Truly great BBQ beef ribs are as easy as 1-2-3. But, we’ll get to that in a bit.
I grew up in Texas, and I remember once as a boy, my family went to dinner at a chain restaurant called Victoria’s Station. It was a classic 70’s chain, where diners actually eat in an old rail car. Great stuff for kids. It was a prime rib place, but on the menu they also featured beef ribs- probably as a byproduct of cutting their own prime rib. All I remember is that they were huge: full of meat and sticky with sauce. Ever since then I have been on a quest to make great beef ribs. In the case of these ribs, it is not so much the cooking the rib as it is finding a suitable rib to cook.
In Steve Raichlen’s book, The BBQ Bible, he writes about making beef ribs – so called dinosaur ribs by using back ribs from the grocery store. While I like this book for the most part, I couldn’t disagree more with his recipe. He is not alone in recommending back ribs for a beef ribs recipe. On the surface it seems logical: they are cut from the prime rib so the meat will be tender and flavorful. But have you ever seen these ribs? They are nothing but bone with a little meat thrown in! You can’t blame the butchers- they are trying to get as much of the prime rib off as possible to sell at a higher price. But you can have great ribs! I mean the best beef ribs ever- I call them Brontosaurus bones.
All you have to do is look for – beg your grocery meat manager to order for you – are beef ribs # 123B. This is the code from the National Meat Processors guideline (NAMP) for a 3 rib rack of ribs cut from the chuck. I am not kidding when I tell you this took me years to find, and experiment with this beef ribs recipe, but I am a bit slow.
You want these for a few reasons: the chuck, while tougher is more flavorful as it is a working muscle and is high on beefy flavor. And did I mention they are huge? In fact a 3 rib rack weighs about 15 lbs before cooking! Enough to make you cry like a baby. (these ribs are the same as “short ribs” in the store that are popular for braising)
If you can get your hands on these ribs, here’s how to cook them: If you smoke them, you will need to smoke these for a while – if you keep the rack whole, they take about 12 hours at 200 degrees. If you cut them into individual ribs, they take about 8 hours. If you don’t have a smoker, or don’t want to deal with smoking this time of year, use you oven. Put the ribs in a hot oven- 450 or so for 45 minutes or so to develop a bit of a crust, then wrap in foil and continue to cook in a low oven- 2000 degrees. Cook them for 8 hours or so, or more, to your desired tenderness. I like a little fight left in the meat, but some prefer them to be fall apart tender.
What about a fancy rib rub? Don’t bother! There simply is no better rub for brisket, these ribs, steaks or any beef product than: kosher salt and pepper. Period.
Like Brisket, big cuts require a lot of seasoning, so go heavy – you have a lot of internal surface area to cover. At my old BBQ joint it was rare for anyone to eat more than 1.5 of these. These are Bovine Bliss!