Want an unusual cut of poultry that offers a healthier alternative to classic BBQ ribs? Find out everything you need to know with our turkey rib recipe and meat guide.

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Photo: Kuck Farms

What are turkey ribs?

Despite the name, turkey ribs are not actually ribs. Instead, they come from the shoulder of the bird. They’re called turkey ribs because they have a similar taste and texture to pork ribs, but have less fat and gristle. This makes them a healthier option while still retaining everything that makes barbecue ribs so delicious.

Unlike regular cuts of turkey, these ribs are easier to keep tender and juicy because they’re attached to the bone. A big struggle with whole turkeys is stopping the bird from drying out, but ribs are great at keeping moist throughout smoking.

Turkey ribs vs turkey tips

While turkey ribs come from a trimmed part of the shoulder area of the bird, turkey tips are something else entirely. They’re small bite-sized pieces of white turkey meat that are heavily marinated before grilled. They often use turkey thigh meat because it’s the juiciest and can provide a texture most similar to sirloin steak tips.

Where can I buy turkey ribs?

Turkey ribs are hard to find, and it is unlikely that your local supermarket or butcher will sell them. It’s always worth asking however. Some butchers might be willing to trim down a cut of turkey shoulder to give you ribs.

Your best bet is to go online. The added benefit is that they should come prepared, ready to be thrown on the grill. These sometimes also come as pre-cooked, meaning you just need to heat and sear them on the grill without worrying about meat safety.

Both TK Gourmet and Kuck Farms in North America sell turkey ribs online. They’re slow cooked in vacuum-sealed packs, keeping the flavor locked in.

Our recipe uses pre-cooked ribs bought online. If you are using raw meat, you will need to cook them longer, just like you would with grilled baby back ribs.

How to make turkey BBQ rub

Our rub is an adaptation of a simple BBQ rub from The Spruce that we’ve used for whole turkeys in the past. It’s a basic recipe that adds a touch of heat without dominating the delicate white meat. You can tweak the amount of cayenne in it if you’d like a bit more spice, but be careful not to overwhelm the natural flavors of the bird and smoke.

The ingredients for our rub are:

¼ cup kosher salt2 tablespoons onion powder2 tablespoons paprika1 tablespoon ground oregano1 tablespoon garlic powder2 teaspoons cayenne pepper1 teaspoon dried thyme

Thoroughly combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and you’re good to go. Simply rub the mix over each rib generously. Try to work it into into and under the turkey skin where possible. I recommend using rubber gloves to stop the cayenne or paprika getting in your eyes or irritating your skin.

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Once done, wrap the ribs in plastic and transfer to the refrigerator. Leave for one hour to allow the rub to do its work before removing from the fridge when you’re ready to grill.