Opening the ribs you so carefully wrapped with foil or butcher paper once they entered the stall to find pink ribs can cause any rib lover to have a heart attack.
Even though you did everything right, including cooking the ribs to the recommended safe temperature, they may still turn out pink. So can ribs be pink, and are they safe to eat?
Can Ribs Be Pink?
Yes, ribs can be pink. Even when ribs are cooked, they can still be slightly pink. Pork is safe to consume once it is cooked to a temperature of 145°F.
However, this does not mean you should stop cooking the ribs once they reach this temperature. It’s best to cook the ribs to a higher temperature to get tender ribs.
Is Raw Pork Supposed To Be Pink?
Raw pork is often dubbed or marketed as a type of white meat. However, technically speaking, pork is considered red meat.
This classification is contingent on how much myoglobin is in the muscle fibers.
Myoglobin is a protein that gives meat a reddish color when it comes into contact with red meat.
Beef is dark red because it has higher levels of myoglobin, while pork is pinkish because it has lower levels of myoglobin.
Nevertheless, pork still contains enough myoglobin to be considered red meat, even though it will take on a later color when it is cooked.
Can Smoked Ribs Be Pink?
If you smoked the ribs in your electric smoker, there’s a high chance you will end up with pink ribs even though they are completely cooked.
The ribs will have a pink tinge no matter how long you cook them.
Therefore there is no need to worry that they have not smoked long enough. As long as the ribs are not overly pink, there is no need to worry.
What Happens If You Eat Undercooked Ribs?
While ribs can be pink, you certainly want to avoid undercooked ribs. If you eat undercooked ribs, there’s a high risk that you will develop a foodborne illness.
Remember, all pork must be cooked to 145°F to neutralize toxic bacteria. Below this temperature, bacteria will stay alive, making you sick when you eat the ribs.
Pork contains bacteria such as Staphylococcus, Salmonella, E.coli, and Listeria. These pathogens can cause abdominal cramps, dehydration, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and fatigue.
While these symptoms may seem mild, anyone who’s ever had food poisoning will tell you never to eat undercooked pork.
Some people get lucky and feel better within a few hours. However, most individuals experience severe symptoms which can last several days or weeks.
Furthermore, some persons, such as the elderly or pregnant women, can experience more severe cases of food poisoning because they have compromised immune systems. Either way, food poisoning is no fun.
Therefore, if your ribs are undercooked, do not remove them from the smoker. Cook them until they are at the correct temperature.
How To Tell When Ribs Are Cooked
So, how can you tell when ribs are completely cooked? The best way to test for doneness is by using a thermometer.
Truth be told, testing rib’s doneness with a thermometer can be a little tricky. Usually, you would insert the smoker thermometer probe into the thickest part of the meat.
But this is not as easy as taking the internal temperature of pork butt because there is a smaller amount of meat.
To test your ribs for doneness, insert the thermometer probe into the thickest part of the rack. Do not hit the bones, as it can give you a false reading. Once the ribs reach a temperature between 180°F and 190°F, they are cooked.
There are still other ways you can test ribs for doneness. However, the thermometer is and will always be the best way to tell if ribs are done.
You can use the knife method to test if the ribs are done.
Pierce the ribs with the tip of a butter knife. If the rib’s juices run clear, they are fully cooked. In contrast, if the rib’s juices are pink, they need to be cooked longer.
You can also inspect the temperature of the ribs to determine if they are cooked.
The ribs should be flexible but not break into two when you lift them up. If the ribs are undercooked, they will remain tightly packed together.
Lastly, when ribs are cooked, the meat shrinks to reveal 3/4 of an inch of the bone.
What Happens If You Overcook Ribs?
We have all been told that pink meat is a no-no for pork and chicken. Pink meat may cause you to leave the ribs on the smoker longer than necessary. In short, when you cook ribs for too long, you will end up with overcooked ribs.
Instead of a beautiful bark, the exterior of your ribs will be burnt to a crisp. Furthermore, the meat will be tough and extremely chewy instead of tender.
Overall, they will definitely not be as tender as if you had cooked them for the right amount of time.
Despite the myth that ribs should fall off the bone, you do not want your ribs to fall off the bone. If you overcook the ribs, they will literally fall off the phone because they are dry, tough, and overcooked.
For this reason, you must watch the ribs closely as they smoke. I know it’s hard, especially when ribs can take forever to cook, but you must remember to check the ribs.
Set several timers on your phone to remind you to check the ribs so they do not overcook. This way, you will not overcook the ribs and destroy their flavor.
The next time you smoke ribs in your portable pellet smoker and discover they are a little pink, there’s no need to panic or get upset.
As long as the ribs are cooked above 145°F, they are safe to eat. However, if the ribs do not have this temperature, simply cook them a little longer until they have the right temperature.