There’s nothing quite like the excitement of biting into perfectly cooked air-fried ribs. The tender meat, crispy exterior, and bold flavors create an unforgettable dining experience. I’ve made pork recipes several times in a smoker grill, in the oven, on a Weber kettle, and even had a whole hog on the rotisserie. What endears me so much about the air frying cooking method is you get all the taste of slow-cooked ribs without the hassle that comes with the long cooking time.
That’s why I’ve decided to dive into the world of air fryer pork ribs in this guide. We’ll explore different techniques, seasoning options, and tips for making the most of this amazing kitchen tool with pork ribs. So, let’s fire up our air fryers and get ready to cook up some mouth-watering ribs.
Step-by-Step Guide to Air Fryer Ribs
Without further ado, I’ll introduce you to three recipes to cook ribs to perfection in the air fryer. If you need more instructions on how to prepare and season the ribs, you’ll find information on that later in the article.
- Pork baby back ribs (1 to 4 pounds rack)
Dry Rub Ingredients
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon of onion powder
- 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper to taste
Step 1: Preheat Your Air Fryer
Preheat your air fryer to 375 to 400 degrees F for five minutes.
This will ensure that the air fryer is hot enough to start cooking the ribs as soon as you place them in the basket.
Step 2: Season, and Place the Ribs in the Air Fryer Basket
Grab your pork baby back ribs. Season the ribs with the perfectly-balanced dry rub ingredients.
You may want to spray the seasoned ribs with some cooking oil to keep the food from sticking to the air fryer. Simply pour some olive oil or canola oil into a cooking oil sprayer and spray on the ribs.
Now, place the seasoned baby back ribs in the air fryer basket in a single layer, bone side down. Be careful, though. Don’t overcrowd the air fryer basket.
This can affect the cooking time and temperature, leading to ribs cooked unevenly.
Step 3: Set the Cooking Time and Temperature
Set the cooking time and temperature according to your air fryer’s instructions.
Typically, air-frying ribs take around 20 to 25 minutes at 375°F (190°C). However, the cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the ribs.
Step 4: Flip the Ribs
After the first 10-12 minutes of cooking, open the air fryer basket and flip the ribs over using a pair of tongs.
It will ensure that both sides of the ribs are evenly cooked and crispy.
Step 5: Check for Doneness
Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the ribs.
According to the USDA, the ideal internal temperature reading for fully cooked pork ribs is 145 degrees.
If the temperature is lower, continue air-frying for a few more minutes until it reaches the desired temperature.
Guide to Making Air-fryer Ribs
When you cook ribs in the air fryer, the hot air rapidly circulates around the ribs meat and helps you get an awesomely beautiful char. Air-fryer ribs turn a crispy texture that can be difficult to achieve with other cooking methods.
All you need to do to get this awesome result is follow my guide on how to get the right ribs for the job, and how to get the meat prepared and seasoned.
Choosing the Right Ribs
It’s essential to consider a few factors before you start cooking to ensure the best results. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Types of Ribs
There are several types of pork ribs you can use in air fryers. As far as air fryer pork ribs are concerned, the most common types are baby back ribs, spare ribs, and St. Louis-style ribs.
For me, lean meats like bone-in baby back ribs work best for air-frying.
Baby back ribs are smaller and leaner, while spare ribs are larger and fattier. They won’t get your hands and fryer dirty with fats, and they cook quickly.
On the other hand, St. Louis-style ribs are spare ribs that have been trimmed down to a more uniform size and shape. If you like air fryer ribs with more meat between the bones, you’d love St. Louis ribs.
By the way, each rib type has its unique flavor and texture. So choose the one that appeals to you the most.
Factors to Consider
When selecting pork ribs for your air fryer, consider the following factors:
- Freshness: Look for pork ribs that are fresh with a pink color. Of course, you have to avoid ribs that are starting to look grayish or have a sour smell.
- Meatiness: I like to choose ribs that have an excellent meat-to-bone ratio. Ribs with more meat will be more tender and juicy, which is how you want your air fryer-cooked ribs to turn out.
- Thickness: Look for ribs that are of uniform thickness. I mean, the middle area shouldn’t look meaty, and the edges thin. Ribs with even thickness will cook uniformly in the air fryer.
- Marbling: A little bit of fat is good for flavor, but avoid overly fatty ribs. That’s why I always prefer to cook baby back ribs than spare ribs in an air fryer.
Preparing the Ribs: Learning the Rituals
Getting your air fryer pork ribs ready before cooking is essential to ensure that they turn out juicy, tender, and packed with flavor.
I’ve got some tricks and tips on how to do it right:
Removing the Membrane
The first thing you want to do is remove the tough membrane on the underside of the ribs.
This is important because it can prevent seasonings and marinades from penetrating the meat, resulting in bland ribs. Leaving the membrane on will lead to tough, dry meat.
So it’s essential that you use a sharp knife or a paper towel to grab the membrane and pull it off. Be sure to do this before seasoning your ribs.
Dry Rub vs. Marinade
Now that you’ve removed the membrane, it’s time to decide how you want to flavor your ribs.
You have two options: dry rub or marinade.
Dry rubs are a blend of spices that you rub onto the meat.
Meanwhile, marinades are a liquid acidic (or enzymatic) but flavorful mixture in which you soak the ribs.
Acidic marinades contain vinegar, tomato, lemon juice, or wine and help tenderize the meat. In addition, they help loosen protein bonds so flavors can penetrate more.
