I was in Raleigh, N.C., a couple of weeks ago, so I had to try some BBQ at The Pit Restaurant, a downtown place that's famous for authentic whole-hog, pit-cooked barbecue. The restaurant even sells its BBQ sauce at Williams-Sonoma.
The BBQ was excellent, but it did give me a hankering for some beef BBQ once I got back to Cowtown. Funny how everybody thinks their regional BBQ is the best. I guess it has something to do with what you were raised on, and for me that's Texas beef BBQ from right here in Fort Worth.
I hit the store thinking I'd get a brisket, but I came across a nice-looking rack of beef back ribs for about $10 at Walmart. I also picked up a couple of ears of corn to BBQ, because they're in season right now and pretty cheap.
If you are used to cooking pork ribs and never had much luck with beef, here are a few tips.
1. Cook them low and slow if you want juicy, tender ribs. I BBQ my ribs at 225ºF for 3 to 5 hours and pull them when the meat thermometer slides through the rib meat with little or no resistance. The internal temperature of the rib meat should be somewhere between 190-210ºF. A lot of folks pull their ribs at 180ºF. While that may be fine for pork ribs, beef ribs need to go to at least 190ºF to be tender, and sometimes all the way to 210ºF.
2. Skip wrapping the ribs in foil. When I fix pork ribs, I wrap them in foil for 30 minutes to an hour toward the end of the smoking to help tenderize them. But with beef ribs, this process just makes a mess of the rack, and the meat shrinks so much that the ribs start to come apart. Just cook them at a low temp and mop them with a sauce to keep them moist.
3. Mop for moisture. Since I am skipping the wrap, I make a mop sauce from beer, onions, vinegar and a little rub, and mop the ribs once an hour.
4. Save your drippings. I always put a pan under my beef ribs. The drippings can be used as a board dressing (coat your cutting board with some of the drippings and rub your cut ribs in it) and can also be added to your rib sauce.
5. Skip the sweet rubs and sauces. Sweet pork ribs taste great, but that same flavor profile doesnt work with beef ribs. I want my ribs to taste like beef! I rub a tablespoon of beef base on the ribs, then coat with a basic rub or just salt and pepper. I typically eat my beef ribs without sauce, but you can make one by mixing some of the mop sauce with ketchup and a little bit of the rib drippings.
Texas Style BBQ Beef Ribs
- 1 to 2 racks beef back ribs
- Beef base (I like Better Than Bouillon beef base)
- Favorite rub or salt and pepper (I used Mad Hunkys general purpose rub)
- Pan to collect drippings
- 1 onion diced
- 1 bottle of beer (I used Rahr & Sons Gravel Road)
- ½ cup of vinegar
- 2 tablespoons rub
- 1 dried Ancho chili chopped (optional)
- Mop sauce
- Rib drippings
Set up your smoker to smoke at 225ºF with a pan under the rack to catch drippings.
Remove the tough membrane from the bone side of the ribs by sliding a dull knife under the membrane along one of the middle bones. Loosen membrane then grab hold of it with a paper towel and pull the membrane off.
Coat both sides of the ribs with a tablespoon of beef base, then sprinkle with your favorite rub or salt and pepper.
Put ribs on rack over the drip pan and smoke at 225ºF for 3 to 5 hours. Ribs will be done when the meat thermometer probe slides through the rib meat with little or no resistance. The internal temperature of the rib meat should be somewhere between 190-210ºF.
Once you put the ribs on, it is time to make the mop sauce by mixing the mop sauce ingredients into a small saucepan. I then take a stick blender and blend the mixture into a puree (optional), then put on the smoker rack next to ribs.
Mop ribs with mop sauce every hour till done.
When ribs are done, pull from smoker and cover loosely with foil. Remove smoker rack (it is hot, so ware oven mitts) and remove drip pan. Pour drippings from pan into small bowl or measuring cup to use as board dressing and in the rib sauce.
Pour some of the drippings onto a section of your cutting board to make a board dressing. When cutting ribs, be sure to rub the rib edges into the board dressing.
If you want a rib sauce, mix equal parts mop sauce, ketchup and drippings to make sauce.
The ribs turned out great! I handed a couple of ribs over the fence to my neighbors and got a big thumbs up. My neighbors are down wind of my smoker, so it was the least I could do.
Be sure to check out the slideshow above for step-by-step pictures.