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Sous Vide Ribs

Sous vide ribs take a lot more time compared to traditional methods of cooking ribs. They are succulent, tender and melt-in-your-mouth. 

But are they worth it? Is the difference in taste and texture noticeable? 

sous vide baby back ribs with a sweet tangy BBQ sauce. mouthwatering.

Well, you will have to experiment and see for yourself. Make no mistake, the ribs are delicious – super tender and flavorful. But since you are not aiming for a medium-rare, for example, it’s a harder call in the case of pork ribs. Check out the pros and cons below.

The basic process for these sous vide pork ribs:

  1. season the pork ribs with a rub
  2. heat a water bath with an immersion circulator and sous vide the ribs
  3. pat the ribs dry with paper towels and apply a BBQ sauce
  4. grill or broil to finish them off

For those of you who make ribs regularly, you will know that this process is not too different from other cooking methods for ribs. The big difference is the time (and of course submerging the bag of ribs into water). Sous vide ribs take much longer.

Quicker cook methods are baking, boiling or the instant pot. All these options are shown in our famous Montreal back ribs recipe. 

Regardless of the cook method, the ribs make a delicious all-season meal that will be well appreciated. 

The seasoning and sweet, tangy BBQ sauce in this recipe enhance the flavors of the pork without overwhelming it. The flavor of the meat still shines through. You can, of course, use your favorite rub and sauce instead.

Time and Temperature

I have tried several different options for sous vide baby back ribs and St Louis-style ribs. My favorite is 150F/65.6C for 15-20 hours (I didn’t notice a big difference between these times). 

Here are a few good options that you will find if researching the good sous vide websites. Choose the amount of time and temperature that you think you will love the best. 

  • 145F/62.8C for 36 hours – very moist, tender, succulent (but long!)
  • 150F/65.6C for 15-20 hours –  moist, soft, very tender ribs
  • 155F/68.3C for 12-18 hours – fairly most, very tender and soft
  • 165F/73.9C for 8-12 hours – more traditional ribs, easily flakes off the bone, not quite as moist
close up of one pork rib
These baby back ribs were done at 150F/65.6C for 18 hours

Sous vide pork ribs – are they worth it? The pros and cons

Pros     

  1. Consistent tender results with little fuss.
  2. You can leave the pork ribs in the water bath for an extra couple of hours of sous vide time without affecting taste and texture if you need to attend to other stuff. 
  3. Easy prep. 
  4. The finish is pretty common for ribs – sauce the meat (or not) and char on the grill or under the broiler.  
  5. I love to make a double batch and freeze half. The ribs will taste just like they were made fresh with rewarming (retherming) and finishing. 

Cons     

  1. Sous vide ribs take much longer than any of the more traditional methods (grill, baked, boiled). Even ribs on a grill or smoker take considerably less time.
  2. You can get away with 6-8 hours (at 165F/73.9C if you like them with more of a chew, but 12-36 hours is more common with sous vide. 
  3. Discerning eaters will have to do a bit of experimenting to find their sweet spot for time and temperature. Not really a con if you love ribs! 

So is it worth using the sous vide method for pork ribs? I would say yes. The ribs are so tender and delicious. There is no guesswork. They always come out great. You just have to plan ahead.

 What kind of pork ribs to buy

I buy one of these two kinds of pork ribs.

  1. Baby back ribs – these are tender and less fatty that other types. I buy these most often. Each rack is 1.5-2 lbs (680-900g) and will serve 2 people.
  2. St Louis-style ribs (or spare ribs) – these are meatier, very flavorful (due to more fat) and tender. Each rack is closer to 3-3.5 lbs (1.36-1.59kg) and will serve 3-4 people.

What to serve with sous vide pork ribs

Side Salads

Easy side dishes

How to make sous vide baby back ribs

removing silver skin for pork rib
Remove silver skin from back of the ribs. Cut rack in half or thirds. Heat sous vide water bath to the desired temperature. 
seasoned pork ribs
Season ribs with a dry rub. Then place ribs in a ziploc bag. Use the displacement method to lower ribs into water and seal bag. Cook according to chart times. 
cooked sous vide ribs on paper towel
Remove ribs from the sous vide bag and pat dry with a paper towel.
cooked ribs with BBQ sauce
Make BBQ sauce (or use bottled sauce). Brush onto ribs, lightly salt them and spray with oil.
pork ribs with sauce on grill
Grill for 2-3 minutes per side on medium high until char marks appear. Brush on additional sauce when turned.
finished ribs on cutting board
Transfer grilled pork ribs to cutting board and cut into individual pieces.
close up of one pork rib
cut up pork back ribs on cutting board p

Tailor To Your Taste

  • Ribs: Use baby back ribs or St. Louis-Style ribs
  • Rub: Use your favorite rub – store bought or homemade.
  • Sauce: Experiment with different sauces for the final stage. Here’s one you might like from our ribs with peach BBQ sauce. Or skip the sauce altogether.
  • Sous vide method: Use a vacuum sealer or displacement method to seal the ribs in a bag for the sous vide process (instructions for both are in the recipe). And choose the precise temperature and time for the way you like your ribs.

Shortcuts

  • Buy your favorite dry rub instead of making it yourself.
  • Use your favorite store-bought barbecue sauce instead of making it yourself.
  • Use the higher temperature for the water bath for a shorter cook time.

