Barbecue is often referred to as a primal experience. And there's nothing more primal than pork rib tips: short, meaty sections of rib that are attached to the spare ribs and usually cut off when the ribs are trimmed St. Louis style. They can be chewy, and there is a lot of cartilage to navigate around. But when done right, these little meat nuggets are great. They are meltingly tender, and all that gnawing is as gloriously primitive as eating gets.
Ask a butcher to cut off the rib tips for you; or buy 2 full spare ribs racks and use a cleaver to remove the tips.
Make Ahead: The rib tips need to rest in their spice rub for at least 1 hour and up to overnight. The hardwood chips need to be soaked in water for 1 hour before grilling.
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons finely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 4 pounds (2 racks) pork rib tips (see headnote)
Combine the brown sugar, salt, chili powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, Old Bay, sage and onion powder in a medium bowl. Stir well, making sure there are no clumps.
Rub the spice mixture onto the rib tips. Set the rib tips aside for at least an hour at room temperature; or wrap them in foil and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to grill, soak 1 cup of hardwood chips, such as pecan or apple, in water for 1 hour.
Prepare the grill for indirect heat: If using a gas grill, preheat to 250 degrees; for a two-burner grill, use one burner and leave the other unlit; for three or more burners, leave the center burners unlit. If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them on one-half of the grill.
When the fire is ready, drain the wood chips and add them to the coals. If using a gas grill, use a smoker box or make an aluminum foil pouch and set the chips inside it; puncture the pouch on top with a few fork holes to release smoke. Place the pouch or smoker box on the flavorizer bars.
Place the rib tips directly over the heat source for about 3 minutes, then turn them over and grill for 3 minutes. Use tongs to move them to the cool side of the grate.
Close the grill lid. Smoke the rib tips at 225 to 250 degrees for 4 to 5 hours, until the meat tears easily. If you like, add sauce during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Chop the rib tips into individual pieces. Serve with Chicago-Style Rib Tip BBQ Sauce (see related recipe.)
Adapted from “America's Best BBQ: 100 Recipes from America's Best Smokehouses, Pits, Shacks, Rib Joints, Roadhouses, and Restaurants,” by Ardie Davis and Paul Kirk (Andrews McMeel, 2009).
Tested by Jeff Donald.
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