Black Barbecue Venison Ribs
Venison ribs get a bad rap. My first experience with venison ribs, from my first deer, was a low and slow roast. They were grisly and so dry that I came to believe that rib meat was best left for the grind pile, not on-the-bone preparations. I was wrong.
The general consensus with deer ribs is that the fat, which is streaked throughout the meat, has an unpleasant texture. It has the ability, especially when cool, to coat your whole mouth with a chalky, dry sensation that makes the experience of eating it pretty unappetizing. This tendency comes from the high level of saturated fat in the deer fat (similar to that of dark chocolate, if you can believe it). Some people even say that deer fat tastes “gamey,” which I haven’t personally experienced, and I have a suspicion that when folks use that word, they aren’t describing a specific flavor profile at all but simply something that they don’t like. Which, fair. Chalk isn’t my favorite flavor in food either (wine, on the other hand…)
This method of preparation renders most of that problematic fat out, reducing the “chalky” texture, and transforms the tough rib meat into tender, fall off the bone ribs that will rival the best baby back ribs. And they’re so good, trust me, you’ll have them polished off before they even get a chance to cool off.
The black barbecue sauce is the perfect tangy-umami rich glaze to compliment the ribs. Use it for the ribs, or anything else you fire up on charcoal. Jjajang is a Korean black bean paste that you can find online or at any decently-stocked Asian grocer. It’s worth seeking out- it plays well in all kinds of marinades, sauces, and stir-fry noodle dishes. I like to use it in a dish anywhere I’m looking for a deep, rich umami note- think of using it in place of A-1 or Worcestershire in a venison marinade, or paired up with ginger and garlic with noodles. Gochujang is a Korean red chili paste that has a wonderful sticky spicy sweetness and I use it in everything.
Venison ribs aren’t too hard to butcher- it just takes the right tools or a little bit of elbow grease. A bandsaw is the perfect tool, but a sawzall or manual bone saw works great too. Cut the ribs from the deer after you’ve taken your backstraps and tenderloins. Cut the top of the ribs parallel to the spine and then parallel again at the bottom to remove the sternum, or breastbone. Then, cut them in half vertically so you have two large racks of ribs per side, or four altogether.
Black Barbecue Venison Ribs
Prep time: 30 minutes active, 6 hours total
2 racks venison ribs
2 cups black BBQ sauce (recipe below)
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to broil. Season ribs with salt and pepper, and place in roasting pan. Broil for 2 minutes on each side to develop some color. Remove pan from oven and drain off any rendered fat. Set oven to 300F. Fill the roasting pan with just enough water to cover the ribs and cover with foil or a lid. Place back in oven for 4-6 hours, until fork tender and the meat is just about to fall off the bone. Remove from oven and carefully remove ribs from liquid. Allow to cool. Use a cooling rack, if you have one (we use the racks from our smoker) to allow the fat to drain off the ribs.
Fire up your grill to high heat, and when you’re almost ready to eat, glaze the ribs with a thin layer of black BBQ sauce and place on grill, rotating often and reglazing as needed. Because the ribs are already cooked, the grilling serves to warm them back up and add that distinctive caramelized, charred barbeque sauce flavor. Serve immediately, with slaw and all the fixins.
Jjajang BBQ sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
1 cup ketchup
½ cup corn syrup
1 cup light brown sugar
1 ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup gochujang paste
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 cup jjajang paste
Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until all ingredients are well combined, then remove from heat. Set aside until ready to use- this keeps well for weeks in the fridge.