These tender, juicy BBQ rib tips are cooked low and slow on a charcoal grill. Seasoned with a zesty homemade BBQ rub, they’ll be the star of your cookout!
Grilling season doesn’t make an appearance in the Pacific Northwest very often, but when it does, this insanely delicious BBQ pork rib tips recipe is at the top of my list! It’s a classic barbecue recipe—tender pork ribs seasoned with my homemade BBQ seasoning blend. They have the perfect smoky flavor thanks to Liquid Smoke (an essential ingredient if you don’t use woodchips in your grill). The rub is the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. Pair with your favorite sides, and you’re party-ready!
I bust out this recipe when my family comes to town (and when the weather allows). Recently, my “younger” brother and his family came to visit. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that every time my baby bro comes to town, I have to cook for him. The first night, he requested his favorite meal: mac and cheese, fried chicken, and peas. The second day, I fired up the grill and made THE juiciest barbecue rib tips EVER.
So, enough rambling. Let’s get into how to cook spare rib tips on the grill!
What Are Pork Rib Tips?
So, what exactly are rib tips? Are they a good cut of meat? Rib tips are the ends of pork ribs that are cut away to make St. Louis-style ribs. They’re typically full of cartilage, but when cooked low and slow, that cartilage softens, making them exceptionally tender and flavorful.
Rib tips are cut from a different part of the rib than pork riblets, but as far as using one or the other in this recipe, they’re interchangeable. However, I think rib tips are a staple at classic Southern cookouts. They don’t have any bones, they’re MUCH easier to eat than a full rack of ribs, and the small pieces make it easy to feed a crowd.
Rib tips are sold in strips—visually, they look similar to spare ribs with a membrane and strips of fat. But once they’re done, you can cut them up into small bite-sized pieces without worrying about eating around bones. You should easily be able to find them at your local grocery store or butcher shop.
Ingredients for Grilled BBQ Rib Tips
Cousins, this is a short list of ingredients—that’s what makes this recipe so amazing!! Here’s everything you need to make grilled rib tips.
- Rib Tips: I used pork ribs, but you can use beef if you prefer.
- BBQ Dry Rub: I use my homemade barbecue rub recipe, which is made up of the best dry rub seasonings, like brown sugar, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, onion powder, and black pepper.
- Apple Juice: I know this sounds like a wild card, but trust me—it’s a must-have ingredient!
- Olive Oil: keeps the ribs from sticking to the grill and helps the dry rub stick to the meat.
- Liquid Smoke: adds the perfect touch of smoky flavor without having to use woodchips.
That’s it—that’s all you need to make the juiciest rib tips! If you have a preferred BBQ seasoning, use that. These rib tips are so good that BBQ sauce is totally optional.
How to Make BBQ Rib Tips on the Grill
Cooking rib tips on a charcoal grill could not be any easier! If you’re an “unseasoned” griller, this is the perfect recipe to start with. You just have to get your grill started, and once it’s going, it’s minimal effort. Here’s what you need to do:
- First, get the grill going. I use a charcoal grill without woodchips for smoke. Get the coals started, and let that grill heat up. You’re going to cook the rib tips over indirect heat, so once the grill is at temperature, you’ll push the coals to one side of the grill.
- Next, prep the rib tips. Clean them up by removing excess fat and membranes from the ribs. Use a paper towel to pat down the ribs and remove any excess moisture.
- Then, you’re going to drizzle the rib tips with olive oil. Rub that in, then sprinkle half of your BBQ rub over the oiled ribs. Use your (clean) hands to rub the seasoning into the meat, ensuring the rub covers both sides.
- When the grill is ready, place the rib tips on the grill grates on the opposite side of where the coals are. Close the lid, and you’ll check on the ribs and flip them every 20 minutes.
- While the ribs are cooking, make your “mop sauce.” Combine the other half of the BBQ rub with the apple juice, olive oil, and liquid smoke. Stir until combined.
- Every 20-25 minutes, check on the rib tips, flip them over, and baste them with the sauce on both sides.
How to Know When BBQ Rib Tips Are Done
So, what temperature should BBQ rib tips be cooked to? If you’re cooking low and slow like I did, it’ll take anywhere from two and a half to three hours to cook these delicious ribs all the way. Although the ribs take a lot of time, the flavor is SO worth it, Cousins!
