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Air Fryer Beef Back Ribs

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Who is crazy enough to cook beef back ribs in the air fryer? I am, and maybe you are, too! You can turn an ordinary rack of beef back ribs into an awesome flavor-bomb of BBQ rib goodness. The air fryer actually does a killer job at cooking ribs. These turned out tender, with just enough bite to them that they won’t fall apart in your hands. No need to heat up the oven or set up the smoker; you can get your BBQ fix quickly using your air fryer!

What are beef back ribs?

Beef back ribs are attached to the prime rib roast on the cow. When the butcher removes the prime rib, you are left with back ribs. The prime rib fetches top dollar so this can often mean that there is not a whole lot of meat left on the ribs, however, the meat between the bones is some very good eatin’ barbecue. You can often find a steal on back ribs since they are often very cheap.

How to choose the best beef back ribs

You probably will not have very much success purchasing your beef back ribs at any of the big chain grocery stores. These large grocery stores will invariably skimp you on the meat on back ribs, and there will often be divots cut out between each bone so they can maximize profits on the prime rib. For ultimate success in selecting your back ribs, go to your local butcher and ask them for some “heavy” beef back ribs. They will be much happier to help you find the meatiest back ribs that they have!

Tip: buy your beef back ribs from your local butcher. They can help you to select the ribs with the most meat.

air fryer beef back ribs cooked and sliced on wood butcher block
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Ingredients for these air fryer ribs

We really do not need too many ingredients for some killer air fryer beef back ribs. I like to put a nice, heavy rub onto my ribs so that they develop a thick crust while cooking up. Then I slather on a thick coating of BBQ sauce, which is briefly cooked on the ribs until it forms a perfectly caramelized layer of barbecue goodness.

Air fryer beef back ribs ingredients: bbq sauce, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and beef back ribs

How to air fry beef back ribs

Step 1: mix the dry rub

Combine salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Save this for later, we have to prepare the ribs before rubbing them down.

Step 2: prepare the ribs

Place the ribs bone side up on your cutting board. If your butcher didn’t remove the membrane, you will want to get rid of this tissue. If it isn’t removed, the ribs will be chewy. Use a paper towel to grab the membrane on one corner and slowly peel it away from the bones. It may come off in small pieces, but be sure it all comes off.

Step 3: rub the ribs

Sprinkle the dry rub over the ribs on all sides. Be sure it thoroughly coats the ribs. This will help the ribs to build up the crispy bark like you would expect to get if you were to cook these ribs on the smoker or grill.

Step 4: air fryer time

Place the ribs in the air fryer bone side down. Be sure there is plenty of space in your air fryer to fit the ribs. If your rack of ribs is too big for the air fryer, slice them up into smaller chunks. Otherwise, if you have enough space in your air fryer you can keep them in larger chunks, but try to keep at least two bones per rack of ribs. If you must, you can cut the ribs into single bones, which may help you arrange more of the ribs into your air fryer. Cook them at 375°F for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches about 190°F – 195°F.

Step 5: brush with BBQ sauce

Brush the ribs with the Kansas City style BBQ sauce. Be sure to coat all sides of the ribs. Cook the ribs one more time at 400°F for 5 minutes or until the ribs’ internal temperature is around 203°F.

Step 6: slice and enjoy!

Slice the ribs between each bone into single pieces and dig in!

Air fryer beef back ribs process photo collage

Tight on space in the air fryer?

Ribs often come in large slabs, and fitting them in the air fryer may be tough. One of my favorite accessories for the air fryer is this tall, stackable air fryer rack which you can use to layer your food in the air fryer. The rack can be spaced apart so that you can ensure that there is plenty of space for airflow in your air fryer. This will help you to cook more beef back ribs in your air fryer without overcrowding them.

How to use your air fryer

Are you new to air frying? Check out this post about air fryer tips and tricks that I put together to help you learn how to use your brand new air fryer.

Convert from oven to air fryer

If you have some favorite recipes but don’t know how to cook them in the air fryer, use this air fryer converter. This will help you to quickly and easily find the proper air fryer time and temperature for your recipes based on the original convection oven instructions.

Air fryer beef back ribs sliced and coated with BBQ sauce sitting on a butcher block with a side of pickles

What else should you be cooking?

One of my favorite things in the world is fish and chips. This recipe for air fryer tilapia is very popular and incredibly delicious! Pair it along with my air fryer jojo potato wedges or these cheese crusted air fryer potato wedges for an easy air fryer fish and chips meal.

For a fun twist during the fall season, try out this pumpkin spice BBQ sauce. It is almost as good as a pumpkin spice latte, but maybe don’t drink it.

Air fryer beef back ribs sliced and coated with BBQ sauce sitting on a butcher block with a side of pickles

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air fryer beef back ribs cooked and sliced on wood butcher block

Air Fryer Beef Back Ribs

Yield: 6-8 ribs
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

You can turn an ordinary rack of beef back ribs into an awesome flavor-bomb of BBQ rib goodness in your air fryer. The air fryer actually does a killer job at cooking ribs. These turned out tender, with just enough bite to them that they won't fall apart in your hands. No need to heat up the oven or set up the smoker; you can get your BBQ fix quickly using your air fryer!

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds beef back ribs
  • 1 cup Kansas City style BBQ sauce
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

Instructions

  1. Prepare the ribs. Remove the ribs from the packaging and place them bone side up on your worktop. Use a paper towel to grip onto the membrane and slowly peel it away from the bones. The membrane may come off in small pieces.
  2. Check for fit. See if you can fit the entire slab of ribs in your air fryer. Trim the ribs down into smaller slabs that can comfortably fit into the air fryer. If you have a smaller air fryer, this may mean you need to trim them down pieces with 1 or 2 bones.
  3. Season the ribs. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Liberally coat and fully rub the seasoning mix into the ribs on all sides.
  4. Air fry the ribs. Preheat your air fryer to 375°F. Place the ribs bone side down in the air fryer basket and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 195°F.
  5. Slather on the BBQ sauce. Brush a thick layer of Kansas City style BBQ sauce onto the ribs. Be sure to coat all sides of the ribs. Increase the temperature of your air fryer to 400°F and cook for another 5 minutes. The internal temperature of the ribs should be around 203°F.
  6. Rest and dig in! Remove the ribs from the air fryer and cover them with aluminum foil. Allow them to rest for about 10-20 minutes. Slice them into individual ribs and dig in!

Notes

  • If your ribs are super big, you may need to cut them into smaller pieces to fit in the air fryer. Try to keep them in the largest chunks possible so that they retain as much moisture as possible.
  • After coating the ribs in the BBQ sauce, be sure not to air fry for too much longer than 5 minutes. The sugars in the BBQ sauce can easily burn, especially if the ribs are big and next to the heating element in the air fryer.

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