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Simple Sous Vide Pork Baby Back Ribs Recipe and How To Guide
Rich, smoky, and tender... ribs are such a fantastic food! My favorite combination is probably 150°F (65°C) for around 18 to 24 hours, it's shreddable but not too fall-apart. Some other popular combinations are 165°F (73.9°C) for 18 to 24 hours or 176°F (80°C) for 12 hours. For a chop-like consistency I generally prefer 140°F (60°C) for 1 to 2 days.
This article is about one of my favorite things on Earth to eat, and that is rich, smoky, fatty, flavorful ribs. And what better way to make ribs than to sous vide them?
Sure, you can throw them on the smoker, and watch them all day. You can make some great ribs when you smoke them. A lot of people know how to do that.
But sous vide ribs are my favorite type of ribs. And I'm going to show you everything I know about making them so you can make some amazing ribs at home.
I love ribs. I think they are amazingly tender and flavorful. When they're done right, they have this little bit of bite to them, but still fall off the bone. They're so amazing - one of my favorite things on Earth to eat.
I want to dive into how you can use sous vide to simplify the process.
Now I am not a person that says you have to sous vide everything. I think sous vide is just one more tool in your kitchen toolkit. So, if you love smoking ribs, if you love being out there at your smoker all day, if you have your process down, enjoy it. I'm not telling you what you're doing is wrong in any way whatsoever.
I'm just providing another way to try cooking them because a lot of people struggle to make perfectly cooked ribs. And with sous vide, you can make them perfect every single time. So, I'm going to show you how to do that.
What are the Types of Ribs?
First thing to remember is there are several types of ribs. We're going to focus exclusively on pork ribs today because beef ribs are their own beast.
Even with pork ribs, there are a lot of different kinds, and because they look very similar, people can't always tell them apart. Most of them are actually just trimmed differently and they are really the same main cut of meat.
Baby Back or Back Ribs
The first ribs we're going to talk about are baby back or back ribs. These come from the upper ribs or the upper back. They're high on the back of the pig. These are actually the same ribs that you get when a pork chop is served with a bone on it, it's a baby back or back rib.
These ribs are made up of the loin meat, which is less fatty, smaller and a little more tender. They're the best if you want a more of a chop like consistency, which you can do with sous vide cooking them at like 140°F (60°C). They can turn out almost like a pork chop, but on a rack of ribs. It's a really cool, unique presentation.
Spareribs or Side Ribs
The next type is the spareribs or the side ribs. These are the lower ribs from the underbelly and behind the shoulder. In a lot of people's opinions, they are the tastiest ribs. They're a little bit fatter. They are tougher, which you can break down using the sous vide process.
These ribs are a little bit thicker. So, you have a lot of meat on these types of ribs when you use sous vide to cook them for a longer amount of time to tenderize them and break down some of that connective tissue.
St. Louis Ribs
You also have St. Louis ribs, which are basically fancy spareribs.
And while spareribs are a thicker, meatier variation, St. Louis style ribs are trimmed down with the brisket bone removed. This makes them a little bit easier to handle, a little bit easier to cook and break down. They are more trimmed and squarer, so you can put them in a sous vide bag a little bit easier.
St. Louis ribs are some of the ones that I turn to most of the time. Those and spareribs are my two go-tos. I almost never cook baby back ribs anymore unless I'm going for that lower temperature, more unique presentation.
Country Style Ribs
Finally, there's country style ribs, and these aren't really a specific cut. It's like a London broil that it's more of a preparation method and can mean different things.
It's often the blade end of the loin, the top of the pork shoulder or it can be rib chops. These come both boneless or bone-in. Country style ribs are usually fatty and marbled like a pork chop, but they are from different places. They're kind of handled differently than other ribs.
What we will focus on
I'm going to really focus on baby back ribs, spareribs and St. Louis style ribs. These three all come from the same general area of the animal, and they can be handled, and sous vided very, very similarly.
So your ribs can range from almost pork chop-like, which is staying on the bone with a lot of bite to them, all the way up through so tender the meat is falling off the bone, which means you're probably not able to take them out of the sous vide bag with them staying on the ribs.
So it really depends. What do you want to accomplish?
Which Sous Vide Ribs Temperature to Use
Barely Braised-like Sous Vide Ribs
My favorite combination is probably 152°F (67°C) for 18 to 24 hours. It's really tender but still moist and juicy. It's not really fall apart, but it definitely comes right off the bone when you bite it very, very easily.
It is like the perfect barbecue, the perfect sous vide pot roast, the perfect braise-like texture for a lot of things that I'm trying to do. And for ribs, it is a crowd favorite. People love ribs cooked like that.
