Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: April 25, 2022

There is almost nothing that comes close to a sunny summer’s day when you can smoke some delicious juicy ribs over the grill.

Over the years of doing just that, I have put together a simple, easy-to-follow, and detailed list explaining how to keep ribs moist while smoking.

The article will focus on a few main ideas; actual methods of keeping ribs moist, heat regulation during cooking, ingredients to enhance the process, and marinating and resting time.

Quick Summary

  • A few methods to keep ribs moist while smoking include maintaining a consistent heat, using vinegar brine, wrapping it in foil, and marinating ahead for better absorption.
  • Using a water pan and allowing the ribs resting time after cooking for the juices to redistribute also help retain moisture.

Using Foil to Retain Moisture When Smoking Ribs

Ribs covered in foil

Wrapping the ribs in a large piece of foil and folding it closed with no air spaces helps retain the steam during the cooking process.

When you cook meat, the heat causes it to release juices. If those juices evaporate as steam from the heat, the meat will dry out.

When you wrap the ribs in foil and pinch the edges close, the steam cannot leave, which helps the ribs cook more evenly, and it absorbs the juices back into it, allowing it to remain moist and tender.

Smoked ribs are delicious as the famous Guy Fieri says, “There’s nothing that can replicate the smoky flavor of char,” but let’s face it – it sucks when they dry out and become chewy.

There are methods that expert meat smokers, like Guy Fieri, use to smoke ribs that retain their moist, juicy texture and still get super tender and delicious.

Basting Ribs to Prevent It From Drying Out

Basting ribs using a brush

If you are grilling the ribs openly over the fire, it will dry out incredibly quickly. If you want to prevent it from drying out entirely, use a sauce to continue basting it.

The basting sauce will put back the moisture that it loses over the fire as it is grilling.

You have to use the basting method from the beginning of the grilling process.

If you wait for too long before you begin to baste the ribs, it will dry out quite far and become challenging to regain total moisture.

If you wait for too long before you begin to baste the ribs, it will dry out quite far and become challenging to regain total moisture.

Use a Water Pan to Retain Moisture

A big ribs on a grill with water pan underneath

Using water pans is a fantastic way to keep moisture in your ribs when you grill or bake the meat in the oven.

You can fill a water pan and place it under the ribs. It retains and evenly distributes heat while catching liquid and oil drippings from the ribs.

The water pans create humidity and steam under the ribs, which helps the meat cool down, slowing the cooking process.

It evenly cooks the ribs and absorbs liquid back as it loses juices. You can refill the pan with hot water as it starts to dry out.

Crockpots Help Retain Moisture When Cooking Ribs

Cooking ribs using a crockpot

Don’t underestimate the power of cooking meat in a crockpot.

You can cook the ribs for an extended time in the crockpot, which helps make it super tender and juicy.

You can add your smoked ingredients directly in the pot with the ribs, and it will marinate, absorb the flavor, retain its juices and cook through all at the same time.

The crockpots have a lid that you close, and you can use foil over the cover to ensure that the steam is getting trapped in the pot for more even heat distribution and moisture retention.

The crock pot reduces the hard work for you, and you end up with flavorful, well-tenderized, juicy meat.

Use the Consistent Cooking Temperature

Ribs require a consistent heating temperature to cook evenly without drying out quickly. You want to keep it on a medium heat setting to ensure it cooks slowly.

When the temperature is too high, the ribs will lose moisture, cook on the outside, and not be tender on the inside.

In the oven, you can use a temperature of 350-400°F and if you use a grill, keep the ribs over indirect heat (on the side and not directly over the fire).

You want the ribs to cook for a more extended timeframe over moist gentle heat. That helps it get well done, tender, and juicy.

Related: Temperature Guide to the Best Ribs Around

Marinating Ribs Ahead Makes It Tender and Juicy

Marinating ribs on a glass tray

You don’t realize how important marinating your meat is until you don’t do it one time.

The flavor and tenderness depend significantly on how long you season the ribs ahead of time.

The marinade ingredients are also essential, but we will discuss that next.

The ribs absorb the seasonings, zests, and sauces as it sits. You can let it rest at least 4-6 hours ahead, but overnight is best.

The longer the ribs stay in marination, the more it will absorb the flavor, leading to tender, juicy, delicious meat after cooking.

Use Vinegar Sauce When Marinating

Apple cider vinegar plain background

As mentioned above, the ingredients you use to marinate your ribs play a significant role in how tender the ribs get.

An acid component that will help brine the ribs works best to tenderize your meat and helps it absorb and retain moisture [1].

You can use regular white or brown vinegar, balsamic vinegar, apple cider, and even lemon juice.

You mix the vinegar base with other seasonings to create a delicious marinade, rub it generously on your ribs, let it rest overnight, and smoke it the next day.

Salt causes food to release water – you can omit or reduce salt and add it after cooking.

Allow Resting Time for Ribs to Regain Moisture

When you finish cooking and smoking ribs, they need 10-15 minutes of resting time before serving it or cutting it up.

If you cut the ribs immediately, it might release its juices, causing the remaining portions of your meat to be dry.

The resting time helps redistribute the juices throughout, leading to tender bites.

When cooking, the juices try to escape the meat to evaporate, so all the moisture is on the outer layer.

When it rests, it absorbs back into the center. That is super important to ensure you don’t end up with dry ribs in the middle [2].

How to Keep Ribs Moist While Smoking: Final Thoughts

If you have ever had your ribs dry up after smoking it, you can now use these methods to help trap steam and retain the juices in your rib meat.

Use the ways that are most convenient and economical for you.

They are full-proof techniques, and you will never have dried out smoked ribs again.

There are also different types of smokers that you need to consider and what suits you best.


  1. https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-magic-of-marinades
  2. https://www.scienceofcooking.com/meat/slow_cooking1.htm#:~:text=

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