Once you’ve purchased a rack of ribs, how long do you have to cook them off? And how long will they keep in the fridge after you’ve cooked them? We’re here to answer all the questions you might have about storing your fresh pork ribs.
How Long Are Ribs Good For in the Fridge?
Raw pork ribs should keep for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. After they’re cooked, you should have an additional 3 to 4 days to consume them before they start to lose their quality. You can also store them in the freezer for 4 to 6 months. Freezing them longer might have an adverse effect on the texture.
How Long Are Ribs Good For In The Fridge Before They’re Cooked?
Raw pork products will usually keep for up to 4 days. If you think you’ll need to wait longer than that before cooking the ribs, we would recommend freezing the rack until you’re ready.
If you’re not sure whether the ribs are still good, smell them first. Most of the time, when pork has outlasted its freshness, it will give off a foul odor—almost like rotten eggs.
Assuming the ribs have passed the smell test, run your finger along the length of the rack. The meat should be slightly moist but firm, with no slimy or tacky residue.
How Long Are Cooked Ribs Good For In The Fridge?
Once the ribs are cooked, the meat should retain its best qualities when stored in the fridge for another 3 to 4 days. This assumes that you refrigerated the meat within 2 hours of taking it off the heat, and kept it below 40 degrees Fahrenheit the whole time.
Always test the meat for freshness before consuming the leftovers. If the meat smells funky, or if you notice an odd texture or any discoloration, you should discard it. Don’t be tempted to do a taste test—it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How Long Do Cryovac Ribs Last In The Fridge?
When meat is sealed in a cryovac package, it will keep longer than usual because it isn’t exposed to the air. In general, vacuum packed ribs shelf life lasts for about three weeks—that is, 21 days.
Once the meat is cooked, you can vacuum seal the ribs to extend their shelf life once more. Kept in this manner, the ribs should stay fresh for up to 2 weeks as opposed to just a few days.
Can You Use Vacuum Sealed Pork Ribs After Sell By Date?
The sell by date doesn’t necessarily denote freshness. It’s in place to remind retailers how long a product has been on the shelf. Therefore, you shouldn’t rely on it either.
You may be able to cook off vacuum sealed pork ribs after their posted sell by date as long as they’re not showing any signs of spoilage. If the meat is slimy, sticky, or discolored, then it should be discarded.
Bear in mind that vacuum-sealed meat can give off a strong odor even when it’s still fresh. It shouldn’t smell bad, but it may have a pronounced pork smell. This is due to the natural bacterial activity in the packaging, and is completely normal.
Can You Eat Leftover Ribs Cold?
It’s safe to eat leftover ribs without heating them up as long as they were properly refrigerated. Most of the time, we prefer to heat them first, but if the flavor and texture are on point, go ahead and enjoy them right out of the fridge.
How To Freeze Raw Pork Ribs
The best way to freeze raw pork ribs is to leave them in their original packaging, then add an additional protective layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil, freezer paper, or plastic wrap. You can also put the wrapped package in a freezer bag if you have a bag big enough.
Stored in this fashion, the ribs should keep indefinitely. To keep the meat from drying out, however, we suggest thawing and cooking them within 4 to 6 months.
For best results, defrost pork ribs by storing them on the lowest shelf of the fridge. A full rack should thaw in 24 to 36 hours, depending on size. Never leave frozen ribs on the counter to thaw—this invites dangerous bacteria to grow.
Can You Freeze Leftover Cooked Ribs?
It’s fine to freeze cooked ribs if you don’t think you’ll have a chance to eat the leftovers within a few days. The sooner you freeze them, the longer they’ll remain fresh once you thaw them out.
First, wait for the ribs to cool thoroughly. If the meat is still warm, ice crystals could form in the package, which leads to the dreaded phenomenon known as “freezer burn.”
Wrap the ribs tightly in plastic wrap, then add a second layer of foil. Label the package with the contents and the date. Before closing the freezer, make sure the temperature is set to 0 degrees or below.
Thaw and reheat the ribs within 6 months. They’ll still be safe to eat if you wait longer, but the meat might have a drier texture.
A Bit Of Timing Advice
Let’s say you’ve bought a nice rack of ribs, but your plans have changed and you won’t be able to eat them on the day you planned. Is it better to cook them off to buy yourself a few more days, or should you freeze them?
Our advice would be to freeze the raw ribs. As long as you’re planning to thaw and cook them off within a few weeks, you shouldn’t notice any major difference in quality.
On the other hand, reheated ribs will never be quite the same as when they were prepared fresh. Unlike pulled pork, which reheats beautifully, ribs are best enjoyed hot off the grill.
Of course, we understand that there will probably be leftovers. That’s why we’ve included another section on reheating leftover ribs below. But if you have the option, it’s preferable to freeze the ribs when they’re still raw, then cook them when you have time.
How To Reheat Ribs
On The Grill
Since you already worked so hard to smoke the ribs to perfection, the best way to reheat them is to fire up the grill again. That way, they’ll retain the smoky goodness that you were going for in the first place.
As a bonus, this method is super fast. Once the grill has preheated, the ribs should be ready to eat within 10 to 15 minutes.
To begin, turn a gas grill up to high, build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or set a pellet grill to 450 degrees. While you’re waiting for the grill to heat up, take the ribs out of the fridge.
Drizzle the ribs with a bit of water, chicken broth, or leftover pork juices. As an alternative, you can brush a light layer of barbecue sauce on each side.
Wrap the ribs loosely in foil. You don’t need to form a tight seal, the way you did if you wrapped them during the initial smoke.
Set the wrapped ribs on the cooking grate and reduce the heat to medium (350 for a pellet grill). Heat for 8 to 10 minutes, flipping the package after about 5 minutes.
The ribs are ready to eat when the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Serve with additional sauce, if desired.
In The Oven
If the weather isn’t cooperating, or if you just don’t want to bother with the grill again, reheating the ribs in the oven is a fine alternative.
When you use this method, you’ll be rewarded with ribs that are as moist and tender as they were when they were freshly cooked. The oven should also help them retain their smoke flavor, though it won’t impart any on its own.
The most effective way to reheat ribs in the oven is to mimic the smoker environment. Set the temperature to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This will heat them slowly, thereby preserving their juiciness.
If you need to speed things along, you can set the temp as high as 325. Remember, though, that if the temperature is set too high, you’ll run the risk of drying out the meat.
Your next step is to brush the ribs with sauce, if you’d like. Otherwise, add a drizzle of water, chicken stock or broth, or leftover pork juices to each side of the rack.
Wrap the ribs in a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Set the package on a rimmed baking sheet.
Place the ribs in the preheated oven and allow them to reheat until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the rack reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit. This should take 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove the foil wrapper and return the ribs to the oven for another 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce has caramelized. If you’re not using a sauce, you can leave them in for a bit more time, but don’t wait too long or the meat might dry out.
Most pork products, including ribs, should keep for 3 to 4 days when stored in the refrigerator. Our advice would be to buy the ribs as soon as possible before you plan to cook them to ensure maximum freshness.