How to Wrap Ribs in Aluminum Foil (with Pictures!)

By Dylan Clay
Last Updated 
September 20, 2022

Wrapping ribs in foil is way more straight forward than using butcher paper simply because aluminum foil is more malleable.

However, it's also more susceptible to tearing; With how I wrap, this hasn't happened in years.

The reason for wrapping ribs is to speed up the cooking process in order to tenderize the meat - aluminum foil is my preferred option for all cuts of pork.

To preface this article:

Lots of beginners to barbecue will wrap too early into the smoking process. Whether it's with ribs, brisket, pork butt, etc.

Usually other articles will recommend wrapping at around 150-165F internal - which is typically when bigger cuts of meat stall. Ribs are a smaller cut and aren't even prone to stalling.

The sole purpose of wrapping ribs in foil is to speed up the cook time.

You should wait until around 175-180F internal. This way your bark is set and you're simply wrapping for 30-45 minutes to speed cook time.

The result will be markedly better bark and better ribs - trust me; Doing so also makes the differences between butcher paper and aluminum foil negligible.

Ideas Behind Liquid Wrapping

Aluminum foil is a non-porous material and works to trap moisture and heat. For this same reason, people will often include a number of ingredients in the wrap to braise the meat with.

rib wrap ingredients

Liquids have a better heat carrying capacity than air and the liquids in the wrap increase thermal conductivity.

With all that said, almost every resource treats you like a Barbecue Competitor and teaches you how to liquid wrap like one.

Often, they'll tell you to wrap with a number of different ingredients, ranging from:

  • Rib rub
  • White or Dark brown sugar
  • Agave nectar and syrups
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Apple juice
  • Orange juice
  • Butter or Margarine
  • etc.

The above is what I'd deem a competition style rib wrap.

In my opinion, it's quite literally to the point where you can barely taste pork. While I'm not saying competition style ribs are bad, you just borderline need to take a nap after you eat them.

In a contest a judge takes one bite of a rib - meaning that singular bite needs to pack a punch. Where-as in backyard barbecue, your goal is to make food that people want to eat more of.

Personally, all I do when I wrap ribs is spritz the foil with warm water and then put the ribs meat side down.

The moisture build up and rendered fat will collect in the bottom of the wrap and serve the same purpose - to tenderize the meat.

Once they reach tenderness, you can sauce the ribs and allow them to rest.

How to Wrap Ribs in Aluminum Foil

Of the different materials you can wrap ribs with aluminum foil is by far the easiest to use simply because it's malleable.

The only thing to be aware of when wrapping ribs with foil are the bones.

Bones have a tendency to puncture holes. Holes in the foil will allow heat/steam to escape and render the wrap less effective.

To start, all you'll need is:

  • Aluminum foil - I'd suggest investing in the heavy duty sheets. They're wider and less susceptible to being punctured. However, regular aluminum foil will work fine too.
  • Ribs that have been smoked till roughly 175-180F.

1. Start by Laying out a Sheet of aluminum foil that's double the length of the ribs.

sheet of aluminum foil

I typically eye-ball this or lay the sheet next to the ribs on the smoker and simply double the length in my head.

2. Add your ingredients to your wrap.

Personally, all I use is a spritz of warm water in the middle of the foil.

Again, you can use whatever you like to liquid wrap.

More often than not, a video or recipe will tell you to lay out the ingredients I listed above in small quantities in the middle of the foil.

3. Put the ribs meat side down or bone side up, in the middle of the foil, on top of your liquid.

ribs meat side down in wrap

4. Fold from the left - horizontally - and cover half the rack.

fold from the left side

5. Fold from the right - horizontally - and cover the other half of the rack.

fold from the right side

If you used enough foil, you should be able to overlap in the middle.

6. Fold from the bottom - vertically- and crinkle the foil in the middle.

fold from the bottom and crinkle the edge

7. Fold from the top - vertically - and crinkle the foil in the middle.

fold from the top and crinkle the edge

Once wrapped, return to your smoker meat side down. This way the meat continues to tenderize in the liquids.

Final Thoughts

When wrapping, be mindful of the bones. Unlike butcher paper, you don't need to be super tight to the meat for the wrap to work effectively.

The ribs above finished at 202F internal and were probe tender throughout. Using the tear test also wasn't necessary as you can clearly see the bones pulled away from the meat.

tender ribs

Note: These ribs pass the bend test but are not fall off the bone ribs. To most people who do barbecue, fall off the bone ribs are considered overcooked.

Dylan Clay
I've grilled and smoked meat for roughly half my life. While i'm not a professional Pitmaster, I've worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands on guide to teach them BBQ. It's my hope that Barbecue FAQ can be that helping hand.

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