The Reason You Should Always Pat Ribs Dry Before Cooking Them

Are you in the mood for some piping-hot, BBQ-slathered, fall-off-the-bone ribs? Well, your answer is probably the same as anyone else's: "Who wouldn't be?" Whether they're baby back or spare ribs, you'll find fans of both kinds. And for those who are challenged with the task of making ribs taste amazing, you'll find the possibilities are almost endless: You can grill them, smoke them, or bake them in the oven. Whatever method you choose, one important factor is to make sure your ribs get a good sear while cooking.

Searing ribs, or any kind of meat, means you're browning the outside and creating a crust that adds more flavor per bite. This is usually done in a pan by turning the heat up very high and placing the meat over a little bit of oil or butter. Yet, there are other ways in which you can sear your ribs, such as in an oven or on the grill. And in order to create this effect you'll need those ribs to be nice and dry. When it comes to making flavorful, crispy, seared ribs, you should always make sure that you pat them dry completely before cooking them.

How and why to pat ribs dry

After you peel away that long thin membrane and wash your ribs, you can start your pat down. Get some paper towels and begin patting down your ribs really well. Don't press too hard, apply just a little bit of pressure so your paper towel absorbs moisture but doesn't stick to the meat. Sometimes, those vacuum-sealed plastic bags that ribs come in actually contain a lot of juice too, so you'll need to make sure you blot your ribs until they're completely dry all over.

The reason you want to dry your ribs is because it'll remove moisture which acts as a barrier between the meat and the pan or grill. This will cause less steam to form and allow the meat to actually sear while cooking. Then you'll have more of a crispy crust on the outside of those ribs which also equates to more flavor. You'll love the smokey, sweet flavor that ribs get as a result of caramelization — which can only happen with proper searing. Of all the mistakes you could be making when cooking ribs, this is one you won't have to worry about again.

Other ways to rid excess moisture from your ribs

Along with the paper towel pat-down method, there are other ways in which you can absorb the moisture from your ribs. After you've patted down your ribs, you'll be able to start your dry rub — just make sure salt is one of your key ingredients. During a process called osmosis, the salt draws the water all the way through the meat to the surface. While this may seem counterintuitive, it actually isn't. Once the water reaches the outside, the salt will reabsorb back into the meat along with the moisture — this will take about 40 minutes to happen with ribs. Then you'll be able to brown your ribs until the outside is crispy and delicious. 

Another method you can use to increase the drying process is by placing your ribs in the refrigerator. After you've finished patting your ribs dry, go ahead and place them on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet then slide them into the refrigerator. Letting them sit in the refrigerator for a few hours will cause the cold air to circulate around the meat and the ribs to dry even further. This is just another way to help increase that crispy and delicious sear.