Ribs on a grill with a paintbrush painting bbq sauce on them

Dear chef, how do you cook ribs to the correct temperature?

Ask the chef


Dear chef, I can’t tell if my ribs are done. I’ve tried to use a thermometer to check the internal temperature, but maybe I’m not doing it right since they are so thin and so close to the bone. Do you have any tips on knowing when they’re done?


“We recommend cooking all cuts of pork ribs to an internal temperature between 198 and 202 degrees. Unfortunately, taking an accurate internal temperature in pork ribs is a difficult proposition due to thin layers of meat and interspersed bones, as you said. Most temperature readings taken directly in rib meat can vary pretty widely from one end of your rack to the other and change based on proximity to a rib bone. Despite these issues, an accurate instant-read thermometer and a few other tips and tricks to check for doneness will yield tender and juicy pork ribs every time.” 

The right temperature

A quality, instant-read thermometer will give you a great deal of information on what’s happening inside those ribs during the cooking process. The light connective tissue in ribs begins to break down around 195 degrees. Anything under that temperature and your ribs will be chewy, stringy and tough. At 195 degrees, that tissue starts to gelatinize and turn into tasty, melty deliciousness. Most ribs hit their sweet spot for doneness around 198 degrees, but some take until 203 degrees to be perfectly tender. This spread in final temperature is one reason why thermometers are a great jumping off-point for rib perfection, but not the be-all-end-all indicator.

Correct usage

Here are a few tips to help you get the most accurate temperature for ribs. 

• Insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat, between any bones. If your probe is in a fat pocket or touching bones on your rack of ribs, you won’t get an accurate read. 

• Use an instant-read thermometer to take temperatures quickly and avoid heat loss inside your grill or smoker. Losing too much heat due to slow temperature readings can drag out the time it takes for your ribs to finish cooking. 

• Take the temperature in a couple of locations across the ribs. Having a few readouts will give you a better overall look at where your ribs are and allow you to make adjustments for hot spots and move the ribs around to account for thicker ribs taking longer to cook.

– Chef Orchid Paulmeier, One Hot Mama’s

Chef Orchid Paulmeier, One Hot Mama’s

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