Homemade ribs are a special meal. It's the kind of meaty dinner dish relegated to long summer afternoons tending the smoker or heating up the kitchen for a long, slow cook in the oven. Instant Pot ribs change all that! Making ribs in the Instant Pot means this summer staple can be an anytime feast. Because, yes my friends, you can truly have tender, sticky, baby back ribs on the table in under an hour with the help of the electric pressure cooker.
Faster Ribs, Thanks to the Instant Pot
Discovering that I could make tender, smoky ribs in the Instant Pot was nothing short of life-changing. Ribs, before the Instant Pot, were a once-a-summer special-occasion treat, slowly smoked on the barbecue and slathered with sauce until lacquered and glossy. But ribs are inexpensive and satisfying, and discovering I could cook ribs to tenderness in under an hour swung the door of possibility right open. Won't you step in and join me?
Your Secret Summer Seasoning: Smoked Salt
Smoked salt is a seasoning that every cook should have in their pantry. Not only does it do the same work of liquid smoke with less effort, but it is also flavorful and wonderful for adding to everything from ribs to salty caramels. I love this smoked salt from Spice House. A little will go a long way, making the small bottle a worthy investment.
Buy it: Hickory Smoke Salt, $4.47 for 4 ounces
Key Steps for Instant Pot Ribs
- Prepare the ribs properly. Pork ribs have a thin layer of membrane that line the bone side. No length of cooking will soften or tenderize it, so you've got the peel it away before you season the ribs. With the bones facing up, slide a butter knife under the membrane between two rib bones until you can grip the membrane (a paper towel helps maintain the grip) and slowly pull it away like pulling off a label on a jelly jar.
- Make your own rub. A dry rub is best for seasoning these ribs because the pressure cooker will essentially steam them — sort of washing away any wet seasonings on the ribs. A dry rub, however, stays put. Here is where you can customize the flavor of your ribs and season them directly with the smoked salt.
- Pressure steam in a circle. Don't cut the ribs and stack them for cooking in the Instant Pot — they won't cook evenly. Instead, roll up the ribs and stand them up inside the pressure cooker on a trivet. It looks weird but works well.
- Cool flat. With a 20-minute cook time and 15 minutes to come to pressure, the ribs will cook for a total of about 35 minutes. Then you'll do a quick release of pressure. If you cool the ribs in their coiled state they are much harder to sauce and barbecue or broil to finish, so remove them from the pot and lay flat on a baking sheet to cool.
- Knowing when the ribs are done. The ribs should gently bend, not break, when lifted, and the meat should be just pulling away from the ribs.
Serving Instant Pot Ribs
Straight out of the Instant Pot, these ribs are quite delicious and perfectly edible just as they are, but a little sauce and a quick broil or a few minutes on a hot grill will make them absolutely incredible. Brush the tender ribs with a cup of your favorite sauce and broil for three to four minutes before slicing and serving. I suspect you'll want to make another batch right away and by all means, load up the Instant Pot and keep making these ribs all summer long!
How To Make Ribs in the Instant Pot
Serves 4 to 6
What You Need
packed brown sugar
smoked salt, such as this one from Spice House
coarsely ground black pepper
baby back ribs (about 4 pounds total)
6-quart or larger electric pressure cooker
Trivet or steamer basket
Measuring cups and spoons
Make the spice rub. Place the brown sugar, mustard, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked salt, black pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl and stir to combine; set aside.
Remove the membrane from the ribs. For super-tender ribs, remove the membrane that covers the bone on the underside of the ribs: Flip the ribs over so they're meat-side down, then slide a butter knife in between the ribs and the thin membrane of the first rack — start in the center of the rack, which tends to be easier than the ends. Once you’ve got a few inches pulled up, use your hands to gently pull the membrane up and completely off the bones (if your grip is slippery, grasp the membrane with a paper towel before pulling) off completely. Repeat for the remaining rack.
Season the ribs. Sprinkle the rub evenly over the ribs on both sides and on the ends. Gently rub the spice mixture into the ribs.
Prepare the electric pressure cooker and add the ribs. Set a steamer or trivet inside a 6-quart or larger electric pressure cooker. Add 1 cup of water. Place the ribs on the steamer by standing them up and gently coiling them in the cooker — start with the first rack of ribs on the outside closest to the pot, then make a tighter coil inside the first rack of ribs with the second rack.
Cook the ribs on manual pressure for 20 minutes. Cover the pressure cooker and make sure the pressure valve is sealed. Set to HIGH manual pressure for 20 minutes. The cooker should take about 15 minutes to come to pressure.
Quick release the ribs and transfer immediately to a baking sheet. When the 20 minutes is up, quickly release the pressure using the pressure cooker’s release valve. Using tongs, immediately transfer the ribs to a baking sheet; the ribs should gently bend but not break when lifted, and the meat should be just pulling away from the ribs.
Coat the ribs with sauce and broil or grill (optional). Brush the finished ribs with sauce on all sides. Broil or grill on medium-high heat until some of the sauce is browned and sticky, 3 to 4 minutes.
Slice and serve the ribs. Transfer the ribs to a cutting board and cut between the ribs into desired sections. Serve immediately.
Make ahead: The ribs can be coated with the dry rub and refrigerated overnight. The cooked ribs can also be cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 days before reheating in a warm oven or grill on medium-high heat and finishing with the sauce.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.