Why Your Ribs Turned Out Dry and Chewy (And What to Do About It)

published Sep 1, 2018
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Most of us make ribs just a few times a year, when the stars align for a long weekend of cooking and racks of ribs are on sale. Conveniently, this occurs around Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day. When you only cook something occasionally, it can be hard to master a recipe. And because ribs take a long time to cook, it can be especially disappointing when they don’t turn out.

Too often, ribs turn out chewy or dry (and sometimes a combo of the two). Luckily, there are a few quick fixes for both outcomes, plus some ways to avoid these mistakes for future rib-cooking adventures.

Why Your Ribs Turned Out Dry and Chewy

The best ribs are juicy and tender (but not quite falling off the bone) with a thin, crisp outer layer. But when you first buy them, raw ribs — whether they are baby back, spareribs, or St. Louis-Style — are actually quite tough and lean. In order for them to cook up nice and juicy, you need to follow a few key prep steps and cook them for either a long time over low heat or give them a quick steam, which tenderizes the meat without drying it out.

If your ribs are chewy, you either forgot to remove the membrane from the back of the ribs or you didn’t cook them long enough. If your ribs are dry, you likely cooked them too hot and fast.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to fix dry and chewy ribs.

Credit: Olive and Mango/Kitchn

How to Fix Dry, Chewy Ribs

Moist, gentle heat and a wet vinegary sauce can save dry ribs. Here’s what to do: Make a 50/50 mixture of your favorite BBQ sauce and apple cider vinegar and coat the ribs in this mixture. Then wrap the ribs tightly in foil and put them in a low oven (say 300°F) for about an hour. The ribs will steam thanks to the BBQ vinegar mixture and continue to cook (and not overcook) until tender.