How to make Beef Ribs
Beef ribs, aside from being incredibly delicious, make a jaw-dropping presentation. If you’ve got friends and family showing up, there’s no doubt pictures of these colossal cuts of carne will end up on social media. Despite its intimidating size and primal caveman aura, cooking beef ribs is relatively easy. The hardest part of the cook is the actual sourcing of the ribs. If you live in the great state of Texas I have no doubt getting your hands on a slab of these is a relatively pedestrian endeavor. For everyone outside of cattle country, finding these at your local supermarket may prove a bit more difficult but not impossible.
Types of Beef Ribs
There are a few different types of beef ribs that you may come across when perusing your local market/butcher shop. You will see names like flanken cut, back ribs, English style, and short ribs. The two types of beef ribs that make for great bbq are chuck ribs and my personal favorite, plate ribs. Don’t get me wrong I love some Korean style flanken cut ribs but when it comes to Fred Flintstone levels of bbq you will need chuck or plate ribs. Chuck ribs are taken from the 2nd to the 5th rib bone section of the cow. The plate comes from the 6th to the 10th ribs. Both chuck and plate ribs have excellent marbling (intramuscular fat) that when cooked properly produce a incredibly juicy, decadent, beefy bite. If you are still worried about finding the correct cut you can simply tell your butcher you are looking for a 130 chuck rib or a 123a plate rib. The numbers correspond to the USDA Institutional Meat Purchase Specification. Basically, your butcher should know the exact cut based on that number. This photo below from Texas A&M is a great example of all three chuck, plate, and beef back ribs.
Starting the Fire
After you’ve sourced your beef ribs it’s time to finally start the cook. First things first, let’s get that fire started. It’s always smart to get your fire going first thing so it can come up to temp while you are prepping the meat. I like to cook my ribs around 275 degrees with an indirect heat source. That basically means the fire is not directly coming into contact with the meat. All smokers generally operate under this philosophy. If you don’t have a smoker and want to use your grill just be sure to build your fire on one side and place the meat on the other. Most grills have some accessories that will help you accomplish this with a metal or ceramic plate. As for fuel, propane, lump charcoal, or charcoal briquettes will all work fine. If you have a stick burner you probably don’t need much explanation of fuel types (this isn’t your first rodeo). After we get our fire lit with our fuel source of choice we will need some smoke.
Choosing your wood
In the great state of Texas cooking these beef ribs with anything other than Post Oak would be a considered a crime. As you can imagine, each great bbq region of the country thinks the wood they use is the best. Whether it’s Post Oak in Texas, Peachwood in Georgia, Hickory in the Carolinas, they all think theirs is the best.
Let me clue you in on a little secret as to why they all think their wood is the best for bbq. *dramatic pause* It’s simply what they have readily available to them and the easiest to source. I don’t have any rules for which one to use. I generally like fruit woods like apple, cherry, peach, or pecan. It’s a milder smoke and wouldn’t you know it, my family has an orchard. See the running theme here? If I was going to suggest anything it would make it a hardwood. I’d also likely stay away from Mesquite has it can produce a very strong and acrid smoke. Generally just use what you have around you and don’t fret over it.
Function defines form
Just like the wood section I don’t have any rules when it comes to the form factor of the wood. Logs, chips, pellets, use what you have available or what you are most comfortable with and what fits inside your firebox. Obviously if you are using a propane grill it’s not going to be smart to toss a log on the burner. A handful of pellets or chips would be the way to go. You will just need to replenish them more often as they burn down.
On the flip side, if you are using a smoker with a big offset firebox you should probably lean more toward logs instead of burning up a whole bag of pellets or chips. Myself, I like large chunks of fruitwood because they fit well in the firebox of my smokers.
Time to prep
Now that we have our fire going it’s time to prep the meat. For pork ribs I always pull the membrane off the bottom of the rack. As you can see from this St.Louis Spare Ribs recipe. I don’t like the sensation of chewing on a rubber band leaving the membrane can make. For beef ribs I can go either way. The membrane is generally large enough that it’s easy to remove after they are done cooking. It will also help the ribs hold together when you are taking them off your smoker. It’s up to you. If you don’t want to fool with it, it’s not the end of the world.
For seasoning Texans will tell you all you need is a 50/50 mix of kosher salt and coarse black pepper. I like to take their tradition and add to it. I will put a base coat down of salt and pepper then go back over and hit it with some of my Classic BBQ Rub. For this particular cook it was simply some salt and pepper.
Hopefully by now your smoker is up to temp and it’s time to get these slabs of beefy goodness in that smoke. Toss them on, close the lid and wait for 3 hours. Keep an eye on your temps and adjust accordingly.
