How Long Can You Freeze Ribs? [Four Types Of Pork Ribs]

“I want my baby back, baby back, baby back, baby back ribs!” Chili’s put this meal on the map with this catchy jingle, propelling rib sales throughout the ’90s. For those who don’t know, there are multiple types of pork ribs to choose from, but one thing is for certain — this juicy, meaty, and tender mouthwatering meal is always good to have on hand. Thus, how long can you freeze ribs?

All four pork rib varieties — Spare, Baby Back, Country Style, and St. Louis Style Ribs — should be frozen for no longer than six months when raw. Once cooked, this time frame drops to two to three months. However, the length of optimal storage time is highly dependent on the cut of meat.

Country-style ribs and spare ribs have more meat on the bone and can therefore last longer. In contrast, baby back ribs provide a much smaller serving size of the meat, causing them to dry out faster in cold storage. 

The best method for preservation is vacuum sealing the meat and then applying a second layer of aluminum foil. Alternatively, you can also use a freezer-safe ziplock bag in place of the vacuum seal varieties. Lastly, remember to always pad any sharp areas of bone that could puncture the plastic. 

How Long Can You Freeze Pork Ribs — Spare, Baby Back & Country Style Ribs

Proper Storage Time To Freeze Ribs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that safe freezer storage times for pork ribs range from four to six months based on the method of storage and the type of ribs that you are freezing. The three main types of pork ribs are baby back, spare and country-style ribs. 

The Differences In Each Cut

According to the grilling experts at Weber, “baby back ribs are cut from the top of the rib cage, near the backbone. [Conversely,] spareribs are cut from the bottom of the rib cage, and sometimes they include the brisket, which is a bony piece of meat that hangs from the bottom.

The farther down the rib cage you go, the meatier the ribs get.” In other words,  the spare ribs have substantially more meat, fat, and cartilage than baby backs. In contrast, country-style ribs come from the shoulder of the pig and therefore, have the most meat and the least amount of fat. 

IMPORTANT NOTE:Many people note St. Louis style ribs as the fourth type of pork rib. This is actually just a more meticulously trimmed spare rib. Thus, the storage guidelines of these two cuts will match. 

Factors That Impact How Long You Can Freeze Ribs

The more meat, the better the ribs will do in freezer storage. Why? It is less likely to dry out. What consumers need to remember is that approximately half of what you purchase in pork ribs is bone. This means that there is substantially less meat than other products. 

Additionally, the more fat, the greater the risk of early spoilage. In fact, the American Meat Science Association has found that “the more unsaturated fatty acids there are in the fat, the greater its susceptibility to oxidation and rancidity. This is why pork, which has more unsaturated fatty acids (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) than other meats, is more perishable than beef and lamb.”

Furthermore, this spoilage can be exacerbated when meats are seasoned prior to freezing — salting is never recommended. When this occurs, the product will experience changes in color, odor, texture, and flavor due to dehydration and oxidation. 

Finally, if you have the ability to deep freeze your pork ribs, it will allow for a maximum storage time of six months. This is because rapid cooling allows for the preservation of the flavor, texture, and nutritional benefits of the meat. This is not to say that you cannot achieve a similar result with regular freezing, just that it won’t seem quite as fresh.

In case you didn’t know, deep freezing involves placing the product is extremely low temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius or less, allowing for the food to reach the optimal freezer storage temperature in about an hour. In contrast, using a regular freezer will take approximately 24 hours to achieve the same result.ribs

How To Freeze Pork Ribs

The best way to limit these potential issues is through proper storage techniques. First, always freeze your pork ribs prior to their best-by date. Second, portion out the sections that you intend to cook at a later time. 

Remember, baby backs have less meat so a rack will normally serve one person. In contrast, a spare and country-style rack of ribs can feed multiple people so divide out your portions accordingly. 

Most importantly, if you are storing the ribs outside of the original packaging, it is important to pad any sharp ends with meat bone guard sheets to prevent the plastic from being punctured in storage. Finally, always freeze meat at a consistent zero degrees Celsius. 

Method #1: Vacuum Seal 

This is the optimal storage method for ribs if you choose to freeze them. It removes the instance of oxygen and moisture, which also helps to avoid freezer burn. Thus, place your raw pork ribs in the vacuum seal plastic and then use the machine to close up the packaging.

