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"Southside" Chicago Style Smoked Rib Tips

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Smoked rib tips recipe featuring tender and meaty pieces of pork ribs rubbed with spices and slow-smoked to moist chewy morsels. They're small and boney, but pack big flavor.

Baby back ribs and pork spare-ribs get all the attention and shine, but the real ones know, pork rib tips are where it's at. Flavorwise and just plain old eating enjoyment wise they are on the same level.

This pork rib recipe is great for a holiday appetizer particularly the family Fourth of July barbecue or if you're like me it's messy finger foods that are so tasty you can't just eat a few making it more of a main course dish.

You'll need to have your paper towels ready since these smaller pieces of tender goodness when slathered in tangy barbecue sauce can be a rewarding messy affair.

Being a ribs guy, I was aware of rib tips, but it wasn't until I moved to Chicago that I got to know rib tips, like really know 'em. And if you don't know them, you definitely need to know them.

Northsiders in Chitown know nothing about rib tips, so you gotta go to the Southside. Lem's was my go-to spot for rib tips.

Rib tips are that humble fantastic ish. They're cheap but damn good like most hood food. Southsiders like their ribs heavy on the sauce, but I'm a Texas cat through and through so it's either no sauce or on the side.

What Are Rib Tips?

Pork rib tips are like pork belly but with small pieces of cartilage. Because of their small size many call them riblets.

They are meat cuts which come from that shorter section of a full rack of ribs that is cut-off to make St. Louis-style ribs which is more of a cleaner rectangular box look. What you end up with are spare rib tips, "short ends," or pork riblets as they are called.

This is what you'd get if you asked the butcher for trimmed ribs. Rib tips are the bottom trimmed off parts.

It's a well-kept secret in the hood that rib tips are the most flavorful part of the rib. Because not everyone is in the loop on this, they run pretty cheap.

square ribs

Smoked Rib Tips Ingredients

It's just ribs and a simple spice dry rub. Use your favorite rub recipe or try the simple one I made which includes: paprika, cayenne, kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, brown sugar, and cumin. Sauce is optional.

Since rib tips are fairly common in the midwest, particularly Chicago, you can find pre-cut rib tips readily available. However, if you don't have access you can easily have your butcher give you the tips or just cut them off your slab yourself.

Raw Rib Tips on a tray

Since rib tips are fairly common in the midwest, particularly Chicago, you can find pre-cut rib tips readily available. However, if you don't have access you can easily have your butcher give you the tips or just cut them off your slab yourself.

How To Smoke Rib Tips (step by step)

Step 1: Season the meat overnight with the spice mixture and refrigerate

Seasoned Rar Rib Tips

Step 2: Smoke the ribs low and slow on indirect heat between 225-250 degrees F for 3-4 hours

Rib Tips Smoking on the grill

Step 3: Allow tips to rest 5 minutes and then chop into pieces

chopped ribs on wood block with meat cleaver

Serving Suggestions

This rib tips recipe goes well with fries and slaw. Try my Belgian fries and collard greens slaw. Serve the tips over slices of white bread. Save the bread for last, as it soaks up all the fatty grease and flavor from the ribs.

rib tibs on top of bread on a plate

Tips for Smoking Tips

  • Smoke the tips intact vs cutting them first. Smoking them whole will preserve their moisture.
  • To cook them Chicago style increase the temperature to 300 degrees and baste the ribs the last 30 minutes of cook with your favorite bbq sauce.
  • Whenever I buy slabs of ribs, I carve them and then freeze the tips until I'm ready to cook them.
  • For a barbecue sauce recipe try this Jerk BBQ Sauce or Chiptole BBQ Sauce.
  • Check out my full list of 27 of the best bbq sides for a more comprehensive list of side dish options to pair with your rib tips.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) For BBQ Rib Tips

What Special Tools or Appliances Do I Need?

You'll definitely need a grill. I have made this recipe on my Kamado Joe Smoker, Traeger Pellet Smoker, and an old-school charcoal grill. I'm partial to smokers set-up for indirect heat which makes it easy for low and slow smoke cooking which gives slabs of rib tips their magic.

If you're cutting your own rib tips, you'll need a really sharp knife to cut through the cartilage and strip of meat.

