When you’ve thawed a large quantity of ribs–whether cooked or raw–and you aren’t going to use them after all, is it safe to refreeze them? I used to think it was dangerous to do so, but I may have been wrong about that. I hope this guide will clear things up for you as well.
Can You Refreeze Pork Ribs?
You can refreeze pork ribs as long as you’ve thawed them in the refrigerator, rather than a cold-water bath or the microwave. The meat will lose a bit of moisture, but it should still taste fine. Try to defrost and enjoy the refrozen ribs within 4 to 6 months.
How Long Do Pork Ribs Keep In The Fridge?
Fresh pork ribs should keep for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. If you don’t plan on cooking them within that time frame, it’s best to store them in the freezer until you’re ready.
Once the ribs are cooked, you have up to 4 days to consume or freeze them. It might be a good idea to cook the ribs off if you think there’s a chance you’ll eat them within that time frame. You can always freeze them from their cooked state if your plans change.
Your fridge should be set to a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria thrive in warmer temperatures, so the ribs might not be safe to eat if the fridge temp is set too high.
Also, try to store meat on the lower shelf, as far away from the door as possible. The fridge temperature rises slightly when you open the door. Keeping the ribs in the rear section will help protect them from these temperature swings.
How Many Ribs Do You Need Per Person?
If you’re thinking about refreezing your pork, it’s probably because you have more than you need. You may be able to avoid this situation by planning ahead.
On average, you should plan on a half-rack of baby back ribs per person. Since each rack consists of 10 to 13 ribs, that means you’re allowing 5 or 6 for each guest.
A rack of spare ribs or St. Louis ribs should have the same number of bones, but the ribs are larger. For this reason, you can plan on just 3 to 4 per person. Therefore, a full rack should be enough for 3 people.
Remember that serving sizes vary, depending on a number of factors. People tend to consume less at lunchtime gatherings than at evening ones. Also, if you’re serving a lot of side dishes, the guests may only eat 1 or 2 ribs apiece.
Tips on Freezing Pork Ribs
Before you put meat in the freezer, set the freezer temperature to 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below. This will prevent bacteria from forming during the storage period.
We like to divide the ribs into portions before freezing them so we can be sure to defrost only as many as we need. That way, you might not need to refreeze them after all. Plan on 1 or 2 servings per package, depending on the size of your household.
When freezing cooked ribs, be sure that they’re cool before you wrap them. Otherwise, steam might collect in the package, which could contribute to freezer burn.
Seal the ribs tightly, using a layer of plastic wrap or freezer paper beneath another layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. You can also use a sturdy zip-top bag. Squeeze as much air as you can out of the package to help prevent freezer burn.
Label all packages with today’s date, as well as the contents. If you’re refreezing the ribs, write that information on the label, too.
The ribs should keep in the freezer for an indefinite amount of time. To help them maintain the best quality, though, we would recommend thawing and reheating them within 4 to 6 months.
Defrosting Pork Ribs
The refrigerator method is the most effective way to defrost pork ribs. Put the ribs in a container with sides high enough to catch any juices that might seep out of the package as the meat thaws. Set this container on the lowest shelf of the fridge, away from the door.
When you use the refrigerator method, the ribs should be ready to reheat by the next day. Larger racks might take up to 36 hours. That’s another reason why we suggest freezing them in portions, so that they thaw faster.
You can also thaw the ribs in a cold-water bath, assuming the packages are sealed well enough. Place them in a large container filled with cold water. After 30 minutes, drain the container and replenish it with more cold water, adding a few ice cubes if the water feels too warm.
Ribs should thaw at a rate of 30 minutes to 1 hour per pound when you use the cold-water method. If you use this method for raw pork ribs, remember to cook them off as soon as they’ve thawed. Don’t attempt to refrigerate them afterward.
Never thaw ribs at room temperature. This is a clear invitation to the kinds of bacteria that cause food poisoning. If you’re in a hurry, use the cold-water method.
You can always cook the ribs without thawing them first, but be forewarned that it won’t save you much time. Meat that’s cooked from its frozen state can take 50 percent longer to cook. When you’re talking about pork ribs, that could lead to a 9-hour cooking time.
Can You Refreeze Raw Pork Ribs?
It’s safe to refreeze thawed pork ribs–assuming you’ve followed the proper guidelines for handling and storage.
Don’t leave meat out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. If the ambient temperature is above 90 degrees, the window shortens to 1 hour. Any ribs that have been sitting out for longer than that should be discarded.
On a similar note, you shouldn’t refreeze ribs if you used a cold-water bath to thaw them. That’s also true if you thawed them in the microwave–a method we don’t recommend, as it can yield uneven results.
As long as you thawed the ribs in the refrigerator, you can safely refreeze them within 3 to 4 days. If you wait any longer, the meat might be starting to spoil, at which point it’s too late to freeze them again.
You can thaw and refreeze ribs as many times as necessary. However, if you repeat the process more than once, the texture of the ribs will deteriorate. The meat loses moisture each time it’s subjected to the freezer, so keep that in mind when making your plans.
One final tip: Refreeze the ribs as soon as possible. The longer you keep them in the fridge, the less time you’ll have to cook them off when you get around to thawing them out.
Can You Refreeze Cooked Pork Ribs?
The same guidelines apply to refreezing cooked ribs. The meat will still be safe to eat when you defrost it after refreezing. You might notice a difference in the texture, but the excellent pork flavor should still be there.
Again, refrigerate all leftovers within 2 hours, or 1 hour in hot weather. Otherwise, the meat won’t be safe to consume whether you’ve frozen it or not.
To reheat cooked pork ribs, thaw them using the refrigerator or cold-water method. Preheat the grill to 425 degrees and wrap the ribs in foil. Reheat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they’ve reached an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees.
You can also reheat the ribs in the oven, again setting the temperature to 425. If you opt to reheat them without thawing them first, add 5 to 10 minutes to the cooking time.
The Bottom Line
Refreezing pork ribs is a safe and efficient way to make the most of your purchase. It’s better to refreeze the meat than to throw it away. Be sure to follow the proper safety guidelines, and enjoy your leftovers within 6 months for optimum results.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!