Grilling the perfect rib can be a challenge. You don’t want your ribs to be tough, chewy, or undercooked. One method some cooks use is boiling the ribs before grilling them. In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of boiling ribs before grilling, and provide you with expert tips to make the best ribs possible.

The Great Rib Debate: To Boil or Not to Boil?

When grilling ribs, some chefs choose to boil them beforehand while others don’t. Understanding why some cooks prefer to boil their ribs before grilling and why others don’t will help you make a more informed decision.

The Best Ribs for Grilling

Most people associate pork spare ribs with BBQ, but baby back ribs and St. Louis ribs (a neater version of spare ribs) are also excellent choices. Baby back pork ribs are ideal for grilling or smoking due to their fast cooking time, though they are the most expensive option. Spare ribs and St. Louis-style ribs are popular choices as they have less meat on them. Beef and lamb ribs are less common but can still be delicious when grilled or smoked.

Why Some Chefs Boil Ribs Before Grilling

There are a few reasons why some cooks boil ribs before grilling:

  1. Tenderization: Boiling meat before grilling or cooking is one method for tenderizing it.
  2. Fat rendering: Ribs are fatty, so boiling them before grilling helps to render the fat.
  3. Membrane removal: Boiling ribs makes it easier to remove the membrane or inner skin.
  4. Time-saving: Boiling ribs before grilling saves time on the grill, particularly when cooking for a large group.

Why Some Chefs Don’t Boil Ribs Before Grilling

On the other hand, some cooks avoid boiling ribs before grilling because:

  1. They believe it’s a shortcut that compromises the quality of the ribs.
  2. Boiling can cause the meat to dry up and lose its “smokehouse” characteristics.
  3. Overboiling can lead to overcooked, rubbery, or mushy ribs.

How to Tenderize Ribs Before Grilling

There are several ways to tenderize ribs before grilling:

  1. Boiling: Boil the ribs in water, seasoned water, or BBQ sauce for varying times depending on your preference.
  2. Brining: Create a salt and water solution, and let the ribs sit in it overnight.
  3. Marinades: Use vinegar-based marinades to tenderize the ribs and infuse them with flavor.
  4. Steaming: Steam the ribs in a roasting pan with water and apple cider vinegar or beer.
  5. Smoking: Smoke the ribs at a low, steady temperature for six to eight hours.

Grilling Tender Ribs: Expert Tips

Here are some tips for grilling tender, flavorful ribs:

  1. Decide whether or not to remove the membrane.
  2. Marinate or brine the ribs overnight.
  3. Prepare a meat rub and apply it to the ribs before grilling.
  4. Grill the ribs over indirect heat, flipping them every 30 minutes.
  5. After an hour, remove the grill lid and cook the ribs for another 40 to 60 minutes, basting them with sauce.
  6. Let the ribs rest for 20 minutes before serving.


Every cook has their preferred method for grilling ribs. Some like to boil their ribs before grilling, while others opt for steaming, marinating, or using a brine solution. Experiment with different techniques and recipes to find the one that works best for you. After all, cooking should be an adventure, and there’s plenty of fun to be had in discovering your favorite way to prepare delicious, tender ribs.

Boiling Ribs: Pros and Cons

To help you decide whether boiling ribs is the right method for you, here’s a summary of the pros and cons:


  • Tenderizes the meat
  • Renders the fat
  • Easier membrane removal
  • Saves time on the grill


  • Can compromise the quality of the ribs
  • Risks losing the “smokehouse” characteristics
  • This may lead to overcooked, rubbery, or mushy ribs

Ultimately, the decision to boil ribs before grilling comes down to personal preference and cooking style. By understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each method, you can make an informed choice that leads to the best possible results for your ribs.

Other Factors to Consider for Grilled Ribs

Aside from tenderizing methods, there are other factors to consider for achieving mouthwatering grilled ribs:

  • Temperature control: Maintaining a consistent temperature on the grill is crucial. Too high of a temperature can cause the ribs to become tough and chewy.
  • Grilling time: Grilling ribs low and slow allows the meat to become tender without drying out. Be patient and give your ribs the time they need to cook properly.
  • Seasoning: Use a flavorful rub, marinade, or sauce to enhance the taste of your ribs. Experiment with different combinations of spices, herbs, and other ingredients to find your perfect blend.

By paying attention to these factors, you’ll be well on your way to grilling ribs that are tender, juicy, and packed with flavor. Happy grilling!