- The safe internal temperature for pork ribs is 145°F.
- The ideal internal temperature for pork ribs is between 195°F and 205°F.
- You should cook pork ribs past doneness (145°F) to achieve the best results.
- A rack of pork ribs takes about 6 hours to smoke.
Pork ribs are one of my favorite things to make on my smoker. They're juicy, tender, and when cooked low-and-slow, full of smoky goodness.
But a lot of backyard BBQ'ers mess up their pork ribs. And when I first started out, so did I.
But after smoking dozens of pork ribs in my life, let me share with you the best internal temperature for pork ribs, and how to get them right every single time.
Here is a temperature chart that can help you tell when your pork ribs are done:
|Doneness||Internal Temperature (°F)|
|Fall Off The Bone||190–205|
Ideal Internal Temperature
The ideal internal temperature for pork ribs is between 195°F and 205°F.
At this temp, the ribs' fat and collagen melt and turn into gelatin. And it's this gelatin that makes pork ribs so darn tender and yummy.
The best way to figure out this internal temperature?
With a meat thermometer, of course. Just stick the digital thermometer into the thickest part of the ribs without hitting any bones.
Safe Minimum Temperature
Now, the safe minimum temperature that you should cook pork is 145°F, according to the USDA. So while you can technically eat your ribs at this temp, we don't recommend it.
That's because the rib tissues haven't begun breaking down yet (that happens around 165°F). And if you eat your ribs at 145°F, you're going to be missing out on lots of flavors.
Here's a handy quick guide to pork ribs' internal temperatures and doneness:
145°F: Safe minimum temperature, but not nearly as tender
165°F: Tissue starts to break down into gelatin
195°F to 205°F: Ideal temperature for tender and juicy pork ribs
There are several ways to check your temperature when cooking pork ribs.
I won't lie, I'm partial to using a meat thermometer or digital meat thermometer when cooking pork ribs.
It gives you the most accurate reading. It's always reliable.
Now, it's important you're probing the cooked pork ribs correctly in order to get an accurate reading.
To do this, be sure to insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the rib meat. And make sure you avoid touching the bones, as we're looking to measure the temperature of the meat, not the bones.
Also, check the temperature in a few different places. This will ensure that the rib meat is cooked perfectly throughout.
Again, this is my preferred method. But there are other ways to check the doneness of your ribs.
Toothpick test: Take a toothpick and stick it slowly into the rib meat, between the bones. If it goes in without any resistance, the ribs are done.
Bend test: Lift the ribs at one end with a pair of tongs. If they bend easily, and the meat begins to crack, they're ready.
Twist test: Take a rib at the end of the slab and twist it. If the bone starts to pull away from the meat with little effort, the ribs are good to go.
Don't forget to test in different areas to cook ribs for an even cook—and feel free to use the additional techniques above as a backup.
Cooking Times and Methods
So what are the best ways to make pork ribs? Overall, we're going for slow cooking.
And what cooking times do you need to pay attention to for each cooking method?
If you don't have a smoker, you can grill your ribs and still get good moisture and flavor. I've done it dozens of times before I got my smoker.
Here's how to grill your ribs right:
Preheat your grill as low as it will go, most likely 275°F-300°F.
Cook the ribs, meat side up, for about 1.5-2 hours for baby back ribs or 2-2.5 hours for spare ribs.
Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer, aiming for 195-205°F.
Remove the ribs from the grill, let them rest for 10 minutes, and then serve.
By far the best way to cook ribs is to smoke them! Especially if you want that deep, smoky flavor.
Here's how to smoke your pork ribs, low-and-slow.
Preheat your smoker to 225°F.
Smoke the ribs, meat side up, for about 3-4 hours for baby back ribs or 4-5 hours for spare ribs.
You can optionally choose to wrap your ribs, which we cover in our 3-2-1 ribs recipe.
Check the internal temperature of the ribs. Again, we're still aiming for 195-205°F.
Rest, slice, and serve.
Baby Back Ribs vs. Spare Ribs
The two most popular types of ribs to cook are baby back ribs and spare ribs.
But how are they different?
Baby Back Ribs
Baby back ribs are smaller than spare ribs, and while they're more tender with a milder flavor, they have less meat on the rib bones.
They come from the upper part of the ribcage, near the backbone. With a rack of baby back ribs, you're usually looking at 10-13 ribs, about two pounds per rack.
Spare ribs are bigger than baby back ribs, and have more flavor, though they're less tender.
They come from the lower part of the pig's ribcage, near the belly. With a rack of spare ribs, you can expect 11-13 ribs, at about three pounds per rack.
On price, baby back ribs are more expensive than spare ribs.