FAUX-Q ALERT! This is a dish that you can – if you don’t have access to a smoker or barbeque pit – quite happily make in your oven and get a result that won’t have the same taste as smoked beef ribs, but will have an excellent flavour profile and be insanely tender and juicy. Oven instructions will be included for those of you that want to give this a try.
Beef ribs are one of the great underrated cuts of meat. They have ridiculous amounts of flavour, are fun to eat, and make a real splash when you plunk a big ol’ platter of them on the table. They are also something most people don’t buy, either because they haven’t a clue what do do with them or because their supermarket doesn’t have any worth buying. But there is no great mystery here, the same principles of any great barbeque hold true: Rub the meat, cook it with indirect heat from a wood fire, and do it low and slow. You will get amazing results and giant mouthfuls of beef flavour that you just aren’t going to get any other way – and the smell is amazing. The total cook time here is a very reasonable 3 hours.
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The list ingredients for today’s festival of bones and beef is short and sweet:
A dozen or so meaty beef ribs (short discussion to follow)
2 tablespoons of True North Beef Rub
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of coarse kosher salt or (better if you can get it) real rock salt
1 teaspoon of dried red pepper flakes
If you are wondering what to look for in beef ribs, there are a few things to keep in mind. One, you want full ribs, not short ribs or cut ribs. Two, you probably arent going to get good ones at the supermarket, you probably want to stick your head in at a farm market or a proper butcher. And finally, look for ones that have a nice even marbling in the meat between the bones, and still have a nice cap of fat over the bones themselves. You shouldn’t see any bone along the length of the the rib except for the skinny ones at the end of the rack. These ones here are pretty close to ideal:
To start, mix the rub, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and pepper flakes in a small bowl. Use a fork to make sure the sugar gets fully mixed into the finer ingredients. Pull the thick membrane off the back of the ribs, and then cut your ribs into either single or two-rib units – I prefer 2-rib groupings, I think they cook better that way. Dump the ribs into a big pan and rub the spice mix into each piece – give each one a good shake, and then get in there and really rub. The salt should actually tear the surface of the meat a little bit. Make sure your rub both sides and the edges of the meat. You should end up using all of the spice mix.
If you are cooking this in traditional barbeque style: Get your fire going, and use a wood with a lot of presence – either hickory or mesquite is ideal. Beef can hold a lot of flavour, so you might as well pour a lot into it. I used hickory for this particular cook. Settle your pit at about 295 – 300 degrees fahrenheit. Put the ribs in your pit, meat side down (this is important) and close things up. After 90 minutes, turn the ribs over so they are meat side up, close up the pit again, and cook for another 90 minutes . At that point, check them for doneness – the meat should be pulling away from the bone, and you should be able to tear a piece off with no effort. If they aren’t quite that tender yet, leave them in for up to another 30 minutes, checking every 10 minutes or so. If you want some excellent drippings for later use, be sure to put a drip pan under your rack.
If you are cooking this in the oven: Preheat your oven to 295 degrees fahrenheit. Leave the ribs in the big pan you used for the rubbing, meat side down (this is important). If you want to use a rack in the pan, feel free, but you don’t have to since the curve of the ribs will keep them up out of the drippings when you turn them over in the next sentence. After 90 minutes, turn the ribs over so they are meat side up and if your pan has more than one layer be sure to bring the pieces from the bottom up to the top. Cook for another 90 minutes . At that point, check them for doneness – the meat should be pulling away from the bone, and you should be able to tear a piece off with no effort. If they aren’t quite that tender yet, leave them in for up to another 30 minutes, checking every 10 minutes or so. The drippings in the pan can be saved for future use.
Whichever method you use, be sure to let them rest for 10 minutes after you take them out of the cooker. This makes a lot of ribs, but they keep amazingly well for up to a full week after cooking, and you will be enjoying a few days of this huge beefy goodness.
And yes, you eat these with your fingers. You are going to get messy. Which is part of the whole idea. Dig in.
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