Ribs are a popular summertime meal. Not only are they delicious, but you can make them in abundance and they are easy to prepare on the grill or smoker.
You can also prepare them in the oven or even a crockpot or roaster oven as well. Ribs are a popular dish for BBQs and other activities as well but you can serve them to your family any time of year.
Ribs can be bought fresh from most meat sections or butchers and they can be stored easily in your freezer if you buy them and put them away for later.
When it comes to cooking ribs, you can easily set them out to thaw out the night before or even 1-2 days before, as long as you thaw and store them in the fridge.
But can you cook frozen ribs? Yes, you can cook frozen ribs if you follow the correct procedure. However, they may end up being unevenly cooked, so it’s best to thaw them first.
In this guide, we will walk you through cooking frozen ribs, explain what to consider before you decide to do so, and share our best tips for success.
Stick with us to learn how to cook frozen ribs and more!
How To Cook Frozen Ribs
Let’s be honest – sometimes we forget to plan ahead or take something out of the freezer and sometimes we just need a quick solution!
Cooking frozen ribs is really pretty easy to do. While there may be some overall differences in using frozen ribs as opposed to fresh or thawed out meat, it’s still a viable option.
You may need some additional care for the ribs and some additional time as well to cook them to the appropriate temperature.
Ribs can be grilled, smoked, baked, or some other method of cooking as well. You will find that most recipes highly recommend thawing them out first and there are some quick ways to thaw meat that you can try to use if that is helpful.
However, if you just want to grab the frozen ribs and toss them in the oven, you can do that as well so don’t give up hope just because of a few naysayers. Basically, the good news is that you have options.
We are primarily going to discuss how to cook frozen ribs in the oven, but we have some tips for cooking with other methods as well. We also have some quick-thaw tips if you decide you really want to thaw out your ribs first.
Cooking Frozen Ribs In The Oven
We recommend the oven when you are cooking frozen ribs because it’s going to take some time but in the oven, you have a different kind of heat.
You can cover them with foil and use a low temperature to simply let your ribs cook to perfection.
The low temperature will slowly thaw the ribs and and won’t dry them out in the process. Your ribs will come out delicious and flavorful with a little TLC.
We also want you to know that you can use these same general processes for baby back ribs or some other type of ribs as well and have good luck. Your cooking times may need to be adjusted, but the concept will be the same.
What you need to anticipate is that cooking frozen ribs in the oven will take approximately 50% longer than cooking thawed out ribs. This is where it really adds up because it will take quite a bit more time overall.
Here are some recommended steps for cooking frozen ribs in the oven:
- Preheat your oven to 300°F.
- Prepare a baking sheet or pan by covering it with aluminum foil. Place your ribs on the baking pan.
- Start by baking the ribs uncovered. We recommend cooking about 1 hour to get them started.
- Cover the baking pan and ribs tightly with aluminum foil, making sure they are fully covered and sealed in with the foil.
- Bake in the oven at this temperature for an additional 2-3 hours for spare ribs or an additional 1-2 hours for baby back ribs. If the ribs were thawed, you could potentially reduce this time or skip the uncovered portion of the process.
- Ribs should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F at a minimum. However, we recommend that you cook them to about 190°F, as this temperature will make them even more tender and juicy and helps soften the fat in the process.
Keep in mind that this process is designed for frozen ribs specifically. You won’t use this method every time you cook ribs in general. Also, note the differences between regular ribs and baby back ribs.
You might also consider adding some sauce to your ribs partway through the cooking process as well, as this can really help a lot with keeping them juicy and tender.
Thawing Out Frozen Ribs
While you can cook frozen ribs, there are methods you can use to thaw your ribs as well. It is always recommended to thaw your meat before cooking if you are able to.
The only exception to that rule would be if you buy pre-packaged ribs that are bought as a frozen food. These types of foods typically have their own specific cooking instructions that you should follow for preparation purposes.
We thought it might be helpful to give you some thawing tips that you can put to use in case you decide you do want to try to thaw out the ribs before cooking them.
We will let you know that this process can still take some time, but not as long as thawing them in the fridge or at room temperature.
How to thaw ribs quickly:
- Remove the ribs from the freezer.
- Fill a bowl or your sink with cold tap water. It is best if you are able to fully submerge the ribs into the water. You can also add ice cubes if your tap water doesn’t seem cold enough. Cold water will gently bring the temperature of your meat up so that the texture is preserved. It will also help keep your meat fresh until it’s ready.
- Let the meat stay in the water untouched until it thaws out. You will need to change your water to fresh, cold water every 30 minutes during the process.
With this particular process, you can most likely thaw your ribs or get them close to thawed within about 1-2 hours as opposed to 8-10 hours or possibly even more just from moving them from the freezer to the fridge.
This will save you some substantial time for thawing and will also save you about the same amount of time for cooking.
As a rule of thumb, cooking takes about 50% longer if the ribs are frozen. So, for spare ribs, if you need to cook for 3 hours, you might actually have to cook for 4.5 hours instead if they are frozen.
Ultimately, you just have to decide whether you can take the extra time to thaw or the extra time to cook the ribs. It evens out in the end with these methods, but cooking from frozen can result in uneven doneness.
We hope that you found this guide to cooking frozen ribs to be valuable and informative resource for knowing your options.
While we shared an oven-cooking method here, you can also cook frozen ribs on the smoker or grill if you like. Just cook them at a low temperature, wrap them in foil, and consider basting them with sauce throughout.
We invite you to check out the following question and answer section for some additional information that could be useful.
Can You Broil Ribs?
Broiling is meant for fast cooking or for finalized cooking processes. We don’t recommend broiling ribs as the full cooking process.
You can, however, cook your ribs to near doneness and then slather some barbecue sauce on them and broil them for just a few minutes to give them the perfect finishing touch.
How Long Does It Take To Defrost Ribs?
If you use the cold water method we shared with you in the guide, you can expect to thaw the ribs in less than 1 hour. If you have a lot of ribs, it may take from 1-2 hours, but typically it does not take that long.
If you defrost ribs at room temperature, you should plan on about 5 hours. If you defrost ribs in the fridge, it could be more like 8-10 hours or at least overnight.
Can You Cook Ribs At 350°F?
You can cook ribs at higher temperatures if you prefer and it will cut down your time.
What we’ve found is that while lower temperatures typically are quite a bit slower, ribs turn out more tender and juicy when cooked like this.