Smoked pork riblets are an addictive BBQ appetizer made from parts of the rib rack that are often discarded. But trust me, these bad boys are crunchy, tangy, and addictive!
Here’s everything you need to know about the beautiful meat snack, and how to make them with our foolproof BBQ riblet recipe.
What are pork riblets?
That’s right, these are different from regular pork or beef ribs, although you’d be forgiven for the confusion.
Riblets are made from regular pork ribs by cutting the rib rack lengthways. The two resulting slabs of ribs are then cut up to make small rib pieces.
They can also be made from the discarded rib parts that butchers make when trimming ribs.
This makes them more snack-like and better suited to creating party food snacks. It also allows you better coverage for your BBQ sauce or rub.
Riblets shouldn’t be confused with ‘rib tips’, which actually come from the boneless strip of meaty tips that are trimmed off St Louis-style ribs.
Riblets are different in that they come from the round bone ends of the rib rack, which are often discarded by butchers when trimming pork ribs for the sake of presentation.
Because riblets essentially come from discarded bits of pork ribs, they’re often fairly cheap to buy. They’re also extremely easy to cook, but are almost guaranteed to be a BBQ party hit.
What do pork riblets taste like?
Because they essentially are pork ribs, they taste almost exactly how you’d expect. Any variety will depend on what BBQ sauce or rub you use.
However because they’re smaller and sometimes contain less meat, they lend themselves very well to forming a crunchy texture. In this regard they’re quite similar to chicken wings, whereby they can have sections of tender and succulent meat, and then have addictive crunch tips and ends. Crunchy but tender, and in small BBQ appetizer form. They’re the perfect messy finger food.
How to buy pork riblets
You can sometimes find them already prepared, but it’s more than likely that you will have to get regular pork ribs. You can ask your butcher to cut pork loin back ribs in half to create two slabs, and you can then do the rest at home.
How to store pork riblets
Like a lot of meat cuts, riblets can be stored in your refrigerator for up to three days. They’ll need to be tightly packaged, but should last fine within that time period.
If you need to freeze them, then they will last in tight plastic packaging for up to three months.
If you have already cooked them, then they can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a couple of days maximum.
Pork riblet recipe
These pork riblets are coated in a thick layer of deliciously sweet BBQ sauce and slowly smoked to give you fall-off-the-bone goodness.
Some people oven cook these, but I prefer to smoke them and finish them off with a quick sear.
The process for this recipe isn’t too dissimilar to the steps for my 3-2-1 ribs recipe, which some of you may be familiar with.
Quick tip: This recipe will require some knowledge around indirect grilling and 2-zone cooking, so if you haven’t tried that before then take a look at my guide on how to grill on indirect heat.
Smoked Pork Riblets
- 2 slabs pork ribs cut into small riblet size
- BBQ sauce
- BBQ rub
- Set up your grill for indirect grilling or 2-zone cooking, and aim for a cooking temperature of 225°F (107°C).
- Place the riblets on the indirect zone, bone-size down.
- Cook low and slow for 3 hours uninterrupted
- Remove riblets from grill and wrap in foil. Do this by placing the riblets bone-side down in aluminum foil and create a pouch. Pour ½ cup of apple cider into the foil and over the riblets. Close the pouch tightly and place back on grill away from the flames. Cook for one more hour.
- After one hour, remove wrapped riblets from grill. Unwrap riblets and remove from foil pouch. Use a BBQ brush to rub BBQ sauce over the riblets. Apply generously on all sides of the riblets.
- Place riblets back on grill, this time not in the foil pouch. Still place on indirect zone of the grill, away from direct heat. Cook for further 30 minutes. The sauce should have started to cake onto the riblets slightly.
- After 30 minutes, transfer riblets to direct zone. Sear for roughly 30 seconds. This should allows the riblets to become slightly crispy.
- Remove riblets from grill and transfer to fresh aluminum pouch. Leave to rest for 10 minutes to allow the juices to continue to make the riblets tender.
Riblets are made from regular pork ribs by cutting the rib rack lengthways and then into smaller pieces. They can also be made from the discarded rib parts that butchers make when trimming ribs. They are cheap, easy to cook, and are a great barbecue appetizer.
Riblets are not boneless. They are formed from the discarded strips of bone that remains after a rib rack is trimmed down. Riblets are often confused with ‘rib tips’, which are often boneless. In many recipes, riblets and tips are used interchangeably.
Both beef and pork can be made into riblets, although pork is far more common. In American BBQ cuisine, ‘ribs’ usually refers to pork but can also be used for beef.