The Ultimate Guide to Reheating Ribs

Reheating Ribs

Are you looking for some help reheating ribs? You’ve come to the right place!  No matter where you’ve gotten them from, barbecued ribs are a special treat. Frankly, we all know they aren’t easy to make. Ribs take time, patience, and no small amount of culinary skill to get it right. When they are perfectly sauced and fall-off-the-bone tender, it’s like winning the lottery. And when you are lucky enough to have leftovers? Well, that’s an even greater gift! That means you get to enjoy them not just once but twice. However, to make those ribs just as great the second time around, you have to know how to reheat them right.

Today, I’m dishing up all my best rib tips, hacks, and methods in one convenient, step-by-step guide. The instructions below are easy to follow and work for everyone, and they work for every kind of rib, too. These instructions also work when reheating roast lamb. So, if you want to make the most of your saucy, sticky leftovers, stick with me, folks! 

The Best Ways of Reheating Ribs

There are many ways of reheating ribs, but some work better than others. I’ve focused on the three methods that yield the best results: oven, air fryer, and crock pot. (However, you’ll find some additional methods of reheating ribs with brief instructions in the FAQs as well.) 

My favorite method is the conventional oven. Low and slow is the way to go when reheating meat. The oven is superb at that. But even though I think it’s the best way to heat up ribs, the oven does have a drawback. It’s not particularly energy efficient. Ovens take a long time to preheat and use more energy in general. 

My second-favorite method for reheating ribs is the air fryer. The air fryer is a real hero in the modern kitchen. It’s a fantastic way to prepare and reheat many kinds of foods, not just ribs. But because the air fryer uses convection, it can potentially make your ribs a little drier. But no worries. I’ve got a hack to solve that issue coming up in the instructions below!

My third-favorite method of reheating ribs is the crock pot. It does a wonderful job of maintaining moisture in your food. And, of course, it’s ideal for low-and-slow cookery. Plus, it’s a great appliance if you want to hold those ribs at a warmed-up temperature for an extended time. (It is very hard to overcook anything in the crock pot, especially when on low!) The crock pot has a couple of downsides, however. First, it’s slow. Secondly, it’s more of a “wet food” appliance. So when it comes to reheating ribs, think less sticky and more saucy. But if you want that “barkier” texture you often get off the grill, the oven or air fryer is a better choice. 

Pitfalls to Watch Out For When Reheating Ribs

Yup, I’ve got a bone to pick with you—a rib bone, to be exact! They should never be dry, tough, or leathery. Yet, sadly, we’ve all had leftover ribs served that way, haven’t we? The problem is that reheating ribs is a task that’s way too easy to get wrong. They can quickly go from sublime, sticky perfection to so-so, sad stick. (And what a disappointment when that happens!) But, you don’t have to settle for those lackluster results. I’ve boned up on this challenge for you and I’m here to help! But before we get to that, I was wondering…

reheat bbq ribs

My Favorite Barbecue Sauce When Reheating Ribs

Ribs just wouldn’t be the same without a terrific barbecue sauce, am I right? Without it, they’d just be meat on the bone. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that either if that’s your thing!) In fact, most of us usually have a bottle around, even if it’s just for dunking our leftovers. But here’s the thing. Those sauces can vary to a mind-blowing degree. There are tomato-based barbecue sauces, vinegar-based, mustardy ones, and even some that include mayonnaise. From mild to wild to wacky and weird, there’s a staggering number of exciting options out there to choose from.

Do you have a favorite BBQ sauce that you’re stuck on? And have you tried anything new lately? If not, I’d like to challenge you to go on a jar crawl with me. It’s time to hit the sauce! (Yeah, I said it!) Because you never know when your next favorite barbecue sauce will come along. You are really missing out if you don’t try some along the way! 

So, I’ve rounded up a few worthy considerations for you. (If this were a bar crawl instead of a jar crawl, this would be the part where I double-dog-dare you!) All of these sauces listed below are award-winning. Unique. Crazy delicious! And don’t your ribs deserve a little extra love?

Okay, it’s finally time to get down to business. Are you ready to breathe some new life into those leftover bones?

Instructions for Reheating Ribs in the Oven

  1. Take your ribs out of the refrigerator and let them warm up for about 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat your oven to 250ºF.
  3. Next, you’ll need a baking sheet and some aluminum foil. Your foil sheet should be large enough to make a packet to encase the ribs.

Foil is the best tool for locking in moisture when reheating ribs. When crimped closed, it doesn’t allow juices to evaporate so they stay in your meat. (PS—Did you know that the dull side of the foil is the nonstick side? Always have the dull side in contact with your food and the shiny side facing out!)

