Should you marinate ribs?

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Delicious, tender, and a bomb of flavors – it’s marinated ribs! 

Many of us love to enjoy ourselves with a nice plate of soaked ribs -packed with tasty ingredients. And for the rib lovers out there, there’s nothing more enjoyable than making your own marinated ribs. 

But if you’re new to it and wish to know how long you should marinate ribs, you’ve stumbled to the right place.

Why does time matter in marinating ribs?

marinade is made by mixing different ingredients like edible acids, oil, and seasonings. We marinate something by soaking it in that mixture.

And that is where time plays the role of whether the marinate flavors and tenderizes the meat or vegetables by keeping it for extended periods.

Even for ribs, it’s essential to let the flavors and acid from the marinade work on the meat. And these flavors may not be at their best within a few minutes of soaking.

Should I marinate my ribs overnight?

First things first, it can all boil down to preference. For some people, super tender meat is better, while some prefer to have it on the stiffer side.  

If you’re talking about pork or beef ribs, then it may be best to keep it marinated for a minimum of 6 hours. 

The general rule of marinating ribs is not to overdo it because if you keep it exposed to the acids too long, instead of absorbing flavor and getting tender, it’ll become tough instead. And lose its taste too.

But this doesn’t mean that you can’t marinate overnight. As long as the acid and the enzymes are in the correct amounts, keeping it overnight may be fine.

Here, we get the idea that apart from time, the marinade recipe also determines whether you should keep it for a long or short period.

We should often avoid marinating seafood or vegetables overnight, but it’s almost always an acceptable option in the case of ribs.

So if overnight marination is okay…

How long is too long to marinate ribs?

We might think that since marinating ribs for an hour is better than 20 minutes, perhaps keeping it for five days will make it savory. But the reality is a no.

For almost every type of meat, marinating beyond 24 hours may often lead to taste deterioration along with the meat (in this case, ribs), losing its good nutrients.

According to many sources, when we marinate for too long, the meat retains excessive flavors rather than its actual taste.

So, the point here is the 24-hour mark. Anything beyond 24 hours of marination may not be necessary.

You can marinate red meat for more than a day, and it may still be edible even beyond 48 hours, but for most people, 12-24 hours is the sweet spot.

Read also: Best smoker for ribs.

Is it okay to marinate ribs for two days?

Most marinate recipes recommend keeping the meat for at least 6 to 12 hours. It may also be acceptable to let it stay for more than 24 hours and even for two days. But beyond that, the acids in the marinade may start to break down the meat fibers.

This will almost often lead to highly mushy meat.

To answer the question, yes, it may be okay to marinate ribs for two days, but it might be better to keep it within the 48-hour window between you and me.

What’s the best way to tenderize ribs?

For starters, it may often be hard to make ribs tender. You might have followed a celebrity chef’s recipe and still didn’t end up with the tender ribs that you imagined.

Often this happens because chefs are already fully aware of what to do, while for us, we may tend to follow recipes without really knowing what works.

And another point is that most recipes are simplified down to make them seem more manageable, and that’s where we fall short.

So to get tender and chewy ribs, you may need to understand the tricks before jumping into a recipe.

One good idea would be to cook it in a pressurized cooker. It may not be too familiar, but this is an effective way to soften the ribs to a point where the meat can easily come off from the bone.

And an essential point to remember is that there might not be any fast shortcut to truly tender ribs because “low and slow” is the best way.

One of the best methods to tenderize ribs may be marination. Even a simple citrus marinade can go a long way in making those soft juicy ribs.

You can also try the 3-2-1 method, where you rub the ribs and smoke them at 225° F for roughly 3 hours, then wrap them with foil and some seasoning and keep it further for 2 hours. Finally, use sauces to glaze the ribs in the smoker.

If, for some reason, you’re unable to do any of the above, you could also try specific meat tenderizers or salt rubs.

Read also: Best wood for smoking ribs.

What do you soak ribs in to make them tender?

To tenderize ribs, you can soak them in a brine solution or marinade. 

Brine solution contains salt and water, which denatures the proteins present in the meat and makes it more tender.

Not every marinade can tenderize ribs because it highly depends on the recipe. But using buttermilk or yogurt can cause the meat to become mushier.

Does marinating ribs make them tender?

If you use the right set of ingredients, then yes, marinating ribs can make them tender.

Marinades that contain acids may flavor the meat nicely but may not make it tender as a brine solution would.

Here, we have to know that meat becomes tender when extra moisture is absorbed by its cells, so unless the marinade contains what’s needed to bring in excess moisture, it may often go only as far as flavoring it.

Do ribs get more tender the longer they cook?

Both a yes and no. Ribs can get more tender in prolonged cooking, but you also risk overcooking them (which will make it stiff instead).

Cooking in low heat for about 4 hours in a BBQ is a popular way to make the ribs tender. In contrast, some Asian styles would simmer the ribs in a stew for a lesser time.

Four hours is a long time to cook, but overextending cooking periods( with excess heat) would rid the meat of its moisture too soon and lead to tough and stringy ribs.

About The Author

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James is a writer who is a self-confessed kitchenware and coffee nerd and a strong advocate of Sundays, good butter, and warm sourdough.