Can You Cook Rib Tips In An Instant Pot?

I personally haven't cause I'm partial to the traditional old-school way. I'm not above changing things up and I'm a big instant pot fan, but I haven't made the pork rib tips in an instant pot yet. Maybe at some point, I will and I'll update this post with the creation. If you're dead set on going the instant pot rib tips route, try this recipe.

Where Can I Find Pork Ribs Near Me?

If you live in Chicago, you'll find them all over the Southside in any grocery store. For us not lucky enough to be Chicago Southsiders, you can buy full slabs of St. Louis-style ribs and cut them yourself reserving the rib tips or you can have a specialty butcher shop do the dirty work for you.

How Long To Smoke Rib Tips?

Cooking time for rib tips can vary quite a bit depending on type of smoker and it's ability to maintain temperature. Size and number of rib tips cooked will also play a role. Cooked low and slow (225 degrees) will take you about 3 hours.

What Kind of Wood Is Best For Smoking Ribs?

I prefer a fruitwood like apple or a hardwood like oak for these ribs. Whether you have cherry, apple, pear, etc. go with what is available to you. Just don't use mesquite as that super strong flavor will overpower everything else. Checkout this guide for pairing wood with smoked ribs for more detailed breakdown.

Are Rib Tips Bad For You?

If you're trying to eat better then rib tips aren't for you, but if you want to enjoy some good eats, then go all in with these bad boys. I ain't judging!!!

Are rib tips the same as burnt ends?

Though they are equally delicious and a joy to eat in different ways, they are in fact very different foods. Rib tips are strictly pork pieces from spare ribs. Burnt ends are traditionally from the point end of beef brisket though in some cases you'll see recipes for chuck roast burnt ends or pork belly burnt ends.

For other smoker recipes like this you might like, try these:

Smoked Whole Cauliflower

Smoked Cornish Hen

Smoked Pork Chops

Smoked Trout

Slow Smoked Lamb Ribs

Jerk Baby Back Ribs

Smoked Rib Sandwich

Smoked Cabbage

Smoked Jerk Chicken

If you make this smoked rib tips recipe or any other from the site, please come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them.

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Smoked Rib Tips

Tender meaty pieces of pork rubbed with spices and slow smoked to moist chewy morsels.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: BBQ
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 334kcal
Author: Marwin Brown

Equipment

  • Smoker

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rib tips
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ tablespoon coarse black pepper
  • ½ ground cumin

Instructions

  • Mix rub ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
  • Rub the rib slabs generously with the rub and refrigerate at least 2 hours but preferred overnight.
  • Smoke ribs between 225-250 degrees F for 3-4 hours.
  • Optional - Last 30 minuets of cook time baste slabs with bbq sauce
  • Allow rib tips to rest 5 minutes. Chop the ribs into smaller pieces.
  • Serve

Video

YouTube video

Notes

Smoke the tips intact vs cutting them first. Smoking them whole will preserve their moisture.
To cook them Chicago style increase the temperature to 300 degrees and baste the ribs the last 30 minutes of cook with your favorite bbq sauce.
Whenever I buy slabs of ribs, I carve them and then freeze the tips until I'm ready to cook them.

Nutrition

Calories: 334kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Sodium: 965mg | Potassium: 68mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1049IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 1mg
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Recipe Rating




Gerald Wilson

Saturday 28th of May 2022

FYI -- Pre-cut rib tips are available from Walmart's meat department even outside of Chicagoland

Marwin Brown

Tuesday 31st of May 2022

Love it! Thanks Sir!

J w

Tuesday 5th of April 2022

I buy full racks of ribs and trim them up myself and freeze them until I have enough for a good round in the smoker.

Marwin Brown

Tuesday 5th of April 2022

That's dedication! Love it!

Veronika

Sunday 18th of April 2021

My mouth is watering just by looking at these ribs! Cannot wait to open the grill season and make this recipe!

Elaine

Sunday 18th of April 2021

Yes, it's that time of the year! I can't wait to get the right meat for it and get to cooking. I bet the smell is out of this world!

Ramona

Sunday 18th of April 2021

When I saw the picture for this recipe I knew I had to make this! The ribs look absolutely amazing and super delicious. Thank you for sharing this recipe, I cant wait to try it out!