Starting to Fall-Off-the-Bone Braised-like Sous Vide Ribs
Some other really popular combinations are 165°F (74°C) for 18 to 24 hours. These are going to be more tender, more falling off the bone, but they're still going to have a little bit of bite.
They're not as juicy as the ones at 150°F (66°C), but they are more tender, if that's the direction you're trying to go.
Fell-Off-the-Bone Braised-like Sous Vide Ribs
Another popular one is 176°F (80°C) for about 12 hours.
You've reduced the cooking time a lot, but these ribs are going to be falling apart. If you like ribs that don't stick to the bone, that are almost spreadable texture, then this is the temperature and time that you're going to be wanting to go for.
Pork Chop-like Sous Vide Ribs
And as I said with sous vide, you can make pork chop like ribs. These are going to have a lot of bite. They're going to have a lot of juice. They're going to be really flavorful, tender, but not fall apart tender. For that, I usually like about 140°F (60°C) for 1 to 2 days.
But for those of you saying, "But I love the smoke flavor. How do you get smoke into sous vide ribs?". There are 2 ways to do it, and we'll dive into this a little bit more when we talk about the actual process. But you can smoke beforehand, or you can smoke after.
If you ask 100 people whether they should smoke first or smoke after the sous vide, you will probably get 50 telling you each one and they all will be adamant that it's the right way to do it. I know a lot of people who are smart and do a lot of barbecue and they suggest either before or after. To me it's whatever's more convenient for you.
I think after is a little bit easier, so I like to sous vide ahead of time. I chill them down and I can reheat them on the grill or on the smoker outside, and then I serve them fresh from the smoker.
People are usually over when I'm serving ribs, so they get the aroma and then they get the sight of the smoke and the scent of it, and it ties the entire meal together. So it's better for me and it's more convenient for me. That said, some people do like it beforehand.
I've talked to both Darren Wilson from FireAndWaterCooking.com, and Meathead from AmazingRibs.com, and they both smoke afterwards for a few different reasons. So I feel justified that at least I'm not doing something completely wrong by smoking after. If you'd like to smoke first, if that's more convenient, go ahead and go for it.
When smoking Ribs Keep Their Temperature Below the Sous Vide Temperature
The only thing to remember is figure out your sous vide temperature first. Then when you smoke the ribs, make sure it stays below that temperature. Whether you're doing it before or after, you don't want to exceed it.
I know some people go through all this effort to sous vide their ribs and then they throw it on the smoker, and they raise that temperature up to 180°F to 200°F like you would if you're normally cooking ribs. This just undoes most of the benefits of the sous vide process, so be sure to stop when the ribs are below your sous vide temperature.
If you keep it below your sous vided temperature, it's going to turn out much juicier and much more tender.
Detailed Sous Vide Ribs Process
So what is the process? Let's dive into the process for making some perfect sous vide ribs.
To help with this, I'm going to link up my favorite simple sous vide pork rib master recipe makes it easy to put out a perfectly cooked pork rib every time that can then be served with your favorite sauces, sides, whatever you want at your barbecue.
This works good with baby back ribs, spareribs or St. Louis style ribs. Whatever you have on hand, this recipe will help you get perfectly cooked, tender, moist and juicy ribs every single time.
Sometimes there's a little hole in the packaging. Sometimes the labels come off the packaging and get stuck in your sous vide machine.
Either way, you aren't seasoning the ribs before you're cooking them. I always like to season my meat before I cook it, so I definitely want to remove it from the store packaging.
Clean and Trim the Ribs
You can also remove any excess fat and connective tissue. However, you would normally clean ribs when you're going to grill them or smoke them, is the best way to do it for sous vide as well.
Sometimes I'm lazy and don't remove the connective tissue, and it generally works out just fine because of the longer cooking times. But just clean them how you would normally clean your ribs.
Cut the Ribs into Smaller Portions if Desired
You can cook the entire rack whole if you have a big enough bag and sous vide machine, or you can break it down into ribs or quarters or halves, whatever's easiest for you. I've done it all different preparations and it comes down to how are you serving it? What type of presentation do you want for the people to see?
For me and in my New York apartment it is usually a lot easier for me to cut it into thirds or halves. And then it's a little more manageable, both on the grill and in the sous vide machine.
Season Your Ribs Before Sous Vide
I'll always put on salt before I sous vide the ribs, and a lot of times also put on a spice rub. Some people are very much against adding spice rubs. I think it adds flavor to the outside, and I really enjoy experimenting with different ones.
So do whatever you think is best. If you like having rubs on your ribs, then go ahead and put some on before sous viding and give that a try. Otherwise, you can hold off and you can put it on before you smoke it.