What you don’t want to do is constantly peak to see what they look like. Your pit is going to have to work harder to get that temp back up and you are likely to see large temperature swings back and forth before it settles back in. This in turn will increase your cook times. Wild temperature swings can get you into trouble. If you’ve told friends and family what time the food is going to be served as you are likely to miss your target time. As the old bbq adage goes, “If your lookin, you ain’t cooking.”
To wrap or not to wrap that is the question
This next step is sure to cause some chaos down in the comments section. After roughly three hours (or when you feel the bark looks good) We are going to pull the ribs out and wrap them. I can hear some Texans cracking their knuckles in preparation for a long-winded rant about wrapping bbq. Like most things bbq related I don’t believe in rules and there only being one true way to get great bbq. If you don’t want to wrap that’s fine, just extend your cook time by a few hours and be prepared to spritz the outside with a little water just to keep the bark from getting too crunchy. Personally I like to wrap for two reasons: 1. It speeds up the cook and 2. I feel like you can get too much smoke on a piece of meat. I use the Texas Crutch (aluminum foil) but you can also use butcher paper. Note that the butcher paper will probably extend your cooking times because it does not hold in the heat as well as foil.
Check your temps
After 2.5 hrs it’s time to start checking for doneness. Each rack of beef ribs is different. It makes it hard to say something is done when it’s hit a specific temp. It’s not like grilling a steak to rare, medium-rare, etc. You know a steak is medium-rare at 130 degrees. The same doesn’t apply to bbq cuts like beef ribs. BBQ cuts are generally tough pieces of meat that need to be cooked long enough for the connective tissues inside to break down.
The types and amount of connective tissue vary from cut to cut. Because of this, they breakdown and become tender at different times. I do use a meat thermometer but I’m using the tip of the probe to gauge the softness of the cut. When the probe slides in like butter I know the cut is ready to come off. Now, I will say that when your ribs hit 195 degrees it’s generally time to start paying attention.
Are they done?
I’ve had beef ribs ready at 195 but generally the probe slides in like butter in the 200-205 range. I find that if you leave them in the past 210 they will start to fall apart and get mushy. I understand 195-210 is a wide temperature window. You’ll have to make that call yourself based on your own specific cut. After the ribs have hit the tenderness you’ve chosen, it’s time to pull them off and give them a rest. I like wrapping them in a towel and putting them in a dry cooler for 45 minutes to an hour. This gives the muscle fibers time to relax. If you cut into the ribs before they get a rest it’s likely they will lose a bit of their juiciness when you slice into them. After the rest, get a Crocodile Dundee size knife, slice between the ribs, and serve. A chef knife will do if you want to skip the theatrics.
I generally don’t use bbq sauce on my beef ribs but I’ve probably already made some Texan’s blood pressure rise with this blog post so I may as well keep going and give them a full-on heart attack. I enjoy my beef ribs with a bit of horseradish sauce. There I said it. Hey, if it goes well on roast beef how could it not pair well with this smokey, beefy, chunk of awesomeness. My advice is to enjoy them according to your own tastes. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are doing it wrong. Different strokes for different folks. I hope you enjoyed this recipe. Be sure and take a picture of your masterpiece and tag me in it on social media. Everyone knows if you don’t put it on social media it didn’t happen. 🙂 #yabbadabbadoo #ilovemeat @ilovemeatdotcom.
How to make Beef Ribs
Have you dreamed of cooking those dinosaur-sized Beef Ribs but were slightly intimidated? My simple and delicious recipe would make Fred Flintstone proud.
- 1 4-Bone rack of Plate (preferred) or Chuck Ribs
- 1/4 cup Salt
- 1/4 cup Black Pepper
- 1/4 cup Classic BBQ Rub (optional)
Start your smoker and get it up to 275 degrees F.
Remove the membrane off the back of the rack of ribs (optional but recommended)
Season liberally with salt/pepper and optional Classic BBQ Rub
When the smoker hits 275 add your smoking wood of choice. Post Oak, Hickory, Fruitwood, etc.
Place the rack of ribs in the smoker and cook for 3 hours at 275 uncovered.
After 3 hours remove and wrap in aluminum foil (you can use butcher paper or leave them uncovered but it will increase cook times)
Cook the Beef Ribs in the foil for an additional 2.5 hrs.
Remove the ribs when your temp probe slides in like butter. This should be in the 195-205 degree F range.
Remove the Beef Ribs and let them rest in a dry cooler for 45 minutes to an hour
After the rest slice between the bones and enjoy
Take a picture and tag @ilovemeatdotcom on social media.