Make Ahead

There are 3 ways to make these ribs ahead – all instructions are in the recipe notes:

  1. For same day – add a couple of hours to the sous vide cook time.
  2. For next day or two
  3. To freeze for later.

Love sous vide cooking?

Then check out our best sous vide recipes.

Rib lovers might want to try one of these other delicious rib recipes. 

sous vide back ribs cut up on cutting board f
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Sous Vide Ribs

Sous vide ribs take a lot more time compared to traditional methods of cooking ribs. They are succulent, tender and melt-in-your-mouth. But are they worth it? Is the difference in taste and texture noticeable? 
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time18 hrs 10 mins
Total Time18 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2 generous portions
Author: Cheryl

Equipment

  • Sous Vide equipment

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (0.91kg) baby back ribs or St Louis-style ribs 1 rack of ribs

Rub

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH – garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder

BBQ Sauce

  • 1/2 cup (118ml) ketchup
  • 1/3 cup (75g) brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions

  • PREPARE SOUS VIDE WATER BATH: Fill water in a large pot or container about 3/4 to the top. I use hot water from the tap to shorten the heating process. Set the temperature on the immersion circulator to 150F/65.6C and allow water to heat to that temperature. Note 1 for other sous vide times and temperatures.
  • MAKE RUB: Add all rub ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well to combine. Shortcut: Buy a good rib rub.
  • PREPARE BACK RIBS: Remove the silver skin (white membrane) on the back of the ribs by sliding the tip of a knife under the skin at the small end of the rack. Loosen the skin from the bone, then grab it with a paper towel and peel the skin off the entire rib. With any luck, it should peel away in one large sheet. Here's a video on how to remove silver skin from ribs.
    Cut the rack horizontally into 2-3 pieces. Generously season each piece on both sides with rub. For vacuum seal: Fold back top of vacuum seal bag about an inch to create a flap (this ensures no food touches the top of the bag where it gets sealed). Place ribs in bag – as many rib portions per bag that will fit in a single layer, ensuring no overlap. Unfold the flap and vacuum bag using a vacuum sealer. Note 2 for displacement method with ziploc bag.
  • COOK RIBS SOUS VIDE: When the temperature of the water bath reaches 165F/65.6C, submerge the bag with the ribs into the sous vide bath. Cover and cook for 15-20 hours. (Note 1 for alternative times and temp)
  • MAKE BBQ SAUCE: Combine all the BBQ sauce ingredients in a bowl. Mix well to combine. Shortcut: use a good bottled BBQ sauce.
  • FINISH RIBS: Remove ribs from water bath. (Ribs can be cooled, then refrigerated at this point to be finished in the next 2 days). Remove ribs from the bags. Discard juices.
    To Grill: Clean and oil grill. Heat grill to medium-high. Brush sauce on both sides of ribs. Grill for 2-3 minutes per side, adding more sauce as you turn them.
    To Broil: Line a pan with aluminum foil. Heat broiler and place oven grill 6 inches from the top of the oven/broiler. Place ribs (meaty side down) on the pan and brush with sauce. Broil for 2-3 minutes. Turn ribs over. Brush sauce on top of ribs. Broil for another 2-3 minutes. Spread any remaining sauce on top of BBQ ribs. Cut into serving pieces and serve.

Notes

  1. Temperatures and Times for ribs – options 
    • 145F/62.8C for 36 hours – very moist, tender, succulent (but long!)
    • 150F/65.6C for 15-20 hours –  moist, soft, very tender ribs
    • 155F/68.3C for 12-18 hours – fairly most, very tender and soft
    • 165F/73.9C for 8-12 hours – more traditional, easily flakes off the bone, not quite as moist
  2. Alternative to vacuum seal bag: Instead of vacuum sealing, use the displacement method. Place ribs in a ziploc bag, lower into water bath until seal of bag is just above water line (air will be pushed out), then seal the bag. You want to get air out of the bag so it doesn’t float. 
  3. Make Ahead:
    • The ribs can be made ahead up to the point of saucing and grilling/broiling. You have a window of an extra couple of hours in the water bath if you like.
    • To make them a day or two ahead, chill the cooked ribs in the bag(s) in an ice water bath to cool them down quickly, then refrigerate. Continue recipe with saucing on the grill or broiler before serving. 
    • To freeze: Place bag of ribs after sous vide into ice water to cool down. Remove juices from bag and reseal (or transfer to another airtight bag or container). Freeze ribs for up to 3 months. To retherm (rewarm), place them in a water bath at 150F/65.6C for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Then pat dry and continue with grilling or broiling steps. 
 
Nutrition values are estimates based on very generous portions of ribs and sauce. The salt and other values will be a bit lower as you are discarding the juices from the bag once the sous vide process is complete. 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Sous Vide Ribs
Amount Per Serving
Calories 947 Calories from Fat 441
% Daily Value*
Fat 49g75%
Saturated Fat 17g106%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 9g
Monounsaturated Fat 20g
Cholesterol 197mg66%
Sodium 4545mg198%
Potassium 1302mg37%
Carbohydrates 73g24%
Fiber 5g21%
Sugar 63g70%
Protein 57g114%
Vitamin A 4152IU83%
Vitamin C 4mg5%
Calcium 222mg22%
Iron 6mg33%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!

The BBQ sauce recipe is adapted from a beef short rib recipe by Once Upon a Chef. The sous vide recipe, originally published in 2017, has been updated with new information and images

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