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’ roadside barbecue shack served the meaty-style, sometimes called “Hollywood,” beef back ribs.
Today the meatier short rib is the “Texas” beef rib of choice, 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, who learned from Mueller.
Durney told me that when Mueller started smoking short ribs, they were used in restaurants only for braising, and they were relatively cheap. These days they have become so popular that they are expensive, and barbecue restaurants often lose money serving them.
Durney shared some tips:
No. 1, you have to “feel” the ribs to know that they are done. They are ready to come off the heat once the meat has pulled away from the bones. “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.”
At home you can finish the resting process in a preheated 145-degree oven for 30 more minutes before serving. When ready to serve, unwrap and slice the meat vertically off the bone. You can reassemble the meat on the bones for presentation.
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 (preferably connected in a full rack)
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
- Olive oil
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- >> Beef Rub:
- 2 tablespoons butcher-grind black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 5 tablespoons kosher salt
Mix rub ingredients in a small bowl.
Build charcoal fire or preheat gas grill, setting it up for indirect heat.
Rub ribs all over with cut side of the garlic cloves and brush with a thin coating of oil. Set aside 20 minutes.
Rub ribs liberally with spice rub. Place bone side down in center of cooking grate, making sure they are not over a direct flame. Grill covered (at about 325 degrees, 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 ribs will be done before the full rack 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 heat slightly.
About 30 minutes before ribs are done, use rosemary sprig as a brush; dip in olive oil and brush ribs.
Remove ribs from grill and let rest 15 minutes before serving or cutting into individual rib portions (if starting with a full rack).
Serve with a sprinkling of the beef rub, or with barbecue sauce on the side. Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 143 calories, 8 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 44 mg cholesterol, 2,923 mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, no sugar, 17 g protein.