If you purchased the meat in a vacuum seal package, then you can skip this first step. Then, apply a second layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. This will ensure that light is also blocked out. Finally, label the package with the date and freeze it. 

Method #2: Freezer Safe Ziplock Bag

The alternative method is to place the ribs in a gallon-sized freezer-safe bag and then remove as much air as possible prior to sealing. Fold over any excess plastic and apply a tight overwrap of aluminum foil. Again, label and freeze the meat.

How To Freeze Cooked Pork Ribs

No matter which cut you choose, there always seems to be an abundance of extra meat when cooking for large crowds. If you want to freeze your ribs after cooking, the process is almost identical to that of the raw varieties. The only distinction is that you must allow the cooked ribs to cool before you freeze them.

You can do this on the counter at room temperature for just under two hours. However, before that time is met, it is imperative that you transfer the meat to the fridge or freezer to ensure that bacteria do not become introduced into the food.

Once cool, follow the aforementioned steps above and safely freeze the ribs for two to three months. If you want to see if the leftover ribs will get eaten before freezing, know that this product will stay fresh for 3 to 5 days in the fridge. Cooked Pork Ribs

How To Cook Frozen Raw Pork Ribs 

Step #1: Thaw The Ribs

The day before you want to cook your frozen ribs, remove them from the freezer and place them in the fridge. This will allow for a slow defrost, which better maintains the texture and consistency of the meat. Once thawed, you must cook and consume the ribs within three to four days. 

However, if you are in more of a rush, remove the aluminum foil layer and then place the meat, still sealed plastic, in a bowl of cold water. Change out the water every thirty minutes until the ribs have thawed.

Step #2: Prepare The Meat

Remove the ribs from all packaging that you used for storing them in the deep freeze. Then, season the ribs to your liking. Make sure to add sauce to the baby backs to help retain the moisture content of the meat.

Otherwise, the ribs will dry out quickly. Finally, using a new sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap up your ribs. 

Step #3: Barbecue Or Bake Your Raw Pork Ribs

No matter if you choose to grill or bake your meat, what is most important is that the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F (Fahrenheit) AND that you allow the meat to rest for three minutes following when it is removed from the heat source.

Additionally, set the heat to 350 degrees. When barbecuing, cover the grill and leave the meat to cook for approximately one hour.

Conversely, when baking, use a shallow baking dish and cook the meat for an hour and a half to two hours. Lastly, remember that cook times will be less for baby back ribs, which have less meat. 

Alternative Cooking Instructions

You also have the option of baking these in an instant pot. Simply add the seasoned meat and water in the pressure cooker, choose the high-pressure setting and cook for approximately 45 minutes. Then, apply the sauce and you are good to eat!

Finally, if you really want to cook your ribs low and slow, a crockpot is a fantastic tool to use! Apply the rub and add in your favorite seasonings and cook on high for four hours.

Add a layer of sauce in the last 10 minutes and then, bon appetit! If you decided to freeze your ribs, always defrost them before using these methods for the best results.

How To Reheat Frozen Cooked Pork Ribs 

For previously cooked ribs, follow the thawing directions noted in Step #1 of the “How To Cook Frozen Raw Pork Ribs” section. Then, wrap the meat in a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Next, apply a thin layer of sauce to help the ribs retain their moisture. 

Spare Ribs, St. Louis Style Ribs & Country Style Ribs

Place the wrapped ribs in a shallow baking dish and bake at 250 degrees until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the amount of meat on the bone, this can take as little as half an hour. Spare Ribs

Baby Back Ribs

Due to the lesser amount of meat on this type of rib, it is best to reheat them low and slow. Thus, set the oven to 220 degrees and cook for approximately 30 minutes, checking them regularly. Again, make sure the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. 

Final Thoughts

BBQ pork ribs are a classic Summertime staple that is perfect to have on hand for a quick and easy meal. However, if you are more of a fan of lamb ribs or beef ribs (aka short ribs), the same freezing instructions will apply.

What is important to note is that beef ribs have a lot more meat due to the size of the animal. Similarly, lamb ribs also have a lot of meat, but this is due to the small size of the bones.

Due to this and the type of fat on the ribs, these products can last longer in cold storage. Both lamb and beef can last up to 12 months in the freezer. Nonetheless, no matter which meal you choose, you can freeze ribs for a long time without the worry of spoilage if the proper storage steps are taken!

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