Ribs Guaranteed to Fall off the Bone

One of my favorite aspects of summer is the opportunity to use my grill. I almost don't want to cook inside, at all; it just feels unfortunate not to take advantage of the sun and warmth after spending nearly three quarters of the year without that option. Our grill even has a single burner on one side, so I'll cook everything I possibly can out on my porch; I just fill up a jelly roll pan with all my prepared food and utensils, grab a drink, and park myself outside.

If I can make everything fully on the grill, I'll one hundred percent do it. For some meals, though, that simply isn't an option. Anything that's going to take several hours to cook in order to yield moist, tender meat, I'll cook first in the oven and only finish off on the grill to bring in a smoky flavor. I'm just not confident enough in my grilling skills, yet, to try otherwise. A lot of people look down on that method because it's not "real" barbecue--even just using the grill isn't "real" barbecue--but who cares? I think all that matters is that your meal is delicious and to your liking :) 

The same goes for how your food turns out. There's always a "right way" for something to taste or a "right" texture it should yield, but it's really just a matter of opinion. Do I believe pasta should be cooked al dente? Yes. Do I believe steak and hamburger should be moist, tender, and pink inside? Yes; do I think the meat's been wasted if cooked well done? Certainly! That's just my personal preference, though. Of course, I do partake in judging food that I feel wasn't prepared properly (everybody does, whether they admit it or not)--like lasagna made with browned ground beef rather than mashed up meatballs. But, truly, if that's how you like it best, that's how you should make it and you shouldn't let anyone put that down--not me and not any "expert."

I say all this because I've heard many, many times that rib meat should never be tender enough to fall off the bone; if it is, you've overcooked it. Overcooked?? To me, that means I've cooked something so long, I've rendered it completely unappetizing; for meat, that would mean drying it out. Last summer, I cooked a meal for my boyfriend's family and we accidentally grilled the chicken at too high a temperature for too long, creating something horribly dry that I didn't even want to eat, let alone serve; THAT, to me, is overcooked. Astonishingly delectable, fork-soft meat is not overcooked. If you want to devour pounds and pounds of it, it must be cooked just right ;) So, in my opinion, rib meat so tender it slips right off the bone is cooked just right, and I know loads of you out there agree!

As with pancakes (which I spoke about in a previous entry), I grew up eating only my dad’s ribs, which are cooked first in the oven and then finished on the grill, where he layers on sauce to caramelize. I’ve never ordered ribs in a restaurant because I’m picky about the sauce; it just never lives up to my expectations and I prefer to be safe rather than find myself disappointed while out. So, when it comes to texture, I know only what I’ve had at home, which is almost always tender enough to pull easily off the bone. Until last year, I didn’t know anything more tender than my dad’s ribs.

When my best friend started dating her current fiancé, Steve, though, I got my first taste of someone else’s. I have to say, I was a bit wary because I just find that a lot of people dry out meat and I’d never eaten any of Steve’s food before, so there was no way to know how the meal would turn out. Yet, his ribs soared past my expectations!

Steve’s method for cooking ribs is, actually, nearly identical to my parents’; he also cooks them first in the oven and then finishes them off on the grill. There’s one key difference, though. My parents lay the ribs in a roasting pan covered in foil while Steve lays his in a pan with a layer of plastic wrap covering it before the top layer of foil. By using plastic wrap, a perfect seal is created, allowing the meat to, essentially, steam itself. This method, I swear, is flawless for creating the most supple meat imaginable. With such a low temperature (250 degrees), there’s no worry about the plastic melting, either.

Using Steve’s method, I allow the ribs to cook for about six hours, at which point I could try to lift one side with a pair of tongs and the meat would slip right off the bone. In order to finish it on the grill, I carefully lift the rack with a large, metal grilling spatula and, once on the grill, I don’t move it. My dad will turn the rack over in order to sauce both sides, but that’s too tricky with meat this soft and you can get plenty on the one side. Once it’s to my liking, we’re ready to serve! Billy and I just pull the meat off and eat it with a fork because it’s truly impossible to eat these ribs the traditional way. If you’d prefer that the meat at least stay on the bone, just reduce the cooking time. You’ll still have superbly tender meat, but will at least be able to eat it with your fingers :)

Remember this from last year? Delicious!

So, for guaranteed tender, moist ribs, lay your rack of meat (seasoned with a rub, if that's what you're into) directly in a roasting pan (sans roasting rack), seal the pan completely with plastic wrap and top that with foil. Place it in a 250 degree oven and allow to cook for approximately 4-6 hours, depending on what texture you’re looking for. Don't worry if you have to let the meat go for over six hours, either; Steve had it in the oven for about ten, once, and the meat hadn't dried out! Once it's finished cooking to your liking, carefully lay the rack on the grill to bring in that classic, smoky flavor and to caramelize your sauce (if using). If you don’t finish it on the grill but want caramelized sauce, put your ribs under the broiler and just keep a close eye so that it doesn’t burn.

If you’ve cooked your meat to fall-off-the-bone tenderness, pull out some forks; otherwise, prepare yourself for a most awesomely sticky mess!


  1. the plastic melted :(

  2. Oh no! I've never had that happen :-/ Maybe certain plastic wraps hold up better than others? Assuming ours were even different...

    I am actually testing out other techniques for really sealing in the moisture, though, because I'd rather not cook with plastics of any kind, so we'll see what happens :)

    Sorry your experience didn't match mine!

  3. haha. The meat literally fell off the bone, so it's kinda worth eating a lil bit of melted plastic. I'm thinking of cooking it in a dutch oven pot next time because it has a lid :)

    1. That's a good idea! And I think if you cover the pot with foil first, it'll create an even better seal. I actually have a roasting rack made for ribs, so I wonder if using that in a big Dutch oven and then transporting it straight to a grill would let me get some smoke and caramelization on the ribs before all the meat falls off from touching them :) haha.

  4. that sounds perfect! and thanks for the original recipe btw. it is already really amazing!


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