Once the internal temperature reaches 175-190 degrees F, you’ll know the rib tips are done. This is the sweet spot for perfectly tender, juicy ribs that practically melt in your mouth.
What does indirect cooking on a grill mean?
Grilling with indirect heat means cooking the food over the cooler portion of the grill, away from the heat source (the coals). Temperatures on that side of the grill are usually lower, which extends the cooking time, but the low heat breaks down that cartilage in the rib tips and makes the meat oh-so-tender. Indirect cooking works best on a covered grill.
If you’re wondering if it’s possible to cook with indirect heat over a gas grill, the answer is yes! You just need to preheat your grill, then turn off the burners directly under where the ribs will be placed.
What temperature should the grill be to cook BBQ rib tips?
Preheat your grill to anywhere from 275-300 degrees F before putting the ribs on the grill, and make sure it stays at a consistent temperature. For a gas grill, heat the grill to 500-550 degrees (I know it seems high, but you’ll be turning off half of the burners, which will reduce the heat of your grill).
BBQ Rib Tips Recipe Variations
This rib tips recipe is easily adjustable—there’s so much you can do with such a simple recipe and a grill! Here are some delicious ways to shake up the recipe.
- Use a different cut of meat or a different protein altogether. This recipe could easily be used on baby back ribs or St. Louis cut ribs. You could also grill a whole chicken, chicken wings, or beef short ribs!
- Use your favorite tangy barbecue sauce or make a homemade sauce! Most homemade BBQ sauce recipes call for simple ingredients—a tomato base (like ketchup), vinegar (like apple cider vinegar) to balance the flavor, seasonings and spices (like cayenne, chili powder, or Worcestershire sauce) and water.
- Prep the rib tips ahead of time. Apply the seasoning rub and let the ribs marinate for anywhere from 2-6 hours to overnight in the fridge.
- Oven-baked rib tips: yes, you can make this recipe in the oven! Same ingredients, slightly different cooking times. You’ll need a sheet pan, aluminum foil, and cooking spray. Bake the seasoned rib tips in a 250-degree F oven for about 2-2.5 hours. Bast the ribs with the mopping sauce mixture, increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and cook for another 20-30 minutes.
What to Serve with Grilled BBQ Rib Tips
You could serve this recipe with just about any of your favorite side dishes. I personally prefer to go the classic Southern cookout route and pair them with the ultimate Southern side dishes. Here’s a variety of sides to serve with BBQ ribs:
- Southern Potato Salad
- Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese Casserole
- Soul Food Collard Greens
- Moist Homemade Sweet Potato Muffins
- Honey Jalapeno Cornbread
- Southern Sweet Cornbread
- Oven Baked Corn On The Cob
- Miracle Whip Coleslaw Recipe
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Barbecue Rip Tips Recipe
- 5 – 6 lbs pork rib tips
- 2 cups apple juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp hickory liquid smoke
- Fire up the grill. Make sure that the grill is approximately 275 F.
- Combine all of the seasonings, and mix until well combined.1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1 tbsp salt OR salt free seasoning, 2 tbsp garlic powder, 2 tbsp onion powder, 2 tbsp paprika, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper, 1 tbsp parsley flakes
- Divide the seasonings into half, and place them in separate bowls.
- Drizzle 1/8 cup of olive oil over the ribs tips, and rub the oil all over the meat.1/4 cup olive oil, 5 – 6 lbs pork rib tips
- Take one bowl of the seasonings, and generously season the rib tips. Be sure to get all surfaces!
- In a medium bowl, combine 2 cups of apple juice, liquid smoke, the remaining seasoning, and 1/8 cup of olive oil. Mix the ingredients, and that will be your "mop sauce."2 cups apple juice, 2 tbsp hickory liquid smoke, 1/4 cup olive oil
- Make sure you have the charcoal on one side of the grill.
- Place the rib tips on the opposite side as the charcoal.
- Grill the ribs for about 20 minutes, with the lid closed, then flip & mop the ribs. Do this every 25-20 minutes.
- Grill the ribs for a total of 2 1/2 hours OR until completely done (some may take a little longer).
- Serve with or without sauce!