Skip to Content

How Long to Marinate Ribs

How Long to Marinate Ribs

Ribs are moist, succulent, and so darn addicting. However, smoking ribs involves more than pulling out your offset smoker and tossing the ribs onto the grill. 

Ribs must be marinated before they are smoked to get the most tender, juicy ribs. But how long do you marinate ribs? 

Should You Marinate Ribs?

I will always say yes to marinating ribs. Marinating ribs tenderizes them and infuses them with flavor. If the ribs sit in the marinade for several hours, the flavor will be off the charts. 

However, even if you do not marinate the ribs before placing them in your electric smoker, they will still be tender as long as they are cooked low and slow. 

Which Is Better, Dry Rub or Marinade?

Dry rubs consist of a combination of spices and herbs. These spices and herbs enhance the smoky flavor the ribs will develop once it is cooked. 

Dry BBQ rubs always feature salt and brown sugar. Dry rubs contain paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, black pepper, onion powder, and cumin. 

Once you place the ribs into your pellet smoker, the dry rubs will be exposed to heat. The heat helps the ribs develop a crispy crust called the bark. 

The bark provides a nice texture contrast to the tender, juicy meat. 

The only drawback of using dry rubs is that you may need to slather a layer of mustard or Worcestershire sauce on the ribs to help the seasoning stick to the ribs.

Nevertheless, if the ribs are moist enough, the seasoning can stick to the ribs without mustard or Worcestershire sauce. 

In contrast, wet rubs add moisture to the ribs by using liquid. The most popular liquids for rib marinades include beer, olive oil, and vinegar. Wet marinades also include dry ingredients such as herbs and spices. 

These ingredients for the wet rub are mixed until a paste forms; then, it is slathered onto the ribs. Wet marinades stick to the ribs better than a dry rub since it is moist. 

The wet rub will pull moisture from the ribs’ interior to the ribs’ exterior, creating a charred bark on the rib’s exterior. 

Ribs marinated with a dry rub need to be smoked at a lower temperature, so they will take longer to cook. 

This gives the ribs time to caramelize into a rich dark bark. If the temperature is too high, the sugar in the wet marinade will burn, resulting in burned ribs. 

Whether or not you should use a dry or wet marinade to marinate ribs depends on your preference. Both dry and wet marinades add flavor to ribs. 

A wet marinade will tenderize the ribs, especially if they contain acidic ingredients like vinegar.

In contrast, dry rubs will cook much faster as they can be smoked at a higher temperature

How Long to Marinate Ribs

How long to marinate ribs depends on the type of ribs you are marinating. In general, ribs should be marinated ribs for 2-24 hours.

Ideally, you want to marinate the ribs long enough that they absorb the marinade’s flavor but not too long that the ribs develop a mushy texture.

 I’d say 8-12 hours is the sweet spot when marinating ribs. 

However, if you need to get the ribs on the smoker ASAP, marinate them for a minimum of 2 hours. 

In addition to this, add more marinade or turn the ribs over every 3 hours. This will ensure the ribs are evenly coated in the marinade. 

How Long to Marinate Ribs With Dry Rub

Dry rubs are a little different when it comes to marinating ribs. While you don’t want to marinate the ribs for more than 24 hours, dry rubs take a little longer to penetrate the meat. 

Therefore, it’s best to marinate the ribs for a minimum of 4 hours and no longer than 24 hours. 

Can You Marinate Ribs for 4 Days?

You may see 3-day or 4-day marinated recipes on the internet, leading you to wonder if you can marinate ribs for 4 days. Technically, ribs will last in the fridge for 3-4 days. 

However, 3 or 4 days is too long to marinade ribs. Even though pork’s flesh is dense and may be able to handle sitting in the marinade for 4 days, I do not recommend it. 

Remember, there is still a chance that the ribs could develop a mushy texture. Therefore, I would not marinate ribs for more than 24-48 hours. 

How to Marinate Ribs

When marinating ribs, it’s best to use a resealable zip lock bag or a glass or plastic bowl. Do not marinate the ribs in a metal bowl or foil, as it can give them a metallic flavor. 

To make the marinade, mix olive oil, soy sauce, beer, apple cider vinegar, garlic, salt paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, sugar, and paprika in a bowl, and set it aside. 

Pat the ribs with paper towels to move any moisture from the surface of the ribs. Remove the silver skin from the ribs if necessary. 

Place the ribs into a large gallon-sized ziplock bag or shallow glass baking dish. Add the marinade to the pork ribs and toss to coat them in the marinade. 

Cover the ribs or seal the ziplock bag. Place the ziplock bag into a large container and place the ribs into the fridge.  

Marinate the ribs for 2-12 hours before smoking them. 

Can I Reuse Rib Marinade

No, you cannot reuse rib marinade. If you want to baste the ribs with some of the marinades as they cook, pour some of the marinade into a different dish before adding the ribs to it or make a new batch. 

Ribs contain bacteria, so if you baste the ribs with the same marinade, it will result in cross-contamination.

Alternatively, you can also boil the marinade for at least 5 minutes until it maintains a steady temperature of 165°F for 1 minute. 

Final Thoughts

Marinating ribs is the best way to yield tender, juicy ribs. However, if you marinate ribs for too long, you will have tough mushy ribs instead of tender, juicy ones.

Marinate your ribs for at least 2 hours and no longer than 24 hours for best results.

You might also be interested in the following: