Smoked Rib Tips: Ultimate Guide for BBQ Bliss (With Recipe)

September 22, 2023
Written by John Smits

Rib tips are a tough cut of meat that is transformed into tender succulence when they're smoked at a low temperature. Cook them in your smoker at 250°F for 4-5 hours, slather them in your favorite sauce for the last hour, and you've got a BBQ delicacy on your hands.

My rib tip recipe is one of the secret weapons in my BBQ arsenal. I cut them into meaty pieces and stick them out as an appetizer, then watch as they disappear before the main course is served. Think of rib tips as pork's version of burnt ends - small nuggets of meat doused in sticky-sweet sauce.

Ready to cook? I'll cover everything you need to know about this overlooked cut of pork ribs and show you how to make tasty, finger-licking deliciousness. Get your napkins ready.

smoked rib tips

What to Know About Rib Tips Before We Cook Em?

Rib tips is a long strip that is trimmed from the breast bone, which sits on the lower end of a slab of spare ribs. A typical strip is 8 to 12 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide.

They are brimming with cartilage that runs in every direction. The cartilage and connective tissue become meltingly soft when slow-smoked.

Rib tips are also called brisket (not to be confused with beef brisket), brisket bone, costal cartilages, and breaks.

Rib tips boast the meatiness of spare ribs and the fattiness of pork belly, which is nearby in the pig. Yes, please! Step aside, baby back ribs - smoked rib tips might be your new favorite cut of rib.

Where to Get Rib Tips?

Rib tips aren't something you'll see packaged for sale at your typical grocery store. Butchers trim them when making a slab of St Louis-style ribs and grind the meat into sausage. Call your butcher and ask them to set some aside for you.

Or, if you've trimmed up your own slabs of spareribs into St Louis cut, don't throw those rib tips in the rubbish bin! Save them, and toss those tips on the smoker.

Smoked Rib Tip Recipe

Here's my recipe for Korean-inspired pork rib tips. Gochujang paste brings a fiery kick to the party.

Pork ribs (all pork, for that matter) are such a versatile meat - you can cook them with an American BBQ flavor, go Asian-inspired, or hit it with some Mexican seasoning. Whatever style of cuisine you go with, these pork ribs will shine.

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If you want to prepare more traditional ribs, substitute the gochujang glaze with your favorite tangy barbecue sauce, and throw 1 tablespoon of brown sugar in the rub. My favorite bbq sauce is Sweet Baby Ray's brand. Let's get to smoking rib tips!

Feeds: 4 as a main course, 12 as an appetizer

Suggested Wood Chunks, Wood Chips, or Pellets: Oak, hickory, pecan, cherry, or apple wood

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Approximate Cooking Time: 4-5 hours

For the Ribs

  • 4-5 pounds of rib tips
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • Sesame seeds and lime wedges to garnish

Dry Rub Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

Gochujang Glaze

  • 1/2 cup gochujang hot pepper paste
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
Grilled and Smoked Pork Rib Tips on the Wooden Board

