One of our most popular Dutch oven camping recipes is our camping BBQ ribs.
When you know how to slow cook ribs in Dutch ovens, your camp crowd will sing your praises and the sky is the limit with the flavor profiles you can achieve with campsite ribs dinners!
Meat Types For Cooking Ribs In A Dutch Oven
There are 2 main questions to ask yourself when selecting the ribs you will be cooking:
What type of meat?
Bone-in or boneless?
Here are a few facts you need to know…
Pork Baby Back Ribs vs. Pork Spare Ribs
|Pork Baby Back Ribs
|Pork Spare Ribs
|High on hog’s back near the backbone
|Lower section of hog’s ribs around the belly
|3-4 inches long
|6-8 inches long
|Leaner, Meatier, Little Cartilage
|Tougher, Fattier, More Cartilage
|Baby back ribs got that name because they are shorter than spareribs … they don’t come from baby pigs.
|St. Louis-Style Spareribs are regular pork spare ribs that are cut a particular way … the hard breastbone and chewy cartilage are removed resulting in a squared shape.
Country Style Pork Ribs
Pork “Country Style Ribs” are not really ribs at all!
They come from the front end of the loin near the shoulder.
These “ribs” are long strips of meat taken near the hog’s shoulder area and can be cut with a bone or cut to be boneless.
Beef Back Ribs vs. Beef Short Ribs
|Beef Back Ribs
|Beef Short Ribs
|Upper part of the cow’s carcass
|Lower part of the cow’s rib cage
|6 – 8 inches long
|3 – 4 inches long
|More Bone, More Fat, Little Meat
|Tougher, More Meat
Lamb ribs are also an option for cooking in a Dutch oven but are not as common in American cuisine … they are typically used in Asian and Middle Eastern recipes.
Our Rib Choice
Personally speaking, for slow cooked ribs at the campsite, we prefer to use pork baby back ribs.
We like them because they have smaller bones but contain more meat which is important when you have limited cooking space in camp ovens.
How Do You Cook Ribs At The Campsite
There are several types of cooking methods requiring different equipment so let’s discuss your options for cooking ribs while camping.
Cooking Ribs With Wet Heat vs. Dry Heat
Ribs require low and slow cooking times to become tender.
Dry heat uses cooking methods like smoking and grilling.
Wet heat uses slow cooking methods like braising and simmering.
When we are camping, we prefer Dutch oven cooked ribs that are simmered for hours using a constant low heat.
Dry Rub For Ribs
If you are cooking with the dry heat method, you’ll want to add a nice rub to flavor the meat.
Knowing how to make your own dry rub is the key to creating unique flavors for your grilled and smoked meats.
They usually start with a little brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper but the sky is the limit to crafting your own unique blend.
Here are some ideas for awesome dry rub recipes for ribs.
Our first choice when making ribs with a rub is our spicy dry rub recipe … it has just enough heat for everyone in the crowd!
Barbecue Sauce Recipes For Ribs
Slow cooking in a liquid is the best way to cook ribs in a camp Dutch oven.
Here are some awesome homemade BBQ sauce recipes for ribs to simmer in for long and slow cooking.
How Long To Cook Ribs In Dutch Ovens
Cooking time really depends on a lot of factors…
Baby back ribs are smaller so they cook faster than spareribs.
More racks in your oven will require more cooking time.
Slow cooking for long periods takes longer than boiling ribs.
So, follow the directions of the individual recipe for best results.
Our camping Dutch oven BBQ ribs make 3 racks of baby back ribs and they slow cook between 4 and 6 hours.
Cooked Temperature Of Pork Ribs
According to the USDA, pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F.
Reaching a safe temperature is important but this is really only an issue if you are grilling or smoking the ribs.
You will automatically reach a safe temperature when you are slow cooking ribs by submerging them in BBQ sauce and simmering for several hours.
This slow cooking technique results in fully cooked ribs that are extremely tender and moist.
How To Cook Ribs Over A Fire Pit
Slow cooking your ribs is the secret to making them tender.
You can use charcoal briquettes or a campfire here … either way, you want to monitor the heat throughout the cooking process to maintain a slow simmer.
Tender Baby Back Ribs In Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
When you are slow cooking ribs in a sauce, the key to tenderness is to keep them covered with the sauce.
If you have too many ribs in the Dutch oven, you won’t be able to keep all of them submerged during the entire cooking time … that is ok, here’s what you need to do…
Every half hour or so, pull the ribs from the bottom of the pot and set them on the top … that way you will be rotating all of the ribs during the cooking process for maximum tenderness.
Best Dutch Oven Size For Slow Cooking Ribs
The amount of ribs you are cooking determines the size of oven you should use.
You’ll need a large heavy outdoor Dutch oven that you are using like a slow cooker at home … long, low and slow.
A DEEP Dutch oven is better than a STANDARD Dutch oven for this recipe.
We used a 12-inch deep 8-Qt Dutch oven to slow cook three racks of baby back ribs.
If you use a 12-inch standard 6-Qt Dutch oven for the same recipe, you will only be able to handle 2 or 2.5 racks.
Learn more about the best Dutch oven for camping including size capacities.
Prepare The Ribs For Cooking
There are opposing views but most people like to remove the silverskin from the back of the ribs prior to cooking.
You can actually buy ribs that already have the silver skin removed.
If you have to remove it yourself, it is not a big deal.
A butter knife can be used to pull it up pretty easily.
If you are lucky, you can get it off in one piece.
If you choose to leave the silverskin on the ribs, the seasoning won’t penetrate the meat as well and the texture is not as appetizing IMHO (in my humble opinion).
Cut The Ribs To Fit Your Dutch Oven
Camp Dutch ovens come in different sizes so you’ll need to cut the rack to fit the oven you are using to slow cook the ribs.
If you use a 12-inch oven, cutting the rack into pieces that have 4-5 baby back ribs fits quite well.
Simmer The Ribs In The Sauce
Now it’s time to slow cook your ribs.
Prepare your heat source for cooking with a low temperature for a long period of time.
In other words, you are going to need to replenish your cooking coals several times during the cooking process.
Place the cut racks of ribs in your Dutch oven.
Cover the ribs with your BBQ sauce.
Cook for 4-6 hours … maintain a low heat so you are simmering the ribs … NOT boiling them.
If you can’t submerge all of the ribs in the sauce, every half hour or so pull the ribs from the bottom of the Dutch oven and place them on top.
You will need to continue to rotate the ribs so they all have enough time immersed in the sauce to cook to a tender consistency.
Serve them with your favorite sides like campfire corn on the cob.
More Dutch Oven Tips
When you know how to use a Dutch oven your camp cooking gets easier and tastier!