  1. Put your ribs in the center of your foil sheet and take a look. Are they still moist and saucy, or do they look dry? Now is the time to add a little more moisture if they need it. That can be extra barbecue sauce, broth, plain water, or even fruit juice. Drizzle a few spoonfuls over the top and underneath your ribs. Then seal up your foil packet, crimping tightly, and put it on the baking sheet.
  2. Place the baking sheet on the center rack of your preheated oven and begin timing. Thicker ribs or large portions may take 30 minutes or more. Smaller ribs or portions could be ready as soon as 20 minutes. You’ll want to check them beginning at the 20-minute mark. When they reach 165ºF on a food thermometer, they are ready.

Optional step if you want the exterior of your ribs stickier or “barkier”: Once your ribs have reached 150ºF, take them out. Turn your oven up to 350ºF. Uncover the ribs and leave the foil packet open, then put the ribs back in the oven. (You can brush on more sauce at this point if desired as well.) Continue reheating ribs for an additional 5-10 minutes, or until the outside of your ribs is how you like it.


Instructions for Reheating Ribs in the Air Fryer

  1. Take your ribs out of the refrigerator and let them warm up for about 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat your air fryer to 375ºF. (That should take not more than 3 minutes.)
  3. If your ribs look dry, now is the time to brush on a little extra sauce if desired. Next, add your ribs to the fryer basket without overlapping. (Don’t overcrowd the basket. If necessary, reheat in batches.) 

But before you put the basket in the fryer, it’s time for a special hack: To make sure your ribs stay moist, add a tablespoon of water to the bottom of the fryer beneath the basket, and then put the ribs in the air fryer. This will create a little steam, and that steam will help your ribs stay juicy and delicious while they heat up.

  1. Now, begin timing. Thicker ribs or large quantities may take 8 to 10 minutes, but smaller ribs or portions could be ready as soon as 6 minutes. You’ll want to check them beginning at the 6-minute mark. When they reach 165ºF on a food thermometer, they are ready.

Keep a close eye on your ribs and don’t let them go any longer than needed. The biggest trick to reheating ribs and still keeping them juicy is timing it right!

Instructions for Reheating Ribs in the Crock Pot

  1. Take your ribs out of the refrigerator and let them warm up for about 15 minutes.
  2. Next, place about 1/4” of liquid into the bottom of your crock pot. This can be water or broth, but I like to use watered down barbeque sauce. (Just make sure it is very thinned down because it will condense in the pot.)

If you like sweeter ribs, apple cider or juice is a very good option for the liquid, too. (Yum!)

If your ribs appear dry, brush with additional barbecue sauce now, if desired. Place into the crock pot. Put the lid on tight and set the crock pot to low (or the “keep warm” setting, depending on your model).

  1. Now, begin timing. Thicker ribs or large quantities may take 40 to 60 minutes or more, but smaller ribs or portions could be ready as soon as 30 minutes. You’ll want to check them beginning at the 20-minute mark. When they reach 165ºF on a food thermometer, they are ready.

You can potentially keep your ribs hot for a few hours in the crock pot if desired. But if you do, you may need to add a little more liquid to the pot periodically.

Frequently Asked Questions

My ribs need more barbecue sauce but I don’t have any on hand. What can I do?

Adding liquid when reheating ribs helps them stay juicy, but I know that doesn’t replace a saucy shellacking! So, try my instant BBQ sauce hack: Mix up 3 Tbsp. Ketchup, ½ Tsp. vinegar, 1 Tsp. sugar, a dash of garlic salt, and a splash of hot sauce. TADA! It’s no blue-ribbon winner but it will do in a pinch. So that’s how you add more barbecue sauce when you don’t have any on hand

Is there a method for reheating ribs in the microwave?

I don’t recommend reheating ribs in the microwave because it tends to make rib meat rubbery. But it that’s your only option, here’s the method for reheating ribs in the microwave: Add a splash of liquid (watered down sauce, broth, juice, or water) to a microwave-safe plate. Add your ribs to the plate and cover loosely with a moistened paper towel. microwave at 40% power for 2 minutes, or until the ribs reach 150ºF. Then, serve.

How do I reheat BBQ ribs in an electric roaster?

I have a great tutorial on reheating meat in an electric roaster right here.

Will these instructions work for reheating smoked ribs?

Yes, absolutely these instructions will work for reheating smoked ribs too. (If you have dry-rubbed ribs, it’s still wise to add a little liquid, however, just to keep them moist. Just make it water or broth instead of sauce.)

Do these instructions work on baby-back ribs?

Yes, these instructions work on baby-back ribs and all kinds of ribs. You can use them for reheating spare ribs, baby-back, country-style, pork, beef—anything goes!

How do I reheat BBQ ribs on the grill?

Create a foil packet as you would to reheat ribs in the oven (see instructions above). Then, put the foil packet directly on your grill over medium heat/coals instead. It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, and you can even finish them out of the foil and directly on the grill grate if desired. (Plus, that is an especially great way of reheating ribs to add smoky flavor!). And that is how you reheat BBQ ribs on the gril

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