When you prepared smoked ribs on a regular basis, you might keep them around for longer than you intended. This can be true of raw pork ribs in addition to leftovers.
How long can ribs stay in the fridge before you need to cook them off? And how long are cooked ribs good for? Our guide is here to provide you with the answers.
How Long Are Ribs Good In The Fridge?
All fresh raw pork should keep in the fridge for up to 4 days before it starts to deteriorate. After you’ve cooked the ribs, they should keep for an additional 4 to 5 days when stored below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. For longer storage periods, keep the ribs in the freezer.
How Long Are Uncooked Ribs Good in the Fridge?
It’s best to cook meat products the same day you bring them home from the supermarket or butcher shop. That way, you can rest assured that the product is as fresh as possible. If it’s past its peak at that point, then the fault lies with the retailer.
Although we recommend this practice, we understand that it’s not always possible, especially if you’re planning a big get-together. If you need to store your fresh pork ribs in the fridge for a while, they should keep for up to 4 days.
Most retailers will put a “sell-by” or “best-by” date on their products. You can use this date as a guideline, but it shouldn’t be the determining factor in your plans.
That’s because these dates are in place to remind the retailers how long to keep the product on the shelf, among other things. They don’t necessarily indicate freshness. That means that the ribs might still be in good condition after the sell-by date has passed.
How Long Are Cooked Ribs Good For?
Similarly, there’s nothing like freshly smoked ribs. If you’ve done your job right and you have plenty of hungry guests, you might not have to worry about leftovers at all.
On the other hand, it’s better to prepare more food than you think you’ll consume. This is one guideline that we tend to follow, regardless of what type of meat we’ve chosen for the smoker.
How long will your leftover ribs keep in the fridge? Assuming you’ve followed the proper guidelines for food safety, they should maintain their integrity for about 5 days. After that, we would suggest discarding them even if the meat still looks and smells all right.
How To Tell When Ribs Have Gone Bad
First of all, fresh pork should have no noticeable scent of its own. You might catch a faint whiff of something metallic, but that’s all. If the meat smells like rotten eggs or ammonia, it’s best to discard it and start with a fresh product.
The meat should also be firm and slightly damp to the touch, not slimy or sticky. Once you’ve handled enough raw rib racks, you should be able to tell when the meat is no longer fresh.
Also, take note of any discoloration. Pork ranges in color from light pink to a darker purplish shade, depending on how much myoglobin is stored in the muscle fibers. Any patches of green, brown, or moldy white are indicative of spoilage.
Can You Freeze Pork Ribs?
When your plans change and you aren’t able to cook the ribs after all, try freezing them instead. The meat might lose a bit of its original moisture, but they’ll keep indefinitely when stored at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (see section below).
Wrap the ribs tightly before storing them in the freezer. It’s also a good idea to label the packages with the date and the contents, so you can keep better track of them.
If you want to freeze cooked ribs, make sure they’re cool before you wrap them. The trapped heat will lead to excess moisture in the packaging, and that’s a direct route to freezer burn.
One more caveat: Keep all meat products refrigerated below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. They shouldn’t be left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, or they’ll become likely hosts for bacteria. This is true of both raw and cooked meats.
How Long Can You Store Ribs In The Freezer?
Although the meat won’t technically go bad in the freezer, it will start to dry out if you keep it in there too long. Try to thaw and cook off raw ribs within 4 to 6 months. For cooked leftovers, the window shortens to 3 months.
How To Defrost Pork Ribs
It’s never a good idea to thaw meat at room temperature. As we mentioned earlier, leaving meat at these temps can introduce unwanted bacteria. These bacteria may cause food-borne illnesses, which is something you want to avoid at all costs.
Here are the acceptable methods for thawing pork ribs. We’ve listed them in our preferred order, with our favorite method at the top of the list.
In The Fridge
For optimum results, put your frozen rib rack on the bottom shelf of the fridge. It’s best to keep it on a plate or tray large enough to catch any liquid that might seep out of the package.
Place the ribs toward the back of the refrigerator. They should be completely thawed in about 24 hours. Larger racks might take up to 36 hours to thaw out. The process may also take longer if the fridge is especially cold.
Once the meat is defrosted, you have a window of 1 to 4 days to cook the ribs. This time frame depends on how long the ribs were in the fridge before you froze them. If they were frozen right away, you’ll have more time than if you’d waited a few days.
When ribs are defrosted in the freezer, it’s permissible to refreeze them without cooking them first. Refreezing the meat won’t do any harm, but it might cause a distinct loss of moisture once you’re finally ready to cook them.
In Cold Water
The first rule of the cold-water technique: Don’t use it unless you’re planning to cook and eat the ribs right away. Once they’ve been thawed using this method, it’s not safe to put them back in the refrigerator.
When you’re in a hurry or only defrosting a small portion, however, the cold-water method is an excellent option. It’s quick and easy, though not quite as hands-off as the refrigerator technique.
To begin, make sure the ribs are in a zip-top bag or similar leak-proof container. There has to be a tight seal around the ribs. It’s also preferable for there to be very little air inside the package.
Once the ribs are tightly sealed, fill a large container with cold water. Don’t use warm water—this will bring portions of the meat into the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees before the rest of it thaws.
Place the wrapped ribs in the water bath, making sure to submerge them as fully as possible. If the water feels too warm, drop in a few ice cubes.
Defrost the ribs, swapping out the water every 30 minutes as needed. Smaller racks might be finished defrosting within an hour, but a 4-pound rack of spare ribs could need up to 4 hours in the cold water bath.
In The Microwave
Although this is a quick and convenient defrosting method, it may cause the meat to cook through in spots while other parts remain frozen. Don’t use the microwave unless you have no choice.
This technique works best if your microwave has a defrost feature. If yours isn’t equipped with this option, adjust the settings to reduce the power to 30 percent.
Unwrap the ribs, making sure no plastic or other packaging is still sticking to the meat. These materials will melt in the microwave, contaminating the ribs.
Place the frozen ribs in a lidded microwave-safe container. Set the lid loosely over the top. Set the timer for 3 minutes. When this cycle is complete, rotate the container and continue defrosting for another 3 minutes.
Note that if you use the defrost feature, it’s likely that the system will use an automatic timer. If this is the case, stop the microwave halfway through the cycle so you can rotate the container before proceeding.
Continue this process until the meat is thawed. At this point, you’ll need to cook the ribs at once for optimal food safety.
Can You Smoke Frozen Ribs?
Technically, you don’t need to thaw the ribs before adding them to the smoker. In fact, we prefer smoking frozen ribs to defrosting them in the microwave.
The problem is that meat takes longer to cook when it’s not thawed in advance. You should add about 50 percent to your estimated cooking time when smoking frozen ribs. Given that ribs should cook for 5 to 6 hours anyway, it’s often quicker to use a cold water bath.
The Bottom Line
Try to buy ribs the same day or the day before you plan to fire up the smoker. You’ll have a bit more leeway in terms of time, but once you have the meat on hand, it will be hard to wait.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!