Since we’re barbecue fanatics, we prefer to make things from scratch as often as possible. That doesn’t mean we’ve never dealt with precooked meats before. If you’re pressed for time, or can only find ribs that are already cooked and seasoned, all is not lost. Here’s our primer on smoking pre cooked ribs.
Smoking Pre Cooked Ribs
To give pre cooked ribs the flavor and texture of the real thing, wrap them in foil and set them on the smoker for 2 hours. During the last 30 minutes, you can remove the wrapper to give them an extra dose of smoky goodness. It’s also possible to partially cook the ribs in the oven, then finish them on the smoker later.
About Precooked Ribs
Many supermarkets, big-box stores, and specialty online retailers sell ribs that are already cooked. Some have been seasoned and dressed with barbecue sauce before packaging, while others don’t have any seasoning on them at all.
When you buy precooked ribs, you get to skip the drawn-out smoking process. Instead of waiting the better part of a day for the ribs to be ready, you can have dinner on the table in just a couple of hours.
These store-bought precooked ribs vary greatly in terms of quality. If you opt to go this route, we would suggest buying only from reputable companies. When in doubt, go for the higher-priced items over the budget packages.
Can You Precook Ribs Yourself?
The term “precooked ribs” might also refer to ribs that you’ve cooked off yourself—either in the oven or the smoker—and plan to reheat later. This can be a great method, especially if inclement weather has forced you to use the oven for the first portion of the cooking process.
To precook ribs in the oven, set the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a roasting pan (make sure it’s large enough to hold the ribs) by covering the bottom of the pan with water, apple juice, or chicken stock. Set the ribs inside, then place the pan in the oven.
After 15 minutes, turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees. Let the ribs cook for another hour. At this point, they’ll have cooked to a safe temperature, but will still need a couple of hours on the grill or smoker to reach the proper texture.
Smoking Pre Cooked Ribs: A Guide
Whether you purchased your precooked ribs in the supermarket or performed the first stage of the operation yourself, it’s easy to finish them off using the smoker.
First, set the smoker temperature to 225 degrees. This is the same temperature we would recommend if you’d used the smoker for the entire cook. The goal is to act as though you’re picking up where you left off.
For this stage, you can wrap the ribs in a double layer of aluminum foil, which will allow them to heat through more quickly. We would recommend taking this step for precooked ribs, even if you usually choose to leave the ribs unwrapped. Otherwise, the meat might dry out.
It’s especially important to wrap precooked ribs if they’re already coated with barbecue sauce. If the sauce is exposed to direct heat for too long, it will burn and give the ribs a bitter taste.
Leave the wrapped ribs on the grill for about 2 hours. At this time, you can remove the wrapper and apply a sauce, if necessary. Let the ribs cook for another 30 minutes or so, until they’re nicely browned.
Serve with extra sauce on the side. When the ribs are sauced before packaging, the company will often advertise which brand they used. For the sake of consistency, use the same one when serving the ribs. If this isn’t possible, at least try to stick with a similar regional style.
How To Reheat Precooked Ribs Fast
Ribs are at their best when they’re cooked low and slow. What’s more, the prepackaged ones might not be as tender as you’d like (see Are Precooked Ribs Tough?, below). That’s why it’s best to reheat them as if you were starting at the second stage in the 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 rib smoking technique.
However, if you’re pressed for time, you can reheat prepackaged cooked ribs more quickly. Set the grill or smoker to medium-high, and place the ribs over direct heat. Let them reheat for 10-15 minutes, flipping them over halfway through the cooking time.
The quick method works better for baby back ribs than for spare ribs. The meat is leaner, which means it doesn’t need to cook as long. You can also reheat baby backs on an oiled baking sheet in a 375-degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
How Long Do Precooked Ribs Last In The Refrigerator?
For prepackaged ribs, check the label on the package for a “best by” date, and try to consume them within this time frame. Any ribs you’ve precooked yourself should be cooked and eaten within 3 to 4 days.
Do You Need To Spritz Precooked Ribs?
If you’ve wrapped the ribs, spritzing shouldn’t be necessary. The foil wrapper will promote steam, creating a cooking environment with built-in moisture.
Even when we leave the ribs naked, we don’t resort to spritzing very often. When you cook the meat at the right temperature, it should be tender and juicy enough on its own. Moreover, opening the lid to spritz the meat lowers the smoker temperature, which leads to a longer cooking process.
You should also steer clear of the spritzing method when the ribs are fully sauced. At this point, it’s too late for the liquid to have any benefit. All it will do is water down the sauce and make the bark too soggy.
Are Precooked Ribs Tough?
They can be, which is why we suggest buying the highest-quality product you can afford. Wrapping them in foil will help tenderize the meat.
If you’re worried that the foil wrapper will lessen the smoke flavor—which is always a concern of ours—try using a strong-flavored wood like mesquite or hickory. This will be especially effective if you add these wood pellets or chips during the last stage of cooking, after you’ve removed the foil.
About Pre Smoked Ribs
You need to take extra care when preparing ribs that are labeled “pre smoked” instead of just “pre cooked.”
First of all, they shouldn’t need 2 hours on the heat. If they’ve been properly smoked already, the meat should be tender enough to come off the bone easily.
You might not even need to fire up the smoker to reheat them. 10 to 15 minutes under the broiler should be enough to warm them up. If you do want to use the grill, build a hot fire and heat the ribs for 5-7 minutes per side.
Smoked ribs are intensely flavored, so they probably won’t need additional seasoning. Serve a low-sodium barbecue sauce on the side instead. It’s best if you make your own sauce from scratch, as you’ll be able to control the amount of salt that’s added.
The Bottom Line
Buying precooked ribs, or par-cooking them yourself in advance, is an effective way to save time on the day of the barbecue. The main issue with prepackaged ribs is that you have less control over the flavor. If this is a concern, look for a company that sells the ribs without any sauce or seasoning.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!