There are few more satisfying barbecue recipes than ribs. Flavorful and tender, ribs are the perfect slow-cooking meal that comes out a crowd-pleaser every time.
But what if you want something smaller and easier to eat? Well, it’s time to meet the chicken wings of the rib world–the elusive and often misunderstood riblet.
What are Riblets vs Rib Tips?
Riblets are smaller trimmings made from a pork rib rack when the butcher cuts St. Louis-style ribs. They still come from the ribs, but they are typically discarded. The St. Louis rack is trimmed to be flat for a great presentation, but that leaves some scraps. Those scraps are still tasty and full of rib meat, however.
Riblets come from the rounded, curved bit of bone cut off the end of the St. Louis cut. There are more trimmings, too. The boneless strip of meat and cartilage from the ends of the ribs is known as the rib tips. Since these are technically scraps made from the butcher’s premium cuts, you can usually have riblets and rib tips for reasonable prices.
Both rib tips and riblets are much smaller than baby backs or St. Louis-style ribs. That makes them great for snacks and appetizers. To tell the difference between the two, remember that riblets have bones and are basically like a rack of very tiny ribs. Rib tips, on the other hand, are boneless.
Riblets are nothing more than a smaller cut than your usual baby back or sparerib cut. Many chefs simply ask their butcher to cut a baby back in half lengthwise if riblets are unavailable, creating two racks of riblets.
What Do Pork Riblets and Rib Tips Taste Like?
Both riblets and rib tips are still parts of the pork ribs–so their taste and preparation are similar to other rib recipes. If there are any differences, they simply come from the smaller size.
Ultimately, however, how a riblet tastes is all about the recipe. Like ribs, you can smoke or slow-cook your ribs, use dry rubs or slather them with sticky sauce–the choice is all yours.
Their smaller size also lends them a crispy texture. This makes them a fun small treat to serve with drinks or as an appetizer. They’re basically like chicken wings–only they’re pork ribs!
How to Cook Pork Riblets and Rib Tips
Cooking these cuts isn’t any different than cooking other pork rib recipes. The best results come from low and slow cooking methods like smoking or braising. If you want to cook them on the grill, they must cook for a few hours on indirect heat before being finished and seared over direct heat. This provides lots of time for the heat to break down the connective tissues and make them nice and tender.
To come up with great riblet recipes, simply browse online and find any pork recipe that sounds appealing. The prep and ingredients will be similar, although you might need to reduce the amounts a bit.
The only difference will be cooking time, which will be reduced simply because of the riblet’s smaller size. You could estimate, but a better bet is always to use an instant-read or probe meat thermometer and cook to the right temperature. Always cook ribs between 180 and 195 degrees.
Common Questions About Riblets
There’s always some confusion regarding riblets and rib tips since many use these two terms interchangeably. So here’s a little more information on these tasty tidbits.
Are Riblets Pork or Beef?
Riblets are made from pork ribs. They are some of the trimmings left after the butcher has made a St. Louis-style cut from the pork spareribs.
Do The Riblets Have Bones?
Riblets do have bones. They are cut from the end of the rib rack, where the bone is small and curved. If you’re looking for a boneless rib cut, you’re likely looking for a rib tip.
Do Riblets Have a Membrane?
All pork ribs have a tough membrane on their inner surface called the peritoneum. It’s always best to remove this before cooking since this prevents your seasonings from getting into the meat. It is generally quick and easy to remove by sliding a table knife under the membrane and prying it away from the meat. It’s possible that your butcher removed the membrane before packaging your riblets, so keep that in mind as well.
Are Pork Riblets Healthy?
Riblets are just a smaller version of baby back or spareribs. Nutritionally, they are high protein and high fat. Ribs are a good source of iron, zinc, and vitamins B12 and D. The least healthy thing about most barbecue recipes is the amount of sugary sauces that are usually used.
Both riblets and rib tips are delicious options, and they’re fabulous options for a party. If you’re looking for a fun way to enjoy the satisfying taste of pork ribs without the fuss, give riblets a try.