Even if you’ve managed to consume all the rib meat you cooked off, you’ll still be left with the bones. Is there any way to put those to good use? Here are a few pro tips on what to do with leftover pork rib bones.
What To Do With Leftover Pork Rib Bones
Homemade bone broth is arguably the best way to use up leftover pork rib bones. The broth lends a nice smoky flavor to pork stew and chili. If there’s a lot of meat left on the bone, you can shred it and use it as a sandwich or taco filling, a topping for pizza or nachos, or an addition to baked beans.
Which Rib Bones Should You Save?
Does it matter whether you’ve smoked a rack of baby back ribs or spare ribs? While you’re bound to notice a difference in the texture—and perhaps in the flavor—between the two, those differences are negligible once the meat is gone.
You can save the bones from all types of pork ribs. Spare rib bones are larger than the bones from baby backs, but you should get the same benefit from both kinds.
One other tip: Don’t forget to save the bones the next time you make smoked beef ribs, either. These also make a wonderful savory broth.
Why Save Pork Rib Bones?
Speaking of benefits, there are a number of reasons why you should consider saving your rib bones. They contain trace amounts of collagen, which can moisturize and rejuvenate the skin. Pork bones are also high in calcium and magnesium.
When you simmer the bones to make broth, you create a product that’s rich in iron. This can help to combat anemia, as well as other issues caused by malnutrition.
What To Do With Leftover Pork Rib Bones: A Guide
Our favorite way to make use of leftover rib bones is to whip up a tasty homemade bone broth.
Making broth is easier than most people think. Just cover the bones with enough cold water to fully submerge them, plus a couple of inches. Add a few aromatic vegetables, such as onions, carrots, celery, and garlic.
Pro Tip: There’s no need to peel the vegetables before adding them to the stock, as you’ll just be straining them out anyway. However, do make sure to wash them before adding them to the pot.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the burner temperature. Let the broth simmer for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours before removing it from the heat. Let it cool to room temperature.
Use a colander lined with cheesecloth to strain the broth into a clean bowl. Season the strained broth with salt and pepper to taste.
You can store pork bone broth in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. For longer storage periods, transfer the broth to a sealed container and keep it in the freezer until you’re ready to use it.
What If There’s Still Meat Attached?
You can still make bone broth out of your leftover ribs if there’s a fringe of meat attached to each one. However, if there’s a lot of meat left behind, you might want to capitalize on it.
Shred the pork from leftover ribs and use it as a filling for tacos or enchiladas. It also makes an excellent topping for nachos.
If you’ve never tried barbecue pulled pork pizza, leftover rib meat provides the ideal excuse. Slather pizza dough with your favorite barbecue sauce, then top with shredded mozzarella and the leftover pork. When the pizza is done, sprinkle it with scallions.
Bits of shredded pork make a wonderful addition to baked beans. Sometimes, we even prepare more ribs than we think we’ll need, just so we can add the extra meat to dishes like these.
You can even use leftover ribs to make sandwiches, assuming there’s enough meat to make it worthwhile. Mix the shredded pork with barbecue sauce and heat slowly, then add the mixture to toasted bulky rolls. Top with more sauce and coleslaw, if desired.
Can You Give Pork Rib Bones To Your Dog?
Although your dog would probably salivate at the prospect of gnawing on your leftover rib bones, we don’t recommend it.
Dogs have powerful teeth—strong enough to cause the rib bones to splinter. This is true especially when the bones are cooked. Even if the dog doesn’t manage to swallow the splinters, they can still cause damage to the mouth and gums.
Given the health risks involved, it’s better not to let your dog chew on the rib bones. Save them a few scraps of meat instead, but not too many. If the pork spice rub was heavy on the garlic or onion powder, steer clear of offering any leftovers to the dog.
What Can You Do With Pork Bone Broth?
Broth made from pork bones isn’t as popular as chicken or beef stock, or even fish stock. That’s likely because the pork flavor is strong enough to limit its versatility.
That said, you can easily substitute pork bone broth in any recipe that contains pork to begin with. Pork chili verde is one excellent example. It will also lend depth and richness to stews, sauces, and casseroles.
Homemade pork ramen bowls provide a simple yet delicious way to use up the broth. If you’ve only had store-bought ramen, you’re in for a welcome surprise. You can even add some of the shredded leftover rib meat to the broth, if you have any on hand.
Try using pork bone broth instead of water the next time you make beans or rice. The broth will lend a slight smokiness to the ingredients, which can often be bland when prepared alone.
How To Store Pork Rib Bones
Let’s assume you want to try your hand at making pork bone broth, but you don’t have time to do so right away. How long will the bones last in the fridge?
You can expect the bones to last about as long as the cooked pork meat would, which is about 3 to 4 days. As you likely surmised from the instructions, the broth-making process is largely hands-off, so try to make time for it as soon as possible.
As an alternative, you can store pork rib bones in the freezer for up to 6 months. They should last indefinitely, but the quality will start to deteriorate if you try to keep them frozen longer, especially if there’s still a decent fringe of meat attached.
Can You Overcook Pork Bone Broth?
Yes. While it takes a minimum of several hours for the nutrients and minerals to leach out of the bones and into the broth, it’s possible to let the process go on too long.
When you simmer pork bone broth for longer than 24 hours, the flavors might start to turn bitter. What’s more, if you used vegetables in the broth, they’ll break down after a while, leaving you with a pile of mush.
Use the color of the broth to gauge whether it’s been on the heat too long. It should be a rich golden brown color. Broth that has cooked for too long or at too high a temperature will turn dark brown.
To avoid overcooking, try using a slow cooker to make your bone broth. You’ll want to use the low setting. Be aware that this setting can still run a bit too hot on more modern slow cookers, so use your judgement when trying this method.
If you want to let your broth simmer overnight, the slow cooker is the way to go. It can be dangerous to leave ingredients simmering unattended on the stovetop. Remember to check the broth’s progress as soon as possible after you wake up in the morning.
The Bottom Line
Although pork bone broth isn’t quite as versatile as chicken stock, we think it’s a great ingredient to keep on hand. The next time you make a pot of beans or a batch of pork chili, you’ll be glad you made the effort.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!