Lamb ribs: They're back and they're fantastic

Finger-licking goodness: Sweet and crisp lamb ribs.
Finger-licking goodness: Sweet and crisp lamb ribs. Photo: Steven Siewert

What are they?

The ribs from the lamb breast, surprisingly meaty and lasciviously fatty. Once unwanted and turned into dog food, they're fast becoming our own dinner instead, slow-cooked and ready to be devoured with sticky fingers and a big grin. Sorry, dogs.

Where are they?

In Sydney, lamb ribs are the new, um, pork ribs. At Alpha, Peter Conistis plays on his Greek heritage, slow-roasting lamb ribs with thyme honey and a sticky ouzo glaze, while at Surry Hills' 4Fourteen, chef Carla Jones confits whole lamb breasts overnight with olive oil, garlic and aromatics, then drains and presses them overnight. The individual ribs are then heated in a marinade of Coca-Cola, tomato sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, chilli and ginger, crisped under the salamander grill and served with roast corn salad.

"It's good to use the cheaper cuts," she says. "They're a bit fatty, but that's what we like about them."

Braise, glaze then roast, barbecue or grill.
Braise, glaze then roast, barbecue or grill. Photo: Melanie Dove

In Melbourne, lamb ribs are big, but then, everything is big at Big Boy Barbecue. Chef and owner Lance Rosen smokes whole ribs over hickory for three hours, finishing them with a barbecue glaze. "Lamb takes the smoke beautifully and the edges take on a nice charry flavour," he says. His tip? "There's no such thing as overcooked."

Sweet, young milk-fed Flinders Island lamb ribs are the stars of Ashly Hicks' new menu at St Kilda's Circa, first braised in a white miso broth, then pressed and crisped on the plancha grill. They're served with slow-cooked Jerusalem artichokes, coal-roasted baby cos and a fresh salsa of coriander, yuzu and barbecued green chillies. "Unlike pork or beef ribs, they don't need a massively sweet, sticky glaze," says Hicks. "The lamb is sweet enough."

Why do I care?

Because they're even better than pork and beef ribs.

Can I do this at home?

Yes, just order the ribs ahead from a good butcher, braise for two hours, then slap on a glaze and roast, barbecue or grill.



Alpha, 238 Castlereagh Street, Sydney 02 9098 1111


4Fourteen, 414 Bourke Street, Surry Hills 02 9331 5399


Big Boy Barbecue, 27 Hardware Lane, 03 9670 9388

Circa, 2 Acland Street, St Kilda 02 9536 1122

Slow-cooked lamb ribs

Serve with a leafy green salad, coleslaw, mash or just a cold beer.

2kg lamb breasts (ribs)

200ml dry white wine

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 tsp salt

3 cinnamon sticks

Barbecue sauce:

3 tbsp tomato sauce

100ml red wine or beer

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp dark-brown sugar

1 tbsp mustard

1 tsp garlic powder

Dash of chilli sauce

1 tsp sea salt

Heat oven to 140C. Combine lamb breasts, wine, garlic, salt and cinnamon in a large lidded ovenproof pot, add enough water to cover, and bring to just under the boil. Cover tightly and bake in the oven for 2 hours or until tender. Drain and cool. Bring the barbecue sauce ingredients to the boil, stirring, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick.

Heat oven to 220C. Cut the breast into individual ribs and brush with the barbecue sauce. Place on a rack in a baking tray lined with baking paper and roast for 30 minutes or until dark and sticky. Serve hot.

Serves 4