Enzymatic marinades, on the other hand, contain ingredients such as pineapple, papaya, yogurt, or ginger. They’re great for tenderizing tough meat.
Both methods can be effective, so choose the one that appeals to you. If you’re using a dry rub, rub it in thoroughly so that every inch of the ribs is covered.
For a marinade, let the ribs soak in the mixture for at least an hour in the refrigerator before you air-fry them.
Tips for Achieving the Best Results
I have a few more tips for you to achieve the best results when making ribs in an air fryer.
1. Seasoning the Ribs
It’s important to season your ribs generously with salt and pepper.
This will help bring out the natural flavors of the meat. You can also add spices like garlic powder, onion powder, or paprika to enhance the taste.
If you’re using a dry rub, add some brown sugar for sweetness. Feel free to experiment with different flavor combinations to find the perfect seasoning for your taste buds.
2. Baste with BBQ Sauce
To add more flavor and keep the air fryer ribs moist, I like to baste them with my favorite BBQ sauce during cooking. If this is your first time, you can order the classic BBQ sauce from the Cattlemen online.
You can brush a generous amount of BBQ sauce on the top side of the ribs before placing them in the air fryer. Add an additional BBQ sauce when flipping them halfway through the cooking time.
3. Monitor the Cooking With a Thermometer
When cooking meats, I always use a meat thermometer to ensure they are cooked to the proper temperature.
Simply insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat. Ensure it’s not touching the bone. Then, for this pork ribs recipe, aim for an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C), for safe consumption.
4. Let ’em Rest
After cooking your ribs in the air fryer, it’s essential to let them rest for a few minutes before serving.
Cover the ribs with foil and let them rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting into them. This allows the juices and flavors to redistribute. It also relaxes the meat, making it more tender and flavorful.
5. Air-fried Ribs Go Well With Various Sides
After letting it rest, what’s next is to add additional BBQ sauce or any of your favorite sauces or side.
When serving air fryer ribs, I like experimenting with different sauces and sides to find the perfect combination.
My go-to sides include coleslaw, baked beans, or mac and cheese. I sometimes add a sprinkle of fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley for a pop of freshness.
Troubleshooting Common Problems
As much as we love air fryer ribs, sometimes things don’t go as planned.
Before giving it a try, here are some common problems you might encounter and some tips on how to fix them:
1. Tough or Chewy Ribs
If your ribs turn out tough or chewy, they are likely under-cooked.
To fix this, I always try adding a few more minutes to the cooking time or reducing the air fryer’s temperature and cooking them for a longer time.
Another solution is to wrap the ribs in foil during cooking to help retain moisture.
2. Burnt or Dry Ribs
If your ribs are burnt or dry, they are likely overcooked. Sadly, overcooked meat is unsalvageable.
To prevent this from happening, make sure to monitor the cooking time and temperature closely.
You can also reduce the cooking time and/or temperature to prevent the ribs from burning.
3. Ribs That Are Too Greasy
If your ribs are too greasy, it could be due to the type of ribs you use or the fat on the meat.
To reduce the greasiness, try using a leaner cut of ribs or trimming off excess fat before cooking. To remove excess moisture, try patting the ribs dry with paper towels before seasoning them.
4. Ribs That Are Underseasoned
If your ribs lack flavor, they may need to be seasoned more before starting to air-fry them.
Always gently apply dry rub or marinade to the ribs and let them marinate for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
You can also baste the ribs with BBQ sauce during the cooking process to add more flavor.
5. Ribs That Are Stuck to the Air Fryer Basket
If the ribs in the air fryer are sticking to the basket, it could be due to the meat being too wet or the air fryer basket not being properly greased.
To prevent this, pat the ribs dry with paper towels before seasoning them. You can also generously coat the air fryer basket with cooking oil spray before placing the ribs in it.
6. Unevenly Cooked Ribs
If your ribs are unevenly cooked, the airflow in the air fryer is likely uneven. To fix this, try rearranging the ribs in the air fryer basket halfway through the cooking time or add a little water to the bottom of the air fryer to create more steam.
What is Air-frying and How Does It Work?
Air-frying is not as scientific as it sounds.
It is simply a cooking method that uses hot air to cook food instead of oil.
The air fryer is like a mini convection oven. It works by circulating hot air around the food. This helps make it crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. It’s a healthier alternative to deep frying and cuts calories by 70 to 80%.
Additionally, an air fryer produces delicious and tender results in double the time compared to when using a smoker or grill.
What Are Some Variations of Air Fryer Ribs?
While the classic dry rub and BBQ sauce combo is delicious, there are plenty of other ways to season your air fryer ribs. Here are a few ideas:
- Garlic and Herb: You can mix minced garlic, dried rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper and rub onto the ribs before cooking.
- Asian-inspired: I also like to combine soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, ginger, and garlic to create a sweet and savory marinade for the ribs.
- Cajun-spiced: Another variation involves rubbing the ribs with a mixture of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and salt for some spicy Cajun flavor.
As you have seen, air fryer ribs are a delicious and easy-to-make dish that you can enjoy any day of the week. By choosing the right type of ribs, preparing them properly, and using the correct cooking method, you can achieve perfectly tender and juicy ribs with a crispy exterior in no time.
With the step-by-step guide and tips in this ultimate guide, you can cook fantastic air fryer ribs in your kitchen.
So go ahead, dust off your air fryer, and try these air fryer recipes. Once you have a taste of well-made delicious and perfectly cooked ribs, you’ll be hooked and want to air-fry ribs again and again.