How Long To Boil Ribs Before Grilling — Methods And Alternatives

Grilling ribs

About to bake or grill some ribs? You may consider boiling them, but it has its own questions. Like, how long to boil ribs before grilling

The answer can vary between recipes and methods. Sometimes, parboiling for a few minutes is enough. At other times, you might have to parboil or simmer the ribs for up to an hour. And when it comes down to it, you can question if you should bother with boiling at all. 

Let’s discuss and answer those questions.

Understanding Parboiling And How Long To Boil Ribs Before Grilling

There are several recipes and methods here and many cooks do like to parboil or boil spareribs before transferring them to the grill. Parboiling means that the water will be hot, but just barely boiling. Boiling is self-explanatory and involves ribs placed in boiling water.

The Methods And Ways For Boiling Ribs

Here are three ways to boil ribs. Also, notice that how long to boil ribs before grilling can depend on the results you want. Remember, our goal is to make the meat tender but it shouldn’t be falling off the bones.

  • Place ribs inside a casserole, pot, or saucepan. Add enough water to completely cover the ribs. It’s good to leave some room for water evaporating, so add water to at least an inch or two above the ribs. Cover with a lid and boil for around 30 minutes. Remove ribs from water, pat dry, and add your favorite rub. The ribs are ready for the grill.
  • Put the ribs inside a casserole or pot and fill it with water. Place on the stovetop and bring it to a boil, then change the heat to simmer. Let it simmer for one to one-and-a-half hours. Remember to simmer down the heat. Letting the ribs sit in boiling water for too long will make the meat tough. After the time is up, pat dry the spareribs. You can now add a rub or take them to the grill.
  • Add barbecue sauce to a pot and bring it to a boil. Add spareribs and turn the heat to simmer. This method makes it possible to add more flavors to ribs.
  • Parboil the ribs. Put cold water in a pot. You can also add lemon juice, peppercorn, salt, and bay leaves. Bring the mix to a boil and reduce heat, but don’t lower it enough for simmer. Add the ribs and let them stay in this mix for about 20 minutes. Pat dry and take the ribs to the grill.

What Are The Advantages Of Boiling Ribs

Why bother with boiling ribs at all? The biggest reason is to tenderize the meat before grilling. Boiling often results in tender, more enjoyable meat. Another reason for boiling is that ribs are often fatty.

Boiling renders the fat, so the ribs taste better and are more enjoyable. Many cooks swear by this method as a way to get better results when cooking ribs. 

Boiling also reduces the time the ribs spend on the grill. Parboiling (or boiling) ribs makes them semi-cooked, so they don’t need to spend as much time as usual on a grill. This can come in very handy when you’re hosting a large party and would like to move the ribs off the grill as fast as possible.

There are two risks to keep in mind when boiling ribs. First, while we want the meat to be tender, it shouldn’t get so soft that it starts falling off the bones. A situation like this will ruin the taste of the ribs.

Second, boiling ribs longer than what’s needed can have the opposite effect. Rather than getting tender and soft, the ribs can get tough and dry.

There Are Disadvantages To Boiling Ribs

While many cooks swear by boiling ribs, many more will avoid it like the plague. As we note above, there are some obvious risks like the meat getting tough and dry, or the meat starting to fall off the bones.

But there is a bigger problem.

Boiling meat renders fat, but it also makes the ribs release their natural juices. These will negatively affect the natural flavor and taste of the ribs. Letting the ribs simmer in water for half an hour can significantly alter the taste. 

Parboiling can be an option as the loss of flavor is much lower in this method. Still, there is a distinct loss of flavor, which isn’t really something we look forward to.

Alternative Methods To Skip Boiling Ribs

Usually, we don’t want to sacrifice the flavor of ribs. So, rather than boiling them, many cooks prefer alternative methods to make the meat tender and more flavorful. After all, we’d want our cooking to add flavor to the delicacy, not reduce the natural flavor.

Here are a few popular choices.

Slow Smoking

Get into low and slow food preparation using a smoker. They’re a convenient way to cook tender and juicy meat while rendering the fat. Smokers keep the ribs flavorful and are usually easy to operate. They can take longer to cook, but that’s rarely a problem. You could also use a pellet smoker and grill for a set-and-forget cooking experience.


This is the oldest secret in the world of cooking. Marinades help tenderize the ribs and add flavors. 


Steaming works too, in a way similar to smoking. Although it won’t cook the ribs, it will help tenderize them and add flavor. That’s assuming you have a steamer big enough to hold the ribs! This could be as simple as steaming the ribs over water for an hour. If you want some extra favors, steam it over apple juice!

Boiling The Ribs – The Time And The Alternatives

In conclusion, there are several methods to use for preparing ribs. So, how long to boil ribs before grilling depends on the method you intend to use. Sometimes, just a few minutes in boiling water will do. In other cases, you can continue this process for 20-30 minutes. With parboiling, you can go on for about an hour or more.

However, most chefs would suggest you skip boiling and look at alternative methods instead. Marinading and/or slow smoking give much better results without the risks of boiling ribs.