There's a lot of different options you have for when to add your rub. I usually put it on before I sous vide, it seems a little bit easier and more convenient for me. But do whatever works for you.
Step 2: How to Seal Sous Vide Ribs
Now it's time to seal the ribs. Put them in your sous vide bag in a single layer. You don't want to stack them up, otherwise they will not cook evenly through.
Any food safe, heat safe plastic bag works well. Ziploc brand freezer bags will work pretty well, especially if you're using 150°F (66°C) or below temperatures. If you're going above, sometimes you might want to use two bags just to make sure you don't spring any leaks over the longer cooking times with the higher temperatures.
Chambered vacuum sealers worked great as well. The thing to remember with chambered vacuum sealers is if you're going for a fancy presentation, anything with bones in it, some of the insides of the bones will get sucked out when you use a chamber vacuum sealer with too high of a vacuum. This can lead to some discoloration, and it can look ugly in the bag.
So just keep that in mind if you do have a chambered sealer, you can either pull a little weaker of a vacuum or you can just deal with a little discoloration. I normally just deal with it and people haven't noticed. But it is something to keep in mind if you're going for a more refined presentation.
Step 3: How to Prepare the Sous Vide Water Bath
To prepare the water bath, just fill your favorite sous vide container with water. Obviously, if you're using an entire rack, you might want a larger polycarbonate container like Cambro or Lipavi both sell.
If you're doing individual ribs or half racks, then a stockpot might work just fine. You could also use some of the smaller polycarbonate containers. I use a 12-quart polycarbonate a lot of the time.
I know many people who use coolers for their container, especially if they are going to finish these on a grill elsewhere. A lot of people will toss the hot water and the ribs into a cooler. When they're transported like that, they show up hot and ready to be finished.
Set your sous vide machine to the desired temperature so you get the texture that you want at the end. As I said, this depends on your desired doneness. What are you trying to accomplish?
I like 152°F (67°C) for most of my ribs, so that's what I go for, especially when I'm serving for parties. But 140°F (60°C) is that great chop like kind of texture. Or you can go up to 165°F (74°C) or 176°F (80°C) for a much more fall apart texture.
You can then throw the ribs into the water bath. You don't need to worry about letting it preheat since you're cooking them for a very long time. It's going to even out over the long run when you put them in the water.
Make sure that the ribs are all underwater and most of the bag is submerged also. Anything that the raw pork touched, you want to be under the surface of the water. You're cooking this for 12 to 24 to 36 hours, so you're going to be growing bacteria if something is sticking out of the water. Make sure things are under the water so they can get pasteurized and fully cooked.
Step 4: How Long to Cook Sous Vide Ribs
Now you just let this cook for the amount of time you need based on your temperature, normally 12 to 24 hours. So, you have a lot of time to do whatever you want. You can prep for your party; you can get your sides together. You can go take a 12-hour nap. There's a lot of things that you can do in that time. That's what I love about sous vide, it's not hands-on like a lot of traditional ways to cook ribs where you have to be watching and monitoring the process. With sous vide you set it and forget it.
Step 5: Remove the Sous Vide Ribs from the Water Bath
Once they've been cooked long enough and they're nice and tender, it's time for you to take them out of the water bath. Now ribs and other barbecued meats that you're going to reheat on the smoker or grill, or some of the things that I recommend almost always using an using an ice bath to chill.
There are several reasons for that, especially for ribs. They're thin, so you want to maximize the sear, if you're going to do a quick sear. And if you're going to smoke after sous vide, you want to maximize the amount of time they're in the smoke.
Smoke adheres better to cold meat. So, in all these cases, you want to use an ice bath to chill the ribs. Take them out of the hot sous vide machine and put them in cold water or a cold ice bath of half ice and half water. Chill the ribs all the way down.
At this point, you can actually put them in the fridge and store for a few weeks, which is amazing. I'll do that for parties. I'll cook the food several days ahead of time, chill it down and put it in the fridge. Then when it's time for the party, I can just pull it out, reheat it on the grill or on the smoker.
I have perfectly cooked ribs every time, even if my friends show up a few hours late like some of them always do. The food's not ruined because I'm not smoking it for 4 to 8 hours before they even arrive. I can finish it last minute when they finally do get there.
If you're going to smoke them, you want to leave them wet. When you take them out of the bag, you don't want to dry them off. You want to put them on the smoker cold and wet, smoke adheres a lot better to cold, wet meat than it does to hot dry meat. That's what Meathead and Darren tell me, and I trust the 2 of them very much.
