another coat of sauce, and continue to heat them through until the sauce has caramelized (via Southern Living). If the ribs were dry-rubbed, heat them all the way through, remove them from the oven, and sprinkle on another coating before carving and serving.

Reheating in the toaster oven

If you've got some leftover ribs, but only want to reheat a portion or two, the toaster oven is a great choice. Good toaster ovens act in basically the same manner as an oven, so the instructions here are similar to reheating in a standard oven: brush the ribs with some extra BBQ sauce, wrap the portion tightly in foil, place it on a tray, and slide it into a 250-degree toaster oven (via Own The Grill). After 20-30 minutes, they should be good to go; you can check their internal temperature, looking for a reading of 130 to 140 degrees, if you like.

Reheating in the air fryer

As noted by Smoked BBQ Source, the point of an air fryer is to create and maintain crispiness in food, making this reheating method a better choice for dry-rubbed, not wet-mopped, ribs. If that's what you're working with, preheat your air fryer to 350 degrees, slice your ribs into a portion that will fit comfortably in the fryer basket, toss them with a tablespoon of neutral-flavored, high-heat oil, and cook them for three to four minutes, or until their internal temperature comes to 130 to 140 degrees. Sprinkle the ribs with a little extra dry rub seasoning prior to serving, if desired.

Reheating on the stovetop

If none of the reheating methods listed above is available to you, ribs can be reheated on the stovetop. Smoked BBQ Source recommends taking a large pot, adding about a quarter cup of apple juice — which nicely complements the flavor of pork — and heating it until boiling before placing a steamer inside the pot and adding leftover ribs. Cover the pot, drop the heat to low, and steam the ribs for about 30 minutes, then check to make sure their internal temperature has reached 130 to 140 degrees. Season the reduced liquid at the bottom of the pot, and then use a basting brush to apply a layer to the ribs before carving and serving (via Smoked BBQ Source).

Wondering if you can reheat leftover ribs in the microwave? This is one cut of meat that should not be nuked, according to PureWow. The concentrated heat will dry out the meat. So stick to the above methods, and you'll have hot, juicy ribs that taste almost as good as when they were pulled fresh from the smoker.

Reheating with a sous-vide technique

Reheating ribs with a sous-vide technique ensures that your leftovers remain a culinary masterpiece by offering precision heating. This method, whereby food is sealed in a plastic bag and circulated in hot water, preserves the juicy tenderness and smoky flavor that make ribs a BBQ favorite. First, make sure the leftover pork ribs are properly sealed in a sous-vide-safe bag to ensure the water and the ribs remain separate during reheating. Next, preheat the water bath to the recommended temperature of between 150 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit; submerge the sealed ribs when it's ready. Use a sous-vide clip to secure the bag to the side of the pot, ensuring it remains fully submerged for at least 45 minutes, longer for frozen ribs.

Once the reheating is done, carefully remove the bag from the water bath and the ribs from the bag. To bring your leftovers to next level perfection, heat your grill for direct, high-heat cooking; you could also broil the ribs on high or bake them in a 400 degree oven. Lightly brush the ribs with your favorite BBQ sauce or glaze, and sear them on the grill for two minutes on each side, until a caramelized crust forms.