What Are Turkey Ribs? Everything You Need to Know

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grilled turkey

In the constant search for new and enticing foodstuffs to toss on the grill, barbecue enthusiasts will often come across some ingredients with misleading names. This happened to us when we first encountered turkey ribs. Though we were naturally intrigued, we couldn’t help but wonder: What are turkey ribs, exactly? If you don’t already know, then now is the perfect time to find out. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to grill turkey ribs to juicy perfection.

What Are Turkey Ribs?

No, turkey ribs aren’t actually made from the ribs of a turkey. Rather, they’re taken from the shoulder section of the bird. The meat of the shoulder has a flavor and texture reminiscent of pork ribs, but with less fat and gristle. Though it’s technically white meat, the attached bone helps to keep it moist and flavorful throughout the cooking process.

The bad news? It can be difficult to find these tasty morsels at the local supermarket. If you’re friendly with the neighborhood butchers—which is always a good idea—you can ask them to place a special order for you. Alternatively, you can check specialty online retailers to find out what they have to offer.

Because it’s easier to find pre-cooked turkey ribs, our recipe assumes that you’ll be using this variety rather than raw ones. If you are starting from scratch, then you can use the same grilling method that you would for pork ribs.

Take a look at this video for tips on how to clean and prepare raw turkey ribs for cooking. We would also recommend brining raw turkey ribs before grilling, as it will make the meat even juicier.

How To Grill Turkey Ribs

We love the way this tangy North Carolina-style barbecue sauce boosts the relatively mild flavor of the turkey. Because of its mustard base, it’s an excellent partner for white meat. You should have plenty left over, so give it a try the next time you make pork ribs or barbecued chicken. Speaking of which, if you happen to have any meat left over, it makes a great sandwich the next day.


  • 5 pounds precooked turkey ribs (about 20 pieces)

For the sauce:

  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar 
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup clover honey
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt


1. Thaw the turkey ribs, if necessary, and remove them from their packaging.

2. Make the sauce. Heat the vinegar and sugar in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.

3. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the mustard, honey, ketchup, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and 3 tablespoons kosher salt.

4. Reserve about 1 cup of sauce for passing at the table.

5. Prepare a medium fire in a charcoal grill, or set the burners on a gas grill to medium.

6. When the grill is hot enough, place the turkey ribs on the cooking grate. Cook until grill marks appear, about 3 minutes per side.

7. Brush the ribs with sauce and continue to cook for another minute or two. Take care not to leave them on too long, or the sugars in the sauce will burn, creating a bitter flavor.

8. Remove the meat from the grill and serve at once with the reserved sauce on the side.

Tip: If you’re making a large batch of turkey ribs, it’s a good idea to keep a pot of warmed sauce nearby. You can keep the cooked ribs in the sauce while you’re waiting for the remaining ones to heat through.

Once you’ve had a chance to discover the distinctive nature of turkey ribs for yourself, they’re sure to earn a regular spot in your BBQ rotation. Happy grilling!

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