Venison ribs get a bad rap. Most of the time they’re left on the deer to age for a week where they inevitably shrivel up into nothing. Or, they are immediately deboned and thrown in the grind pile. But I’m here to tell you that they have a lot more to offer—whether you want to gnaw on the bones like a caveman or shred the meat for other uses. The key to amazing venison ribs is a multi-step process of par-cooking the ribs before finishing them. If you take the ribs right off the deer and just throw them in the oven, you’re going to have a bad time. You need to soften them up first by cooking and steaming them in liquid before moving on to the dry rubs and glazes.

My favorite way to cook deer ribs is to treat them like beef short ribs—and then pile the meat on some mac and cheese. This decadent recipe is too good and easy not to make, and it will win you some serious points at the next family gathering or at deer camp.


For the ribs

  • 1 full rack of deer ribs
  • 12 oz. bottle of root beer
  • 2 Tbsp. bourbon

For the dry rub

  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. ground dark roast coffee or espresso
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. chili powder

For the barbecue sauce

  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. salt

For the mac and cheese

  • 1 box medium shell noodles
  • 2 oz. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 1tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1tsp. garlic powder
  • Chives or scallions and fried onions for garnish


  1. Trim and clean the ribs, then place them in a slow-cooker. Add the root beer and bourbon, and season with salt. Cook on high for about 4 hours. The meat should be cooked through and tender, but not quite falling off the bone. Remove the ribs from the slow-cooker. Strain and reserver the cooking liquid.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix all of the dry-rub ingredients together. Coat the ribs in the dry rub. Place the ribs on a sheet tray and put them in the oven and bake until the dry rub forms a nice crust, about 45 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, add the reserved cooking liquids to a saucepan and cook on high until the sauce begins to thicken, whisking periodically. While it’s reducing, add the remaining ingredients and continue to cook until the sauce is thickened to your liking.
  4. Cook and drain the noodles.
  5. Remove the rib meat from the bones and toss the meat in the barbecue sauce.
  6. Make a roux: Melt the butter in a large sauce pot, then add the flour. Whisk and cook for about a minute as the roux browns, then add the half-and-half and whisk until everything is evenly distributed. Slowly fold in the cheese, and season with the salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Cook until the mixture thick, then fold the noodles into the sauce.
  7. Top the mac and cheese with the rib meat. Garnish with scallions and fried onions.