October 2, 2019

Smoked Memphis-Style American Lamb Riblets


Prep Time

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Cook Time

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4 to 6

smoked lamb ribs with bbq sauce and side salad


Ribs and Memphis-style Dry Rub

  • 3 racks American Lamb riblets or spare ribs (about 6 ribs each)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed 

Memphis-Style Barbecue Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups canned plain tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper


The night before, trim any excess fat from ribs, leaving about a 1/2-inch of the fat cap.  Peel membrane off backside of the ribs. Whisk to combine all dry rub ingredients in a small bowl. Generously coat ribs with dry rub, massaging rub into the meat on all sides. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

To make the Memphis-style sauce, set a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add oil, and when hot, add onions. Sauté until onions are soft and translucent, 5 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Stir in all remaining barbecue sauce ingredients. Bring mixture to a gentle boil, and then turn heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes, stirring often. Pour mixture into a jar or bottle, seal, and refrigerate until needed.

If using a charcoal grill, light coals and wait for them to become completely gray. If using a gas grill, heat one side of grill to 225°F.

Soak one pound of hickory chips in bowl. After 15 minutes, drain them.

Bank coals to one side of grill and allow them to cool to 225°F as measured by a grill thermometer or meat thermometer inserted through vent in lid. Set a small aluminum pan filled with water on the side without the coals.

When grill is cool enough, add a handful of hickory chips to coals, then place ribs bone-side down on grill over sheet pan of water, and cover.  For a gas grill, wrap chips in aluminum foil and poke several holes in top, place on hot part of grill, and close.

Every 30 minutes, add a handful of chips or a new foil pack of chips. Monitor temperature, keeping it within 25°F of 225°F. To bring temperature up, add more coals; to bring it down, close vents on top and bottom, until temperature reaches 225°F again.

Smoke ribs until tender (approximately 3 to 5 hours). Aim for an internal temperature between 190°F to 200°F. When ribs are nearly done, pour half the barbecue sauce in a bowl, brush ribs generously with sauce on top and sides, and let them smoke another 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove ribs to a cutting board and rest until cool enough to handle. Using a chef’s knife, cut ribs apart from one another. If ribs are connected by the sternum at the top, place palm on the heel of the knife and use your weight to cut through it.

Serve ribs with remaining barbecue sauce.

USDA recommends the following time and temperature parameters

Ground Lamb

Internal temperature of 160°F

All Other Cuts

Internal temperature of 145°F, with a 3 minute rest

thermometer timer illustration
Visit our Lamb Cooking Time & Temperature page for recipe inspiration and tips on preparing the perfect lamb.


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