Venison ribs are a bit of a sore spot for most people.
On one hand, you’ve got some of the tastiest darn ribs you will ever try, but on the other hand, you have the tedious job of butchering, prepping, and cooking the ribs.
Why that’s a problem, is because, from a whole deer, you get about enough meat for a snack for two people from the ribs.
Most guys and gals will run their blades up and down the rib bones and toss the meat in the grind pile.
Don’t do that, make these ribs instead, There is not much work and they’re better than any beef or pork ribs.
I make venison ribs in 3 parts. The first part is the dry rub which consists of a handful of dry spices.
There is nothing out of the ordinary for this dry rub it’s your typical garlic, onion, salt, and pepper.
I also use paprika and there are two approaches to this. I like to use Spanish paprika for venison ribs because it’s a little sweeter than Hungarian paprika.
If you wanted your venison ribs a little on the spicier side, you should use Hungarian paprika.
But, this recipe also uses mustard seeds which will already bring a little spice to the ribs, keep that in mind when choosing which paprika to use.
I also use coriander seeds to bring a little lighter sweeter flavor.
The next part is the ingredients in the wrap
Wrapping the ribs helps to turn them tender, but I’ll explain more about that below in the cooking section.
What I want to explain here is the ingredients I use for the wrap, which are maple syrup, butter, and raw brown sugar.
These ingredients are fused into the meat through steaming and elevate the sweetness greatly.
You may think that it’s too much sweetness, but by applying it in the wrap while steaming, instead of on the rub, the balance is perfect.
The last part is the BBQ sauce. Most people use a store-bought BBQ sauce and that’s ok.
I try to make as much homemade food as I can, and considering how easy this sauce is to make I do it at home.
The sauce uses a few ingredients as I wanted something to blend with venison ribs which don’t taste like beef or pork ribs.
So while it has the traditional BBQ sauce of apple cider vinegar and sugar, it also has other ingredients like Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, and paprika.
As I mentioned earlier you want to play with the natural sweetness of the venison. This recipe balances well with the sweetness and creates a deep rustic smokey flavor.
Cooking Venison Ribs
Smoking venison ribs takes a long time but isn’t very involved.
Once the ribs are trimmed up the first thing to do is apply the rub.
The rub can be applied the night before or just before smoking, I’ve noticed no noticeable difference between both options.
When applying the rub, sprinkle an even layer of your powdered rub on the ribs and gently pat on the meat.
I do not use a binder for this recipe, instead, I use the natural juices from the venison to bind the rub.
After patting the rub into the meat allow the ribs to rest for a few minutes while the meat releases juice. If you are preparing the ribs the day before you can wrap them in saran wrap and put them in the refrigerator.
If you are cooking them straight away, leave them while you start the grill, by the time it’s up to temperature the ribs will be ready.
Set the grill to somewhere between 200-225F. Higher than 225F and your ribs will burn, and lower than 200F is not going to smoke your ribs.
Hold this temperature for about 10 minutes, to ensure an even smoke and that you don’t lose the heat when you open the lid.
When the grill comes to temperature add in your smoking wood.
The wood I used for smoking is hickory and I highly recommend it. I’ve used other woods in the past such as apple and oak, but I found hickory gives venison ribs the best flavor.
Another good option would be a hickory and apple mix.
Place the ribs on the grill and close the lid, smoke the ribs for about 1.5 hours, you could stretch this to 2 hours, but don’t overcook the ribs.
Roll out a sheet of aluminum foil, or butcher paper to cover a rack of ribs, do this for every rack you are smoking.
Lay a few pieces of butter in the center and sprinkle over some sugar, then pour over the maple syrup.
Place the ribs’ meat side down onto the foil and wrap tightly. Return the ribs to the smoker and continue to cook at the same temperature.
The idea of wrapping the ribs is to make them extremely tender, for venison ribs, this should take about 1.5 to two hours.
Once the ribs are tender it’s time to finish them
To finish the ribs, remove them from the grill and very carefully unwrap them, minding not to burn yourself.
Using a brush, liberally apply the BBQ sauce you prepared earlier. Return the ribs to the grill and continue to cook at 200-225F until the sauce becomes tacky.
After 30 minutes to one hour, the sauce should be sticky and the ribs will be cooked.
Carefully remove the ribs to a board, they should be extremely tender. Allow the ribs to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
I like to have a side dish with my venison ribs, my goto’s are smoked mac and cheese or corn on the cob.
Smoked Venison Ribs
- Venison Ribs
- hickory wood for smoking
- 1/4 cup apple cider spritz
- 1 tbsp Spanish paprika
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tbsp onion powder
- 1/2 tbsp black pepper whole
- 1/2 tsp coriander whole
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 4 tbsp butter unsalted
- 4 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 10 tbsp ketchup
- 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 6 tbsp brown sugar raw
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp liquid smoke optional
- 1 tsp spanish paprika
- Add all the ingredients to a mortar and use the pestle to grind to a powder
- Sprinkle the dry rubs over the ribs and pat in. Because there is no binder used, leave the ribs to sit for 5 minutes allowing the rub to naturall bind using the venison juices
- Add the sugar to a bowl and pour over the apple cider vinegar. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Add in the remaining ingredients and stir. Set in the fridge until you are ready to use
- Fire up your grill and get to 200-225F
- If using a charcoal grill, add in the hickory (or wood of your choice). Add heat deflector. Close the lid and let the temperature steady
- Place the ribs on the grill meaty side down. Smoke for 1.5 hours, keeping the temperature around 200F
- Roll out some aluminum foil to wrap the ribs in, enough to wrap the racks individually.
- Divide the butter, sugar and maple syrup between each sheet.
- Add the ribs on top of the sheet meaty side down and wrap tightly. Return the wrapped ribs to the grill and cook for another 1.5 hours
- Carefully remove the ribs from the grill and unwrap.
- Coat the ribs in the BBQ sauce and return to the grill and cook for another hour, or until the BBQ sauce is tacky
- Remove the ribs from the smoker and allow to rest for 10 minutes