Sunday, August 19, 2018

Smoked Beef Ribs

One of my objectives during this smoking season is to try smoking new proteins.  There is a wide range of proteins that could qualify for a first time smoke.  However, there is one that I have wanted to smoke for a long time ... beef ribs.  I've watched barbecue shows, like Project Smoke and Barbecue Pitmasters and have watched others work with these ribs.  There is something about the large bone and the hunk of meat at the end that just appeals to a carnivore like me. 

But, as I mentioned at the outset, this is a protein that I have never cooked before.  I needed to learn a little about beef ribs before I undertook this cook.  The first thing I learned is that a cow has 13 ribs on each side. The first five ribs are the chuck cut.  This happens to be the most common rib cut in grocery stores.   I can attest to this fact because, after going through the beef section of a couple nearby grocery stores, nearly all of the ribs were chuck ribs.  There were also plate short ribs, but there seemed to be less meat on those ribs than the chuck ribs.  So, I decided to buy a couple packages of chuck ribs and get home to work my smoke project. 

There was one wrinkle.  The chuck ribs came cut into individual ribs, as opposed to a slab or plate of ribs.  This complicated the smoke for me because I am not used to smoking individual pieces like these ribs.  To date, I have smoked pork shoulders, brisket, whole chickens, etc.  Large pieces of meat where by I can calculate the cooking times by the pound.  While I have been wanting to smoke chicken thighs in the muffin tins (as I noted, I have watched quite a few barbecue shows), I have not done that yet.  I searched far and wide for recipes that could address the issues that I saw with cooking individual portions, but I found none that directly answered my questions.  Nevertheless, I took a couple of the better recipes and decided to work on my own. 

As for that recipe, I decided to approach the cook using a Texas-style barbecue.  The phrase "Texas-style barbecue" is actually a generalization, because the State of Texas is so large that it has its own regional barbecue styles: East, Central, West and South.  Eastern and Southern Texas barbecue are defined by the use of sauces, a tomato based sauce in Eastern Texas BBQ and a thicker, molasses based sauce in Southern Texas BBQ.  I found few, if any, recipes that included a barbecue sauce of any kind.  Most of the recipes focused more on trying to bring out the taste of the beef, rather than potentially covering up that taste with a sauce.  This leaves either the Central or Western Texas style of barbecues.  Both styles eschew sauces or even complex rubs.  Instead, pitmasters use simple rubs consisting primarily of salt and ground black pepper, with a possible addition of only a couple of additional agreements, such as garlic powder or cayenne pepper.  One difference between the two styles is the type of wood used.  Central Texas BBQ uses pecan, oak or mesquite wood, while Western Texas BBQ uses primarily mesquite wood.

For this recipe, I decided to draw upon Western Texas BBQ.  I kept this very simple ... the rub consists of equal parts kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  That's it, nothing else (except for a little olive oil to keep that rub on the ribs).  I used mesquite for the smoke.  As for the spritz or mop, which all beef rib recipes require, I used beef broth.  (I also used a mop because I don't have a sprayer.) The simplistic approach to these ribs was perfect ... every bite had a great beefy taste with a slight kick from the roughly ground black peppercorns.  

For my first time, this smoke was a tremendous success.  Beef ribs may supplant pork shoulders for me.  Only time will tell if that happens ....

Recipe adapted from Hey Grill Hey
Serves several

3-4 pounds of beef chuck ribs
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
1 cup beef broth
4 chunks of mesquite wood

1.  Prepare the ribs.  The ribs will probably not need any trimming.  Rub the olive oil over the meat and cover with salt and black pepper.  Wrap the ribs with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

2.  Smoke the ribs.  Soak the mesquite wood in water for about 1 hour.  Prepare the fire and coals in the smoker until you have a temperature of around 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Oil the grate and place the ribs in the smoker.  After about two to three hours on the smoker, spritz or mop the ribs with the beef broth.  Continue to spritz or mop the ribs every forty-five minutes to one hour.

3.  Finish the cook.  Cook the beef ribs until you get an internal temperature of about 203 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove from the smoker and set side to rest for ten minutes.  Serve immediately.


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