Air fryers are amazing for cooking ribs because they come out juicy, tender and delicious! There is no need to wait hours for ribs to smoke low and slow, instead you can get your meal on the table in only 40 minutes.
Ribs are one of my husband’s favorite dinners and he is pretty picky about them. So the first time I told him I was making air fryer ribs and that they would be ready soon he was pretty dubious.
He’s never cared for pork ribs made in the oven or Instant Pot, so he assumed these ribs would be similarly disappointing. But he loved them and couldn’t believe how great they taste!
They are crispy, juicy and tender and come out perfect every time. I have made these several times now and this is a great recipe when we want something that doesn’t take too long to prepare yet still has lots of flavor.
In this post, I will show you how to cook baby back ribs using an air fryer. You will learn how long to cook ribs in the air fryer, what temperature to cook ribs to and how to fit them in your air fryer basket.
Why You Will Love Air Fryer Pork Ribs
- If it is too hot or too wet or too snowy to go outside and grill you can still make tasty ribs.
- You can make this recipe even if you aren’t going to be around all day to keep a smoker going.
- These ribs will be ready in about 40 minutes, making it possible to use this air fryer ribs recipe for a weeknight meal.
- You can customize the recipe with your favorite spice rub and BBQ sauce flavor.
- The fat drips down into the bottom of the basket, so the ribs are not greasy.
- The high temperature of the air fryer caramelizes the BBQ sauce giving them a delicious deep flavor.
While these ribs taste amazing they aren’t going to taste the same as smoked pork ribs. If you only like ribs that are fall off the bone tender smoking is still going to be your best bet.
Baby back ribs – These are best ribs for making in the air fryer mainly because they are smaller and easier to fit in a basket. In addition spare ribs are meatier and will take longer to cook.
Spice rub – I used my homemade sweet dry rub on these ribs. I like a brown sugar rub on my ribs but you can use whatever you prefer like a Memphis rub or a Carolina rub. I’ve also tried Montreal Spicy Steak seasoning, which is great if you want to spice things up!
BBQ sauce – Any sauce will work, either homemade or store bought. I used a local favorite sauce, Dinosaur BBQ’s Sensuous Slathering sauce, for these.
How to Make Ribs in an Air Fryer
To prep the rack of ribs first peel the silver skin membrane off the back. Turn the ribs over and slide a knife under the membrane on top of one of the bones.
Peel it off and discard it, then pat them dry with a paper towel. Taking the membrane off makes it easier for the heat to penetrate the meat so they cook more evenly.
Then cut the ribs to fit into the air fryer basket. I can fit a full rack of baby back ribs in my 5.8 quart Cosori air fryer. Ideally there will be little if any overlap in the basket.
If you have a longer rack you might need to cut one or two ribs off the end to make it fit. A smaller or a circular basket will probably only fit a half rack of ribs.
Once you have the ribs cut to the right size season them with your favorite spice rub. Be generous and thoroughly coat the meaty side of the rub.
2. Air Fry
Put the ribs in the basket with the meaty, spice coated side down. Set the air fryer at 380 degrees F and cook them for 20 minutes.
Then open the basket and flip the racks over using tongs, so the bone side is down. Continue cooking them at 380 degrees F for another 10 minutes.
Use an instant read meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat. Pork is safe to eat at 165 degrees F, but for ribs you want the meat to reach an internal temperature of 195 F or more.
That is the temperature at which the collagen and fat starts to melt, which makes them more tender and juicy. So if they haven’t reached 195 F put them back in to cook a few minutes longer.
3. Add BBQ Sauce
Once they are close to done brush the tops of the ribs with your favorite BBQ sauce, leaving them in the air fryer basket. Put them back in the basket and cook them at 400 F for 3-5 minutes.
This will brown the top of the ribs and caramelize the sauce on top so the ribs are sticky and crispy. When they are done take them out and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving.
How to Serve
I also love to make corn on the cob with ribs or mashed potatoes. The possibilities are endless!
How to Store
Leftover ribs keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. You can heat them back up or just pull the meat off and use it in a sandwich or salad.
Air fryer ribs should be cooked to 195 degrees F for the best taste. They are safe to eat once they reach 165 F, but will be tastier if cooked to the higher temperature.
It take about 30 minutes to cook baby back ribs in the air fryer. Spare ribs are meatier, so they will take longer.
The ribs will cook best when they are air fried with the meat side down at first. This exposes more of the meat to the high heat of the air fryer. Then flip them over and finish them with the bone side down.
Find more Air Fryer Pork Recipes
- 1 rack of pork baby back ribs
- 2 Tablespoons pork spice rub, or spices below
- 1/4 cup BBQ sauce
Optional seasoning mix
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Use a sharp knife to peel the silver skin membrane off the back of the ribs.
- Cut the ribs to fit in your air fryer basket. Depending on the size you might not be able to fit an entire rack of ribs.
- Coat the meaty side of the ribs with the spice rub, pressing it into the top.
- Set the air fryer at 380 degrees F for 20 minutes. Put the ribs in the basket, bone side up.
- When the cooking time is up flip the ribs over so the meaty side is up. Cook at 380 F for another 10 minutes.
- Use an instant read thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the meat has reached 195 F. If not return it to the air fryer to cook longer.
- Brush the top of the ribs with the BBQ sauce. Set the air fryer at 400 F for another 3 minutes of cooking.
Notes: Serve with cornbread, coleslaw, mashed potatoes or baked beans.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 440Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 58mgSodium: 436mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 1gSugar: 13gProtein: 18g
Nutrition facts are estimates.