Easy Tender Juicy Make-Ahead Ribs

This make-ahead ribs recipe will probably become one of your favorites. The meat is tender, juicy, and loaded with flavor. The fact that you can make them ahead to save time is “extra sauce on the side”.

Ribs are good. Make-ahead ribs are even better.

I love making them when we’re having friends over. The amazing thing about them is that you have to make them ahead. Ribs need to be cooked long and slow. So you get them ready well before your friends come over. The day before or the day before that.

Then you cut them into portions, brush them with sauce and put them on the grill for a few minutes. Super-easy. The best thing is that you’re not having to worry about raw meat at your party, “Did I cross-contaminate? Is it still under cooked?? Did I overcook it???” None of that to worry about. Just stand there warming them up, flipping them occasionally. When there’s a bit of char on the outside, they’re done. Eat!

It’s all about the texture, which is subjective. I like mine with meat hugging the bone just enough to not fall off when getting a toasty sauce-crust on the grill. Once you get the texture down you can play around with the flavors to your heart’s content. For this recipe, I used my own rub, but a bottled sauce. If you’re feeling even lazier, skip the homemade rub and use ¼ cup Montreal Steak Seasoning mixed with 1 tbsp brown sugar. This recipe can be doubled, tripled or quadrupled. As long as you have space in your oven and on your grill, you can make it for as many people as you’d like.

Of course, homemade BBQ sauce is pretty darned tasty, too.

Homemade BBQ Sauce

If you like the idea of these ribs, you’ll also love this recipe for Make-Ahead Grilled Chicken for a Crowd. It’s the same basic technique but with chicken. And the result is beyond juicy!

Grilled Chicken for a Crowd



Here’s a video from barbecueweb.com showing how to remove the membrane from the bone side of ribs.

Definitely save the juices from the ribs. This liquid is a highly concentrated broth. It is so concentrated that once refrigerated, it will gel. No worries. When it gets warmed up again it will melt.

Here’s what you do:

Pour the juices into a food storage container. Cover and refrigerate. The next day, use a spoon to remove and discard the layer of fat that has risen to the top and solidified. The rest is too good to even begin to describe. I like to mix it with leftover pork meat, leftover diced baked potatoes, a can of diced tomatoes, a squeeze or two of BBQ sauce and some water to make soup. You can also add a bit of it to sauces or gravies. But be careful. It has all that seasoning from your rub so it can be salty and potent. Add just a little at at time and then taste before adding more.

Here’s the recipe for the make-ahead ribs.


Easy Make-Ahead Ribs

This make-ahead recipe may become one of your favorite rib recipes. The meat is tender, juicy, and full of flavor, but you'll spend half the time standing at the grill.


  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 and ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp grown cumin
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2-3lb racks of baby back ribs or St. Louis Style spare ribs
  • About 9 ounces bottled BBQ sauce. Look for a sweet one that has the word honey or brown sugar in the name


  1. In a small bowl combine the first 7 ingredients.
  2. Remove the membrane from the bone side of the ribs. If you don't know how to do this, check out the video link under this recipe.
  3. Lay each rack of ribs on a large piece of aluminum foil. Sprinkled each side of each rack with ¼ of the rub mixture. Wrap each rack tightly in the foil making sure the scrunched up folded seam is along the top of the racks. Lay each foil wrapped rack seam side up on another large piece of foil and wrap tightly with the seam along the top again. Place wrapped racks in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  4. Remove the racks from the fridge. Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Put the racks onto a large rimmed baking pan or into a cake pan and put them in the oven. Cook baby backs for 2 hours, St. Louis spare ribs for 2.5 hours.
  5. Remove pan from oven and allow ribs to cool for 1 hour. This sets the juices making it easier to cut the ribs and helping the meat stay on the bone when you grill. Proceed or transfer ribs to the fridge overnight (note that if you want to save the juices as detailed below, you need to unwrap the ribs and capture the juices now before transferring to the fridge).
  6. Carefully unwrap the ribs. Transfer the racks to a cutting board. Pour the accumulated juices into a food storage container. Cover the container and put it in the fridge. See below this recipe for what to do with the juices.
  7. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  8. Cut the ribs into servings with 2-3 bones each. Brush each serving liberally with sauce. Put the ribs on the grill for 5-7 minutes turning occasionally. All you're doing is heating them up and getting a bit of char here and there.
  9. Dig in! See! Ribs are good.

