By Dru Chai
In my younger days of eating BBQ, I've always wondered what rib tips were. Did people just take a rib and chop the tips off? Why would they do that--wouldn't the entire rib taste much better? Or are they simply mini-versions of a rib? Well, it's none of the above, of course. They are the leftover "scraps" after trimming a rack of spare ribs, thereby transforming them into a uniform-shaped St. Louis Style ribs.
So what do you do with these rib tips? Some people just toss them away into the garbage. Feed them to the dogs. Dry them up to make pork jerky. Or maybe even collect enough of them to make a porky meat dress out of it (click here for inspiration). Hey, the possibilities are endless and only limited to your imagination.
Rib tips still have some cartilage and good amount of meat. Since I hate to see food go to waste--even if it is the bastard-child of the almighty bone-in pork rib--might as well do something with it. Once you've trimmed away all of the fat, you can throw the rib tips in a slow cooker. You could season it first, brown it on all sides on the skillet or pan, then add some vegetables later on.
Here's what I did--I took both rib tip flaps and a few trimmings, seasoned it liberally, then wrapped it up in heavy duty aluminum foil. You can even pour in some apple juice or marinate inside the foil before wrapping it up. That way, it will give some added moisture and the juices will steam the meat--making it nice and tender. Throw in in the oven for about 3-4 hours at 225-250 degrees (low and slow, you don't want to be making leather shoe strips here).
The result should be some fork-tender pork meat--the texture is a bit similar to pulled pork (shoulder), but it still has some of that meaty rib flavor. When the rib tips cooled down, I simply used my hands to pull apart all the chunks of meat, getting rid of any huge clusters of fat and cartilage. Take the meat and make a rib-tip sandwich, throw it on top of a salad, or simply dip with your favorite BBQ sauce.
As an added bonus, I also drained some of the natural meat juices ("meat juice," now there's a phrase of the day) into a separate bowl. Don't waste it--use it for just about anything to infuse some pork flavor. I used it as base for my homemade BBQ sauce. I'll have to save that for another post.