Beef ribs are all the rage in the barbecue world these days.
I first saw beef ribs 20 years ago in Nassau, Bahamas. Looking for the best local food, I asked a taxi driver to take me to his favorite restaurant. He took me to a barbecue shack way off the tourist path and introduced me to the finest plate of beef ribs that — up to that time — I had ever eaten.
Not only were they the tastiest, but they were the biggest ribs that I had ever seen. He aptly called them “Brontosaurus Bones” because of their dinosaur size, and it stuck with me. The Bahamas’ road-side barbecue shack served the meaty-style, sometimes called “Hollywood,” beef back ribs. The ribs come from the same place on a cow as the well-known pork baby back ribs.
Today, the meatier short rib is the “Texas” beef rib of choice. This rib was made popular by Wayne Mueller of Taylor, Texas, and perfected in New York by Billy Durney of Hometown Bar- B-Que in Red Hook, a Brooklyn neighborhood in New York, who learned from Mueller.
Durney took the ethnic foods of his Brooklyn upbringing and re-made them using southern barbecue techniques. Think pastrami-cured pork belly, jerk ribs, and a smoked lamb belly Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. The beef rib that he is famous for is his interpretation of what he ate during his first visit to Mueller’s restaurant.
In a recent conversation, Durney told me that when Mueller started smoking short ribs, they weren’t used in restaurants for any other preparation than braising, and they were relatively cheap. These days, they have become so popular that they are very expensive and barbecue restaurants often lose money serving them. Durney buys 123-A beefplate short ribs in three-bone racks from his butcher. If you have a good butcher, you can request that cut. Each bone-in short rib can be cut into 6-8 pieces, which will serve 2-3 people, and will weigh around 1.3 pounds once it is cooked.
When I asked Durney why he thought that he was known for beef ribs, he modestly said that he figured out when to pull the ribs from the pit and how to rest them to maximize their tenderness and flavor. He very generously shared his secrets with me and you.
No. 1, you have to “feel” the ribs to know that they are done. They are ready to come off the heat once the bones have receded from the meat. “The center is soft and tender to the touch and the top of the meat should also be wet and glistening because the fat and collagen from the beef has rendered,” explained Durney. “If the beef ribs are dry and crusty, you have overcooked them.”
And, they have to rest a good long while — 40-60 minutes on a rack set into a sheet pan so the air can circulate around the meat. “If you set the ribs on the surface of the pan, they will steam and continue cooking,” he warned. After the initial rest, “wrap them tightly with a layer of plastic wrap and a layer of butcher paper,” continued Durney.
Since you will be making these at home, you can finish the resting process in a pre-heated 145 F oven for 30 more minutes before serving. When ready to serve, unwrap and slice the meat vertically off the bone in equal chunks and re-assemble on the bone for presentation
Start to finish: 2-1/2 hours
This is a variation of the recipe
that I created when I came home
from the Bahamas, it is made
with beef back ribs or “long
bones,” but can be made with
short ribs as well. Use indirect
or medium-low heat
6-7 meaty-style beef baby
back ribs, coming from the same
place as pork baby backs (bones
should be connected in a rack)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and
cut in half
2 rosemary sprigs
2 tablespoons butcher-grind
1/2teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 tablespoons kosher salt
Mix rub ingredients in a small
bowl, making sure it is well combined. Meanwhile, build charcoal
fire or preheat gas grill, setting
it up for indirect heat. Take beef
ribs out of refrigerator and rub
all over with cut side of the garlic cloves and brush with a thin
coating of oil. Set aside for 20
minutes to come to room temperature. Rub ribs liberally with
Place ribs (bone side down)
in the center of the cooking
grate making sure they are not
over a direct flame. Grill covered (at about 325 F, if your grill
has a thermometer) for 1 to 1
1/2 hours or until the meat has
pulled back from the ends of the
rib bones and the ribs are well
browned and slightly crusty on
the ends. Individual beef ribs
will be done before the full rack
(connected rib bones) is done.
If grilling individual bones
and the edges start to burn, stack
them on top of one another in
the very center of the grill and
lower your fire slightly.
About 30 minutes before the
ribs are done, brush lightly with
the rosemary sprig dipped in
olive oil. Remove ribs from grill
and let rest 15 minutes before
serving or cutting into individual
rib portions (if starting with a
full rack). I recommend serving these ribs sauce-less with
a sprinkling of the beef rub, if
desired. But, if you love barbecue
sauce, feel free to serve some
warm on the side.
Nutrition information per
serving: 143 calories; 68 calories
from fat; 8 g fat (2 g saturated; 0
g trans fats); 44 mg cholesterol;
2923 mg sodium; 2 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 17 g
EDITOR’S NOTE: Elizabeth
Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef
and pit master at online retailer
CarolinaCueToGo.com and the
author of three books, including
“Taming the Flame.”