Beef ribs can be some pretty fantastic barbecue. This article will walk you through the different types of beef ribs that are available and the techniques that I and others use to make them delicious.
Let’s start with some beef ribs basics. When a cow is butchered the thirteen ribs are cut into three sections.
Ribs 1-5 are sectioned off with the “Chuck”.
Ribs 6-12 are then cut into an upper and lower section. The upper section of ribs 6-12 are beef back ribs while the lower section of ribs 6-12 are beef plate ribs.
I have absolutely no idea what happens to the 13th rib.
That’s enough anatomy…let’s start smoking some beef ribs! If you want to study up on the different ways beef is cut up then download the Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications effective September, 2014. IMPS Fresh Beef
Beef Back Ribs
Beef back ribs are pretty easy to find but usually don’t have much meat on them. Most of the meat on beef back ribs is carved off and sold as steak. That’s okay…there’s still plenty of meat between those bones!
I always take the membrane off the back ribs but there is a second membrane over the bones that still ends up kind of chewy.
Salt and pepper make an excellent rub for beef ribs. I went with a commercial beef rub for this slab. You don’t need a lot of seasoning for beef ribs. Here is what mine looked like before they hit the smoke.
When you are smoking beef ribs you shouldn’t get too hooked up on exact details…think of the overall process. You want to add some smoke and you want to get them tender.
I smoked these with hickory at 230F for about five hours to get some nice smoke and color. You could go for four hours or smoke a little hotter. No big deal.
After five hours I wrapped them in heavy duty aluminum foil with a quarter cup of apple juice and put them back on the grill at 230F for another two hours. This is the step to get them tender.
Meathead has a post on smoking beef ribs and advises against wrapping in foil. I love Meathead but I wrap beef back ribs anyways!
The beef back ribs are done when the meat has pulled back from the bone by about two inches and a toothpick can slide through the meat like butter.
Beef Short Ribs
If you want some more meat on your ribs then go get yourself some beef short ribs. Beef short ribs can come from either Plate or Chuck ribs.
There is also a membrane on the back of beef short ribs that I always remove. I’m not sure you really need to remove the membrane but it makes me feel like I know what I am doing.
You can season beef short ribs with salt and pepper. I whipped up something a little more entertaining for these beef ribs.
Dry Rub for Beef Short Ribs
- 2 Tbls cracked black pepper
- 1 Tbls kosher salt
- 1 Tbls granulated onion
- 1 tsp celery salt
- 1 tsp chile powder (Mexene)
You can smoke beef short ribs a couple of different ways. I smoked them for four hours at 240F until they looked like this.
Then I basted the smoked beef ribs with some Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce and let them cook for another two hours until they were fork tender. If you are measuring internal temperatures then you are shooting for about 200F.
There are plenty of other ways of smoking beef short ribs.
My buddy Joe did some by wrapping them in foil with butter and brown sugar.
If you are lucky enough to find a full slab of beef short ribs you can smoke them like Aaron Franklin does in the video below.
Flanken Style Beef Ribs
If you take a slab of beef short ribs and cut them thin and perpendicular to the bones you will get what is known as Flanken style beef ribs.
Flanken style beef ribs can be made from either Plate or Chuck beef ribs. I smoked these ribs but a lot of people grill them up hot and fast for Korean barbecue.
These beef ribs were soaked overnight in a modified version of a tri tip marinade I wrote about in an earlier article.
Smoked Flanken Style Beef Rib Marinade
- 1 cup freshly brewed coffee
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 3 Tbls Sriracha sauce
- 2 Tbls honey
- 1 Tbls grated ginger
- 1 tsp sesame oil
This marinade is freaking delicious. Print this recipe out and keep it under your mattress.
These beef ribs were smoked for an hour at about 250F. They looked beautiful.
I moved the ribs over direct high heat for just a few minutes to help the sugar from the marinade caramelize.
These turned out pretty amazing. I love how fast Flanken style beef ribs cook 🙂
Boneless Chuck Beef Ribs
Last up in this tour of beef ribs are some boneless chuck beef ribs. This cut is exactly what it sounds like..they have taken a slab of chuck ribs and cut the meat off the bones.
I had visions of burnt ends floating through my head so I cut these beef ribs into two inch cubes to maximize the surface area exposed to the smoke.
The cubes were soaked 24 hours in the beef marinade recipe I used for the Flanken style ribs.
Then they were smoked for about three hours (240F, hickory) until they looked like this.
I put these smokey meat cubes into a foil pan with a can of low sodium beef broth then covered with foil and let them braise for an hour until fork tender.
These came out looking beautiful and tasty!
We ate most of these ribs right off the grill but a few managed to last until the next day.
So what can you do with leftover smoked beef short ribs? Well, you can make a sandwich.
Start with a hoagie roll and slather both sides with pimento cheese. Add sliced avocado to one side of the bun and sauteed mushrooms to the other.
I love mushrooms.
Chop up the leftover smoked beef ribs and pile it onto the sandwich.
No, no, no…I mean PILE IT ON!
Use a piece of aluminum foil to wrap the sandwich up and put it on the grill over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
Carefully open up the foil and try not to drool.
Then take a huge bite and enjoy being a carnivore 🙂
By the way, I stole this idea from John Thomas.
There are several bbq joints in Texas that serve monster beef ribs. Texas Monthly BBQ wrote an excellent post detailing which specific cuts various pitmasters use for their smoked beef ribs.
For two completely different takes on beef short ribs check out these two great posts:
- Grilled Beef Short Ribs with Chimichuri Sauce from Josh at The Meatwave
- Sous Vide Beef Short Ribs Enchiladas from Big Green Craig