How To Cut Spare Ribs Into Riblets

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Riblets are extremely easy to cook, which is arguably the biggest part of their appeal.

That said, not all butchers sell these cuts. Furthermore, while you might find frozen riblet cuts in the store, frozen meat, when cooked, can come out tasting bland and watery.

Here’s a guide on how to cut spare ribs into riblets so you can try them out even if they’re not available locally.

How To Cut Spare Ribs Into Riblets

There’s not a lot to it. The key to making proper cuts is to take a good look at the rack of ribs you have in front of you. Butchers, too, first get a feel for the length of the bones and find where the bones stop before they grab a knife.

Whole pork rib rack

Step #1: Take A Good Look At The Meat

As you’ll observe, the top side of the rack is where all the meat is. However, it is the backside of the rack where you will need to put work in to get your hands on some easy-to-cook riblets.

Step #2: Grab Your Tools

You’re going to need a sharp knife and a solid cutting board to cut the meat as required.

But besides that, make sure you have some paper towels ready. The rack of spare ribs you bought will have a dull, white layer of membrane on it. The towels will help you pull off this membrane.

Step #3: Remove The Skirt Of The Rack

Lay the rack on its back on your chopping board. You will find a thin strip of meat along the back and also sometimes on the side of the ribs. This strip of meat is called the “skirt” and must be trimmed off to make the pork easier to cook.

If the layer of meat isn’t gotten rid of, you won’t be able to access the ribs and cut them. Grab your knife, and begin cutting the meat along the ribs to take the strip of meat off the rack.

Ensure that the meat on your ribs remains evenly thick when cutting off the skirt – an unevenly thick piece of meat is difficult to eat and can sometimes be unappetizing.

Step #4: Get Rid Of The Membrane

When you remove the skirt, you will notice that there’s a white film on your spare ribs. This is the membrane that divides the chest cavity from the rib area of the hog.

The membrane is naturally waterproof and will keep the seasoning and smokey flavor (if you’re BBQing the pork) out of the meat.

While you can choose not to pull the membrane off, removing it will make your pork taste more flavorful.

To remove it, grip it with the help of a paper towel and peel it off. It will take a few seconds to do but will make a big difference to the taste of the meat.

Step #5: Cut The Rack Of Spare Ribs Lengthwise

Now that you have your pork ribs ready to cut, cut the rack lengthwise into two slabs of meat.

There are two ways of going about things from here. You can either:

  • Separate each rib with your knife, then cut the ribs down into small pieces, making them riblets; or
  • Cut the ribs sideways directly without separating them to make long strips of meat with the rib bones in between.

You can cut the rack depending on how you want to cook your riblets.

Seasoned pork riblet


It is important to note that generally, butchers cut riblets from the parts they typically discard when cutting spare ribs. If you want to make use of those trimmings instead of getting spare ribs and breaking them down into smaller “riblets,” buy a St. Louis cut and cut the extra meat near the baby back ribs to get access to the true riblets.

Step #6: Clean The Cuts

When you cut the ribs, some bone fragments will inevitably get stuck on the meat. Before you get to the cooking and enjoying your pork, make sure you wash the meat under cold running water thoroughly.

Pork bones are sharp, and biting into a shard will cut your mouth.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Cut Of Meat Is A Riblet?

While beef can be cut into riblets, pork is the meat referred to when riblets come into the conversation. While ribs cut into short pieces are also riblets, most butchers refer to riblets as trimmings that are discarded to give the spare ribs a better look.

If you ask your local butcher to cut you some riblets, you may be able to get the cut for a lot cheaper than buying a rack and cutting it out yourself.

Are Riblets And Rib Tips The Same Meat?

Riblets and rib tips are two different cuts. Rib tips are boneless strips of meat that can be trimmed off St. Louis-style pork ribs.

In contrast, riblets are the round bone ends of the rib rack that are often thrown away when butchers trim pork ribs. Shortened spare ribs are also considered riblets.

How To Store Riblets?

While freezing meat can affect its taste and tenderness if you absolutely can’t avoid freezing it, store the riblets in food-safe packaging in the coldest part of your freezer. This is the right way to go about storage if you’ll be cooking the meat in three days or less.

If you need to store riblets for longer, tightly wrap them in plastic or buy special freezer paper and store it in the freezer.

How Long Before Cooked Riblets Go Bad?

Leftovers must be refrigerated within two hours of cooking, ideally stored in an airtight container. The meat won’t go bad for a couple of days, but you should eat it as soon as you can.

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Riblets are juicy and crunchy and are best served as irresistible BBQ appetizers. For a cut that’s often done away with, riblets taste amazing!

And now that you know how to cut them yourself, you can make the most of this easy-to-cook cut whenever your appetite desires.

Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.