To Cook

  1. Make the glaze. Mix together the glaze ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Don't boil, just warm it up for 5-10 minutes. Pour into a container and stick it in the fridge when done. The glaze will keep for around a week, so if you prefer, it can be cooked in advance.
  2. Preheat grill to 250°F. Fire up your pellet grill, charcoal grill (lump charcoal and charcoal briquettes are both fine), or whatever smoker you've got for indirect grilling. If you're not using a pellet smoker, toss some wood chunks or chips on the heat source. These can also be made in an oven, but you'll lose the smokey flavor that only comes from a live fire.
  3. Chop the ribs into small pieces. Cut the rib tips into small sections with a meat cleaver or sharp knife. I aim for 2-inch square pieces. This makes for just bigger than bite-sized pieces which you can hold in your hand.
  4. Combine the dry rub. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl with a whisk or fork.
  5. Coat the ribs in mustard. Use a basting brush and coat the ribs generously in mustard
  6. Apply the rub. Liberally season the rib tips in the spices, getting every side. Your favorite bbq rub can be substituted if desired. Make sure the ribs are seasoned everywhere.
  7. Put the rib tips on the grill. Place the rib tips directly on the grill grates. Cook over indirect heat for 3-4 hours, until the tips get a nice color (mahogany) and start to get tender.
  8. Apply the sauce. Apply that sauce, boss. Apply about 30 minutes or 1 hour before the ribs are done cooking. Baste, painting every surface of the rib tips with delicious and sticky glaze.
  9. I like to put the rib tips in a disposable aluminum pan, baking sheet, or aluminum foil and drizzle the glaze on them. Flip the smoked rib tips over and make sure every inch of bark is coated.
  10. Finish cooking for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The smoked rib tips are done cooking when they are probe tender - a toothpick or instant-read thermometer will slide in with little to no resistance. The internal temperature will likely be 190°F-205°F. I've been known to pull off a nibble of smoked rib tips to sample for doneness. Chef's treat!
  11. Rest. This might be the hardest part. Allow the smoked rib tips to sit for around 10 minutes before serving. The bark will harden and develop as they sit.
  12. Serve. Arrange the bbq rib tips on a serving platter. Sprinkle them with the sesame seeds, and stick some lime wedges out. Have some paper towels handy - these ribs are gloriously messy!

Serving Suggestions for Sides

You've got a delicious rack of ribs smoked - what should you pair with them on the table? My favorite dish to serve with rib tips is corn on the cob, which can be boiled but tastes best grilled. Top it with a generous dollop of butter and season with salt for heavenly corn.

Since this dish is Korean-inspired, flavorful kimchi and white rice (I like jasmine rice) are no-brainers. Or, serve the smoked rib tips with whatever is in season - eat it with asparagus in the spring, watermelon in the summer, apples in the fall, and gourds in the winter. Enjoy!

BBQ Pork Spare Ribs with Corn and Veggies

How Long Does it Take to Smoke Rib Tips?

The smoking process takes 4 or 5 hours, depending on weather, wind, the temperature consistency of your smoker, and other factors. You can't rush great things - the ribs are done when they are probe tender.

Are Rib Tips Worth It?

Yes, smoked rib tips are considered by some to be the finest expression of bbq on planet Earth.

They're a good choice because, if you're lucky enough to find a butcher who can get you some, they'll be an inexpensive cut of meat.

Better than cheap is basically free. If you're making St. Louis-style ribs and discarding the flap and rib tip trimmings, stop - hang on to them! Today is the day to stop throwing away perfectly good meat, people. Stick the rib tips in the freezer until you've got a few, then smoke them up. The tenderness of the riblets is unreal.

What is the 3-2-1 Method?

The 3-2-1 method is a popular technique for preparing ribs, with each number referring to cook time.

The ribs are cooked low and slow on the cooker for 3 hours, wrapped in aluminum foil for 2 hours (often with water or another liquid braise), then unwrapped for 1 hour to finish cooking.

Although this recipe doesn't call for the 3-2-1 method, you can certainly employ it when smoking rib tips. I'd bump the smoking temperature down to 225°F.

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What is the Difference Between Spare Ribs and Spare Rib Tips?

Spare ribs contain rib tips. Rib tips are at the bottom part of the spare rib, and they're often removed from the spare ribs to make a St. Louis cut before they're smoked.

Rib tips are often overlooked because they're full of fat and connective tissue (tough). But hit them with a blast of smoke, generous seasoning, and some sauce, and you've got a delightful piece of meat.

Roasted Pork Rack of Ribs with Onions and Greens

Wrapping It Up

There you go! Everything you need to cook up some out-of-this-world rib tips, including a rib tips recipe.

Fire up your grill and get to smoking those ribs. Keep your grill at 250°F, smoke for 3-4 hours, and hit those tips with some glaze 30-60 minutes before they're done cooking. You (and all the friends you're having over for dinner) will be glad you did.

By John Smits
John bought his first home in 2012 and bought his first grill shortly afterward: the ubiquitous Weber kettle grill. He’s been hooked since the first time he fired up some coals. Now, after over a decade spent making countless delicious meals, John is a passionate advocate for live-fire cooking.
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