Alligator is a feared animal in the wild, but makes a tasty menu item in restaurants or the home dinner table. Alligator farmers and cooks utilize many parts of the animal, including the jaw, tenderloin, body, tail and ribs. Alligator ribs are almost white in color with a texture similar to chicken and a mild flavor, despite its classification as a game animal. With some tasty additions and proven cooking methods you can make an alligator rib dinner to remember.
Like pork ribs or beef ribs, alligator ribs work well with a marinade or glaze to increase the flavor. Before you get going with your chosen cooking method, marinate your alligator ribs with flavors you and your guests find appealing. Options include a standard tomato-based barbecue sauce, a glaze made with marmalade and melted butter and a spicy chipotle sauce for added heat. Prepare your marinade, then pour it into a large, resealable bag. Place the ribs into the bag and seal the top, then shake it around until the ribs are completely coated. Set the bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 hours before cooking.
One cooking option is baking your alligator ribs in the oven. Since the ribs are lean and have the potential to dry out, wrap them in foil and set them on a baking sheet to bake slowly at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave them in the oven to bake for up to 3 hours, until they are cooked through and tender. Remove the foil for the last 30 minutes or so and baste the ribs with your sauce to accentuate the flavor. You can also finish them in a smoker for 30 minutes, if you have access to one.
Cooking your alligator ribs on the grill brings out the smoky flavor and aroma associated with barbecuing. Preheat your grill to medium heat, then place your marinated ribs on the grill until they are cooked through and tender, basting often with leftover marinade. The grilling can take up to 45 minutes. Move the ribs away from direct heat if you find they are charring too fast or seem to be drying out. Turning off one side off the grill and moving the ribs over the side with no direct heat slows the cooking process, but still gives you a smoky grill taste.
Since alligator is a meat just like any other meat, you must exercise proper food handling rules from the start of the cooking process to the finish. Take the time to wash your hands after handling raw alligator meat before you touch anything else. Also, don't cut anything on the same board that you've used to cut the alligator ribs, and don't reuse any of the marinade that was in the bag with the raw alligator ribs. Slower cooking methods will ensure the ribs are cooked completely through; for any cooking method, aim for an internal temperature of 160 F.
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