I don’t normally cook deer ribs. In fact, I don’t think that I ever have (before) but once. I usually just bone them out and put them into my sausage.
But the other day I shot a 220-pound deer that had much larger ribs than normal so I thought that I’d try them again.
There’s nothing exact about where to cut them off from the carcass. I’d say save the second rib on down to at least the eighth or 10th rib, although I saved down to the 12th rib. After the eighth to ninth rib the meat starts petering out and it get pretty thin and has a higher percentage of fat so it’s your call.
So what’s the easiest way to cut them off? I used a Sawzall. I made a knife cut between the first and second ribs and a cut between the 12th and 13th ribs. Then saw down the ribs near to the backbone. Make another saw cut parallel to the first cut along the midline, above the cartilage — at the bottom the bones curl in a J shape. You want to make your cut above that. It works best to have someone hold the rib so it doesn’t flop over or fall on the ground while cutting.
At the moment I am still out of state, so I don’t have my smoker and all of my cooking gear with me so if I was home, I’d’ve cooked it a little different. So in this article I’m going to describe how I would do it if I was at home. (But even so, they turned out great even under not so optimum conditions.)
You always hear how wild game fat gives the meat an off odor/taste. While this is somewhat true, many people get (overly zealous) when trimming, and remove every trace of fat and end up with a small bag of meat. Don’t be that person.
Let me digress a moment. There are three kinds of fat:
1. Subcutaneous — Pinch the roll of fat on your stomach. That is subcutaneous fat.
2. Intermuscular fat — Fat between the muscles.
3. Intramuscular fat — Fat inside the muscle. This is also called marbling. Wild game doesn’t marble. Cattle do. This shows in the “snowflakes” of fat you see dispersed in the ribeye cut, for example.
In a nutshell, if you try to trim out all of the intermuscular fat, then you will end up with a lot of small miscellaneous pieces of meat. Don’t do that. What I recommend is just trimming off the heavy subcutaneous fat.
So with the above said, trim the heavy fat cover off of the outside of the ribs and call it good. Don’t try to dig down in the seams and remove all of the fat or you’ll whack up your ribs.
Now we’re ready to cook our ribs. Apply a dry rub on them. I’d recommend throwing them on your smoker for one to three hours to give them a smoky flavor. It will also allow some of the fat to melt and drip off (see, you don’t have to overtrim).
If you don’t have a smoker put them on your grill on the lowest setting to achieve the same goal.
Then put them in a big pan in your oven for three to five hours on something like 325 degrees. Put in a couple of cups of water to keep them steamed and moist. The meat will shrink up from the ends and when it will tear apart easily with a fork — it is done.
To finish, I pulled the meat off of the bones and sprinkled with a coarse seasoning— I used McCormick steak seasoning and some Tony Chachere’s spices. Then I lathered on some Kraft barbecue sauce. (I don’t have a good barbecue sauce recipe. The Kraft regular flavor barbecue sauce is the best that I have found.)
They were tender and good. Due to the fat there was a minor gamey off odor /taste but it was minuscule and the sauce and spices masked it. I think pre-smoking it would remove this taste.