If you're going to just grill them, broil them, pan fry them or put them in a cast iron pan just to get a crust, then you want to dry them off really well. Any of those kind of quick cooking methods, you want to dry it off completely before you reheat them over that high heat. In either case, you don't want the internal temperature to get above what you sous vided it at.
As I said, I like 152°F (67°C). So, when I reheat the ribs after sous vide, I want to make sure I stop searing at the end when the temperature reaches around 140°F (60°C) to 145°F (63°C). The carryover doesn't go above 152°F (67°C) and ruined all the hard work I did during the sous vide.
So, whether you're smoking it, or finishing it on a really hot grill, you want to make sure that core temperature stays below what you sous vided it at. And when it starts getting close to that, pull it off and you're now ready to eat perfectly cooked, tender, juicy, succulent ribs that are fall off the bone as you wow your friends and family.
Step 7: How to Serve Sous Vide Ribs
I've served these at multiple parties. Every time people just dove into the ribs and then talked about how they are some of the best ribs they have ever had. So now you can impress your friends and family and you can turn out perfectly cooked ribs whenever you want using sous vide.
Simple Tender Sous Vide Baby Back Ribs Master Recipe
These tender, simple sous vide baby back ribs are a favorite recipe of mine. I've served them at multiple barbecues and parties and they are always a crowd favorite! My favorite combination is probably 150°F (65°C) for around 18 to 24 hours, it's shreddable but not too fall-apart. Some other popular combinations are 165°F (73.9°C) for 18 to 24 hours or 176°F (80°C) for 12 hours. For a chop-like consistency I generally prefer 140°F (60°C) for 1 to 2 days.
Prep Time: 32 Minutes
Cooktime: 18 to 36 Hours
Total Time: 18 to 36 Hours
Calories: 600 Calories
Tags: sous vide baby back ribs, sous vide pork baby back ribs, pork baby back ribs, pork, sous vide, easy, simple
For the Baby Back Ribs
2 pounds baby back ribs
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoons spice rub or herbs (optional)
Preheat the Water Bath: Start your sous vide machine preheating. I prefer 150°F (65.6°C) for a perfect braise-like texture that is extra juicy but many people want a more shreddable, fall-apart version at 165°F (73.9°C).
Trim and Season Baby Back Ribs: Trim off any fat or gristle. Salt the pork then coat with any spices.
Seal in a Bag: Seal the pork in a sous vide bag, Ziploc-brand freezer bag, silicon bag, or other food- and heat-safe bag or zip top bag.
Cooking the Baby Back Ribs: Cook the pork until tenderized, usually 18 to 36 hours for pork baby back ribs.
Thoroughly Dry the Meat: Take the sous vide bag out of the water and remove the cooked baby back ribs. Dry it off thoroughly using paper towels or a dish cloth.
Searing for Flavor: Sear the baby back ribs for 1 to 2 minutes per side over high heat. It should just start to brown but the core temperature shouldn't rise. Remove it from the heat.
Plating: Place the baby back ribs onto a plate with any salads or sides then serve.
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What is the Best Sous Vide Baby Back Ribs Temperatures and Times?
Sous vide baby back ribs are one of my favorites! I usually do 150°F (65°C) for around 18 to 24 hours, it's tender but not too fall-apart. Others love 165°F (73.9°C) for 18 to 24 hours.
135°F for 1 to 2 Days (57.2ºC)
140°F for 1 to 2 Days (60.0ºC)
145°F for 1 to 2 Days (62.8ºC)
Tender Braise: 150°F for 18 to 36 Hours (65.6ºC)
Firm but Shreddable: 156°F for 18 to 24 Hours (68.9ºC)
More Fall Apart: 165°F for 18 to 24 Hours (73.9ºC)
Really Fall Apart: 176°F for 12 to 18 Hours (80.0ºC)
Do you have experience cooking baby back ribs? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
BBQ ribs are one of my favorite meals! I love getting all messy and eating them off the bone. They are also amazing to serve at parties and are a great way to get everyone to loosen up. Using sous vide to tenderize the ribs, then the smoker to flavor them results in moist, flavorful ribs that always turn out perfect!
For this sous vide recipe I decided to use country style ribs and paired them with sweet apples and an orzo salad. The ribs come out super tender but still nice and moist and the apples add a great hit of sweetness to them.
One of my favorite summer foods are ribs. I like them smoked, boiled, grilled, and just about any other way you can cook them. I've found that preparing sous vide ribs lets you tenderize them while still keeping them medium rare and is a really unique way to do them. I've cooked them a few different ways and these sous vide St. Louis ribs were one of my favorites.
Sous Vide Baby Back Ribs Comments
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