Saturday, November 1, 2014

Alligator Ribs - Sous Vide

The  joke you always hear when someone eats something unusual is that "it tastes like chicken." The thing is, alligator meat really does taste like chicken. But there is a big difference between real chicken and swamp chicken: alligator is much less fatty and over-cooking it will ruin it (over-cooking ruins chicken too, but it is more forgiving). 

I've eaten alligator on a number of different occasions, cooked in several different ways, both in restaurants and cooking it myself at home. But I'd never eaten alligator ribs and when I saw that Exotic Meat Market had alligator ribs for sale I ordered three pounds. 
I like alligator breaded and deep fried, the way you usually see it served up in alligator country, but my favorite way to eat it is cooked until it is mostly white, but still a little pink, and spiced with salt and pepper.

We had our ward chili cook-off coming up and I decided to use the alligator rib meat as the focal point of my chili. To avoid the alligator from getting too rubberized, I decided to sous vide it until it still had quite a bit of pink, then add it to the rest of the chili only at the very end, figuring the little bit of cooking chili at the end would whiten up the balance of the swamp chicken without rendering it into hard, tasteless blobs.

The alligator rib racks look much like pork rib racks, except whiter and with a little more meat. My package came with four racks. I melted butter, brushed it on both sides of the ribs, added liberal ground pink sea salt and ground pepper, vacuum-sealed each set of ribs in one bag, and put them in the sous vide for about 90 minutes at 57 centigrade.
The rib racks look quite a bit like pork ribs.

Vacuum sealed with salt, pepper and butter. This is after they have been cooked.
Very white after cooking.
The ribs almost disappear.
A side section of the ribs after they've been cut out individually.
Very meaty.
The alligator ribs are very thin, much thinner than pork ribs, and much more bowed. It was easy to cut them them off the rack into individual ribs using kitchen shears. There is a surprising amount of meat on each rib. We only ate a few ribs, we cut the meat off the balance of the ribs and put it in the chili (which will be discussed in a later post).
The stack of alligator ribs after they've been cleaned off of meat. The ribs are so thin that the racks provide a lot of meat.
I'm sold on the ribs. They would be a perfect company meal. They are unusual, so provide a conversation piece. They are very lean, much, much less fatty than pork ribs and the taste is very mild, as I said, like chicken. We had them with salt and pepper, but I see on-line recipes where they are slathered in bbq sauce. Like chicken, they will take-on whatever flavor you want to subject them to. And they are relatively inexpensive, compared to other types of exotic meats. There are more alligator ribs in my future.  


  1. I love these posts about crazy meat you eat. Looking forward to the chili post!

  2. The taste is like chicken, but I thought the texture was denser and a bit more rubbery. Still good.

  3. I once had fried alligator nuggets on a cruise ship. The only thing is I have found fried, most food loses a bit of its original flavor so I am not sure I got the full effect.

  4. 90 minutes is not long enough to make the ribs tender enough to eat. I did them for six hours at the same temp (134 F) and they were just tender enough to eat. Going to do another batch today, try for at least 12 hours and see how they come out.