The Secret to a Good Boning…

Those of us that have traveled the world will have no doubt realised that boning is different in every country. This is because different cultures have different approaches to boning and as cultures have developed over time, so have their boning techniques. In this article, we’re going to examine The Secret to a Good Boning.

The Secret to a Good Boning:
The Root of the Problem

Mmmm…. Ribbed….

Okay, I think I’ve got all the double-entendres out of my system now, but I make no promises – I might still slip one in before the end. (I just can’t help myself!)

One of the most complained-about issues in Australian BBQ is pork ribs. It has been historically almost impossible to get pork ribs with any decent amount of meat on them. Rather, we tend to only have ‘shiners’ – a nickname given to pork ribs that have had so much meat removed from them that you can see the bones shining through. Fortunately, this situation is changing as more and more butchers are responding the growing demand of the low’n’slow enthusiasts.

The Secret to a Good Boning:
Why is it so hard?

Yes, I know these aren’t pork ribs…

The underlying question though, is why is it so hard to get meaty pork ribs in Australia? The most immediate answer is ‘Supply and Demand’ – there is more demand for pork belly than ribs in Australia and so a butcher is not going to sacrifice a belly to cut some ribs unless they’re more likely to sell the ribs than the belly. I’ve been running around different butchers and have found that while many are open to the idea, they simply don’t understand the cut that I’m asking for. The long, deep (yikes!) answer is that boning in Australia is different to other countries.

Let’s begin by defining boning. Despite my juvenile humour above, in this context boning refers to the breaking down of a carcass. That is, cutting a whole beast down into the individual pieces that we buy from our local butcher.

But why is it that pork ribs in the States are so different to pork ribs in Australia?

The Secret to a Good Boning:
The Boning Manual!

It comes down to what’s called a ‘Boning Spec’. This is the guidelines, or ‘rules’ for breaking down a carcass into the individual pieces. These Boning Specs are studied by trainee butchers like a syllabus or curriculum, forming the core of their learning. The Boning Spec is driven by demand, and demand is driven by culture: in the States, pork ribs have always been highly valued whereas (until recently) in Australia they have not.

In my recent interview with Billy Gibney from Meat at Billy’s, I asked him why his pork ribs were so much better than any of the others that I’ve tried BBQing with. There were several reasons, but the most intriguing reason came back to the Boning Spec.

The Secret to a Good Boning:
Billy’s Boning Book…

When researching low’n’slow, Billy found out about regional differences in Boning Specs and that this was the reason for the shiny ribs in Australian shops. In order to get the kind of ribs he (and ultimately we!) wanted, he had to go all the way back to the abattoir level and develop a completely new, custom Boning Spec, ensuring he was able to get the perfect rack of ribs. That’s right, in order to get the perfect rib, Billy has had to come up with an entirely new way of breaking down a carcass. This is why not only his ribs are the best around, but they are unique to his store!

Therefore, the secret to a good rib, is a good Boning (Spec!) – I had to get one more in before I left you. (Stop it!)

For more Secrets to a Good Boning, check out my full interview with Billy in the Smoking Hot Confessions Podcast.

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