Top 7 Tenderizers for Perfectly Grilled Pork Ribs

Tenderize pork ribs for perfect grilling: Use dry rubs, a meat mallet, marinades, slow cooking, natural enzymes, brining, and start with high-quality meat.

what is the best tenderizer for pork ribs

Grilling pork ribs can be an art form, but what truly sets apart a good rack of ribs from a great one lies in the tenderizing process. No matter how well you grill your ribs, if they’re not tender, they won’t be as enjoyable. In this blog post, we will explore seven different ways to tenderize pork ribs and ensure that every bite is succulent, flavorful, and falls right off the bone.

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The Magic of Dry Rubs and Seasoning Blends

Woman preparing ribs by rubbing herbs and spices on it before baking it

Dry rubs and seasoning blends are not only integral for imparting flavor to your pork ribs, but they also play a crucial role in the tenderizing process. The salt in these blends draws out the moisture from the meat and breaks down its proteins, effectively tenderizing it.

A good dry rub will contain a mix of flavors – sweet, salty, spicy, and savory. This combination helps to create a complex flavor profile that complements the pork ribs’ natural taste. Apart from salt, popular ingredients to include in dry rubs for pork ribs are brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.

Meat Mallet: The Classic Tenderizer

Tenderize meat slice, Chef preparing meal in the kitchen

One of the most traditional methods of tenderizing meat, including pork ribs, is by using a meat mallet. This kitchen tool allows you to physically break down the tough muscle fibers in the meat, making it softer and easier to chew. The key to using a meat mallet effectively without damaging the meat is to do it gently and evenly. Too much force can cause the meat to tear or become too thin.

Marinades: Flavorful Soaks for Tenderness

Marinating your pork ribs is another excellent way to tenderize them while also infusing them with flavor. Marinades typically contain an acidic ingredient like vinegar, citrus juice, or wine, which helps to break down the tough muscle fibers in the meat.

From a simple 3 Ingredient Pork Rib Marinade that gets ready in under 30 minutes to a sophisticated whiskey marinade spiced with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and white pepper, the possibilities are endless when it comes to creating flavorful marinades for your pork ribs.

Slow Cooking & Baking: Low Heat, Maximum Softness

Ribs piled into a black roaster for slow cooking.

Another secret to tender ribs is slow cooking or baking them at a low temperature. This allows the collagen in the meat to break down slowly, resulting in incredibly tender ribs.

One popular method involves wrapping the ribs tightly in foil after coating them in a 50/50 mixture of BBQ sauce and apple cider vinegar and then baking them in a low oven (around 300°F) for about an hour. Another method involves slow-roasting the ribs at 240°F for 4-8 hours for great layering of flavors without the need to wrap them in foil.

Natural Enzymes: Kiwi, Pineapple Juice, and Vinegar Tricks

A tall faceted glass of a mixture of exotic fruits on a black background, next to a ripe pineapple and kiwi pieces. Close-up.

Natural enzymes found in certain fruits like kiwi and pineapple are effective meat tenderizers. These enzymes work by breaking down the protein in the meat, making it softer and more tender.

Similarly, vinegar is another natural tenderizer that works in the same way. Lime juice is particularly effective for pork ribs, as it not only tenderizes the meat but also adds a refreshing tanginess that complements the rich flavor of the pork.

Brining: The Secret to Juicy, Flavor-Packed Ribs

Brining is a method of soaking meat in a solution of water and salt, often with other flavorings added. This process helps to tenderize the meat while also infusing it with moisture and flavor, resulting in juicy, flavorful ribs.

While brining, the salt in the brine solution breaks down the proteins in the meat, allowing it to absorb more moisture. When cooked, this extra moisture helps to keep the meat tender and juicy.

In the video, Everyday Food explains –

  1. You can cook ribs in under an hour with the brine-boiling method, making it much faster than traditional all-day grilling.
  2. Start by cutting spare ribs in half; you can do up to 3 racks at a time. Other cuts like St. Louis or baby back also work.
  3. Brine-boiling tenderizes the meat and imparts flavor, while grilling develops texture and color.
  4. Make a basic brine with 6 quarts water, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup salt. Add crushed garlic. Boil ribs for 30 minutes.
  5. You can refrigerate brined ribs for up to a day before grilling. Let meat dry before seasoning.
  6. Generously season ribs with salt, pepper, and olive oil before grilling. You can also use dry rubs.
  7. Grill over direct high heat for 5-10 minutes per side to build crust and color. Don’t overcook.
  8. Baste ribs with barbecue sauce in the last 1-2 minutes only to caramelize but avoid burning.
  9. The brining alone makes these ribs very flavorful. Sauce just adds more flavor.
  10. In under an hour you can have delicious, tender grilled ribs for a quick weeknight meal.
Everyday Food

High-Quality Meat: Starting with the Best for the Best Results

Raw pork ribs on wooden cutting board with spices, olives, herbs and meat cleaver. Cooking food

Lastly, the meat quality you start with will greatly impact the tenderness of your grilled pork ribs. High-quality meat has been properly raised and processed, which often results in a superior texture and flavor.

Look for meat that is pinkish-red in color with white fat – this indicates good quality. The ribs should also have a good amount of meat on them and not just bones. Investing in high-quality meat can make all the difference in your grilling endeavors.

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