20 Responses to “Easy Tender Juicy Make-Ahead Ribs”

  1. Natascha — July 3, 2017 @ 11:46 pm (#)

    I attempted this and the chicken to prepare for our 4th of July party….
    The chicken turned out perfect…but my ribs are super tough…even hard to cut through…I pulled the membranes, did the rub, put in fridge over night, and slow cooked for 2 hours at 300 degrees….
    Any ideas what went wrong??

    • Christine Pittman — July 18, 2017 @ 9:10 am (#)

      Natascha, I have no idea what went wrong. I do this method for ribs all the time and they are very very tender. The 2 hour slow cooking time should make them tender for sure. I can’t think what could have happened.

  2. Rose — December 4, 2016 @ 9:34 am (#)

    Hi, do you think I could do the reheating portion of this in the oven as well, under the broiler? We don’t have a grill so I usually bake the ribs in foil packets low and slow, then unwrap and finish them with the convection one under the broiler. Do you think it would work with a day or two between?

    • Christine Pittman — December 5, 2016 @ 9:19 am (#)

      Rose, I think it would work. My only concern is that if the ribs are too close to the heat source they will blacken before they are heated through. So either keep them far from the burners or warm them in the oven or microwave first before broiling them. Great idea!

  3. MaryAnne — June 20, 2016 @ 6:10 pm (#)

    Have you tried freezing the ribs after you bake them then hauling them out a couple of months later to finish them on the grill?

    • Christine Pittman — June 23, 2016 @ 10:37 am (#)

      MaryAnne, I haven’t frozen them for a couple of months but definitely for a couple of weeks. I baked them and then sauced them and cooled them. Then I put them in a freezer bag and frozen them. I defrosted them in the fridge overnight and then heated and charred them on the grill before serving.

  4. Diana — May 10, 2016 @ 10:34 am (#)

    When making ribs or chicken ahead of time, do you want to take them out of the over a little underdone so they don’t over cook when you reheat?

    • Christine Pittman — May 10, 2016 @ 2:10 pm (#)

      Diana, actually, with both my ribs and my make ahead chicken recipe, the meat is slow-cooked and cooked past the minimum recommended temperature. The ribs are cooked for a good couple of hours. The chicken drumsticks for an hour. They are both very juicy at that point. Then they spend such a short time on the grill that it doesn’t make them overcooked. In fact, you’re really just heating them through. They’ll be really juicy and perfect. Great question!

  5. Katie — August 3, 2012 @ 12:50 pm (#)

    These look and sound amazing. I can’t wait to give these a try!!!

  6. Jen — July 30, 2012 @ 12:07 am (#)

    I love that! Ribs are good. That is all… that might need to be my new motto for cookies!

    • Christine Pittman — July 30, 2012 @ 9:36 am (#)

      For me, ribs beat cookies every time. But then I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth, more of a protein tooth. I could totally say, “Cheese is good. That is all.” Now, if the cookies had bacon in them…

  7. Michelle — July 28, 2012 @ 8:49 pm (#)

    You are making these for our next BlogCon meetup, yes??? Kidding :) Although I will reimburse you for the meat if you make this happen!

    • Christine Pittman — July 29, 2012 @ 6:15 pm (#)

      Great idea!!! Ribs are a super-easy thing to make for a group. No need to reimburse. Just bring some wine ;).

  8. Frieda — July 26, 2012 @ 8:56 pm (#)

    OMG! I love ribs! Great link on removing the membrane. Fun to see your method. We’ve boiled them in the past as our first step but I must confess we don’t make them very often. I’m looking forward to your recipe and baking in lieu of the boil.

    • Christine Pittman — July 29, 2012 @ 6:14 pm (#)

      Ahhh…we often boil them in the winter. We then braise them in BBQ sauce to finish them off. But if they’re heading for the grill, then we bake them. I think baking them retains more flavor (less ends up left in the water) though and so I think this winter I’m going to bake then braise instead of boil then braise. Worth trying anyhow!

  9. The Mrs — July 26, 2012 @ 11:54 am (#)

    “Ribs are good. That’s all.”

    I’m dying over here. Also, you finally clued me into what to do with the leftover rib drippings…after two years of wondering (I’m a recent rib convert).

    • Christine Pittman — July 26, 2012 @ 12:07 pm (#)

      :). As much as I love ribs, I sometimes make them just because the next day I get leftover’s soup with the drippings in it. Seriously, “soup” IS the answer to everything (or at least everything that doesn’t already have “bacon” as the answer).


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