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Baby back ribs and fries on a white platter

4 Foolproof Ways to Tenderize Baby Back Ribs

Who can resist juicy and tender baby back ribs fresh from the grill? The barbecue staple is a favorite of kids and adults alike. Unfortunately, some home cooks shy away from preparing it because of sheer intimidation. Just one look at the rack of raw pork (with bones jutting out!) can elicit panic and distress. Others even back out before touching the meat!

But a mom’s got to do what a mom’s got to do. When your brood craves sticky, fall-off-the-bone ribs, you have no choice but to conquer your fear. Don’t even think about ordering from a nearby joint – that’ll triple your bill. Not worth it! Instead, muster the courage to tackle the hunk of meat in your kitchen. The first task? Learn to cook baby back ribs until ultra-tender!

4 Ways to Achieve Tender Baby Back Ribs

Pork baby back ribs come from the center and blade portions of the loin. They’re typically leaner (read: more expensive) than other types of ribs. Thus, you need to master cooking them to perfection. 

The job can be tricky – but not impossible even for rookies. Take time to go through each step carefully to avoid ending up with rubbery meat. Here are four methods to help you achieve heavenly tenderness. Choose one you feel most comfortable with and work your way through the process.

1. Rub method

Four small bowls of spices on a wooden surface with baby back ribs in the background

The least strenuous method is to coat your ribs with a rub. You just need to combine some spices and seasonings, then pat the mix onto the pork’s surface. Even a simple concoction of Knorr Pork Cubes, salt, and pepper will do wonders for your meat’s texture and flavor! Make sure to add some sugar, which will form a caramelized outer layer and seal in the rib’s moisture.

The downside of this method? It requires more time, although most of it is idle. You need to let the rub seep into the meat for at least an hour. But for the best results, you have to let it stand for about 12 hours. Pro tip: spread oil or mustard all over the ribs to help the rub stick to the surface.

2. Steam method

If you want to lessen the time required in the previous method, you can try steaming. After coating your meat, transfer it to the oven or a steamer and cook it over low until extra tender. The moisture will help pack in flavors and break down tough fibers. 

How to steam ribs in an oven:

  1. Preheat oven to 212°F (100°C).
  2. Transfer coated ribs to a roasting pan or tray.
  3. Add a bit of water to the pan, then cover it with foil. 
  4. Steam ribs until tender, about two hours.

How to tenderize ribs in a steamer:

  1. Slice coated ribs into smaller pieces depending on the size of the steamer.
  2. Transfer ribs to the basket.
  3. Fill the steamer with water. Add flavorings if desired. Bring to a steady simmer over very low heat.
  4. Steam ribs until tender, about two hours.

3. Boil method

A few pieces of boiled baby back ribs in a pot

Are you planning to grill your ribs or finish them in the oven or broiler? Before you do that, boil them first to tenderize the meat and render the fat. 

How to boil baby back ribs:

  1. Fill a pot with water. Bring to a boil.
  2. Add Knorr Pork Cubes and stir to dissolve.
  3. Lower heat to simmer. 
  4. Add ribs and cook until tender (but not fall-off-the-bone yet!), about 45 minutes.
  5. Remove ribs from the pot. Drain and set aside.  

4. Brine method

Brining requires treating meat with a generous amount of salt. This process dissolves muscle fibers, retains moisture, and keeps the pork from drying out, especially when you cook it on the grill. You can choose between two types of brines to achieve tender results. 

How to use a wet brine:

  1. Pick a glass, stainless steel, or plastic container that can fit your ribs and brine mixture.
  2. Prepare the saltwater solution: Combine 5-8% salt with 92-95 % water. Mix well.
  3. Add other flavorings, like Knorr Pork Cubes, if desired. 
  4. Let cool in the refrigerator. 
  5. Add ribs, then keep them in the fridge for two to six hours. 
  6. Remove ribs from the solution, then dry them with paper towels.

How to use a dry brine:


  1. Coat ribs with salt.
  2. Add other flavorings, like chili powder, cumin, coriander, or Knorr Pork Cubes, if desired. 
  3. Keep in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight. 
  4. Take ribs out of the fridge. Wipe off salt and spices with paper towels. 

Now that your baby back ribs are tender, you can just breeze through the rest of the cooking process. Finish them in an oven until sticky and caramelized. Or get your pork nice and charred on a charcoal grill. Be generous with your barbecue sauce and baste your meat every 15 minutes. But the most crucial step? Have fun! 

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