A triple threat rub consisting of coffee, cocoa powder, and chile is the secret to these mouthwatering beef back ribs.
While pork ribs rule the day in my current hometown of Memphis, the native Texan in me is a sucker for the big bold taste of beef.
As succulent as brisket but with a ready-to-carry bone, beef ribs have long been a staple at such Texas stalwarts as Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, TX (read more on the beef short ribs at Mueller’s here) and Black’s BBQ in Lockhart. Recently, however, they have been popping up on menus across the country, including some of the best I’ve ever had at Billy Durney’s Hometown Bar-B-Que in the (insert audible gasp) Red Hook section of Brooklyn.
When shopping for beef ribs, note that this recipe calls for a full rack of back ribs (weighing approximately 2-1/2 pounds) which are the flavor packed bones taken from the ribeye section. You may have to reach out to your local butcher for a full rack, though many grocers, including my local Kroger, now carry them year-round. If using “English cut” plate short ribs (as discussed here, the meat on plate short ribs is on top of the bones compared to back ribs which have the meat between the bones), be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly. Also note that while I suggest removing the membrane in this beef back rib recipe, if you opt to use plate short ribs you should leave the membrane in plae as they tend to be more apt to fall apart than back ribs when fully cooked so the membrane helps provide some structural integrity (learn more by exploring our article on removing the membrane and our Texas beef rib recipe. When done, the temperature in the thickest part of the meat should be 203°F. For this preparation, stay away from the thinner “flanken cut” short ribs as they are better suited to hot-and-fast cooking, as in this recipe for Korean Kalbi.
Taking the recipe over the top, I have created a dry rub featuring three Cs – coffee, cocoa, and chile. With its combination of sweet, savory, and spice, this rub tastes equally good when cooking other cuts of beef.
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Serve with: a porter or stout.
- Prep. Combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl and set aside while you prepare the ribs.
- Remove the membrane from the ribs (read more on removing the membrane here).
- Season the ribs with Kosher salt. If you can, give the salt 1 to 2 hours to be absorbed. The process of salting in advance is called dry brining. The rule of thumb is 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat, but ribs are about 50% meat, so use about 1/4 teaspoon per pound. You can simply eyeball it by sprinkling on the same amount of salt you would sprinkle on the ribs if they were served to you unsalted.
- Fire up. Prepare a smoker for indirect cooking. Alternatively, you can set up a charcoal grill for 2-zone cooking by placing a chimney full of pre-heated charcoal briquets on one side of the grill's charcoal grate in order to create direct and indirect cooking zones. Adjust the smoker or grill vents to bring the temperature to about 225°F and add 2 to 3 chunks of your favorite smoking wood to the charcoal for flavor. On a gas grill, adjust the temperature knobs so that one half of the grill is off and the other half is heated enough to maintain a temperature of approximately 225°F on the indirect side.
- Cook. Once the smoker or grill is ready, season the ribs on both sides with the dry rub mixture.
- Place the rack of ribs on the main cooking grate as far away from the heat source as possible. Set the lid on the grill with the fully opened top vent positioned directly above the ribs in order to force the smoke over and around the meat. Allow the ribs to smoke until the meat is tender and has reached an internal temperature of 203°F, approximately 6 hours.
- Serve. Remove the ribs from the grill, slice between the bones, and serve immediately.