If I had to name my own personal favorite cut of barbecue, it would probably be beef ribs. They are the richest and the most decadent, succulent, and flavorful cut of beef you can put on a smoker. That’s also why I don’t eat them much—too rich, too hedonistic. We only cook beef ribs on Saturdays at the restaurant: they’re a special treat, made all the more special because we do them only once a week.
That said, beef ribs are pretty easy to cook. In this recipe, I include a light slather of hot sauce. We don’t cook them this way at the restaurant because not everyone likes spicy food, but it’s my preference for sure. I rub heavily because there’s so much fat, and the extra rub really melts into it well. Beef ribs don’t get wrapped. You’ll know they’re done when they feel jiggly and soft.
- Every rub I make starts with a base of salt and pepper. Then I add other spices to complement the meat that I am cooking. The goal of any rub is to complement a nice piece of meat, not to obscure a crappy piece of meat. All spices should react well with one another. No one spice should stand out or be too recognizable, so add just enough to taste. It would be a shame to buy a nice piece of meat, spend a ton of time prepping and cooking it, and have it taste like an overzealous mixture of flavors. Restraint is the name of the game when using seasonings other than just salt and pepper.
- START THE FIRE: Get a fire going and heat the smoker so it’s about 285°F at grate level.
- TRIM THE RIBS: Beef ribs usually come quite clean and well trimmed, unlike pork ribs and briskets, so there’s not much to do. If you see any big chunks or flaps of fat, trim them away. Apart from that, I don’t trim beef ribs.
- APPLY THE SLATHER: When I’m cooking for myself, I like to slather the ribs with a bit of hot sauce. Of course, you can slather with anything you like—from water to mustard to vinegar. The slather is mainly there to help the rub adhere to the surface of the meat. I just think a little hint of earthy spiciness from a bottle of hot sauce is a fun addition to beef ribs. You can’t really taste it in the final product, but it helps build interior layers of flavor.
- APPLY THE RUB: Using a shaker, and holding it 1 to 2 feet above the ribs, generously apply the rub—a little heavier than you would on a brisket. This is because, as rich as brisket is, beef ribs are even richer. The extra rub ends up forming a bark that balances out that richness just a little bit. I generally use somewhere around 1/3 to 1/2 cup of rub for each rack of beef ribs.
- COOK THE RIBS: Place the ribs, meat side up, in the smoker. As usual, I cook meat side up because I’ve determined that my smokers have more topside heat and the meat and fat cap can handle that. If you’ve got more heat coming from below, you might consider going meat side down. Again, it’s up to you—the ribs can come out well either way. Cook for 8 to 9 hours, until done.
- SPRITZ: During the final 5 hours or so, spritz pretty frequently with water or other liquid to keep the ends from burning.
- FINISH, THEN SERVE: Check for doneness by gently inserting a toothpick between two membranes: the one outside the bones and the one that separates the bones from the meat. Inside, the meat should be extremely tender. Alternatively, take an internal temperature reading: the ribs should be done when they reach 203°F. Let them rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. Beef ribs are served on the bone, but great for sharing.
Reprinted with permission from Franklin Barbecue by Aaron Franklin & Jordan Mackay, copyright © 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.