How to Make Barbecued Beef Ribs

  • 01 of 08

    Barbecued Beef Ribs

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    Most often, you will see recipes for barbecued pork ribs, but beef ribs can be just as tasty if you treat them right. Beef ribs can be both tough to eat and difficult to prepare. Cooked improperly they are too chewy to enjoy. Cooked properly they are tender and delicious.

    The secret with barbecued beef ribs, like all barbecue, is to cook them low and slow. By smoking your beef ribs, you are going to get the best-flavored ribs possible. This process will take about six to seven hours to produce a flavorful batch of ribs. Once complete, you won't regret a moment of the work that goes into preparing them.

    The supplies you will need for this are:

    • Several racks of beef ribs
    • A good rib rub
    • Fuel for your smoker (charcoal or whatever the smoker burns)
    • Wood chunks for smoke
    • Barbecue sauce, if you intend to sauce the ribs
    • A dull knife (like a butter knife)
    • A large, sharp knife
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  • 02 of 08

    Preparing the Smoker

    Burning Coals in the Smoker
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    Start by firing up your smoker. From here, build a big enough fire to hold a temperature between 225 F and 250 F for the whole cooking time. Beef ribs have plenty of fat so you won't have to worry about wrapping these ribs like you would with pork ribs. If you do choose to wrap them (to get the meat to fall off the bone) then do so for the fourth and fifth hour of cooking time.

    You'll want a good dose of smoke, particularly in the first two hours, so have plenty of wood chunks on hand. Try a fruit wood like apple or cherry, but what you have on hand will work fine.

    Beef ribs tend to be cut rather creatively by many butchers, but they're typically cut into sections of four to five bones running about 8 inches in length.

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  • 03 of 08

    Examine the Ribs

    Beef Rib Racks
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    Familiarizing yourself with the ribs is going to help a lot as you prepare them, smoke them, and ultimately serve and eat them. Take a moment to inspect the beef ribs. Loose hanging pieces of meat and fat can be cut away. Sometimes the ribs are cut so there are small pieces of bone on the ends. It's best to remove these small pieces. Try to trim them up nice and neat, but don't cut away the fat from the ribs. The fat will keep the meat moist while it cooks and will add sweetness to the ribs.

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  • 04 of 08

    Removing the Membrane

    Beef Ribs Membrane
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    The membrane is a thin skin-like layer on the bone side of the ribs known as silver skin. The membrane keeps out the flavor of the barbecue rub and the smoke, turning the ribs into a hard material that even the sharpest teeth won't be able to penetrate. Removing the membrane can be a bit of a challenge, but it really improves the quality of your beef ribs.

    It is easiest to remove the membrane if you can keep it intact. This means using a blunt knife, not a sharp knife. Appropriate knives include a butter knife, kitchen knife, or even a clean screwdriver. Slide the knife between the membrane and the bone gently. Work it around to loosen the membrane as much as possible. Once some of it has loosened, grab the membrane with a paper towel and start working it away from the meat and bones. Some racks will give up the membrane easily, while others are more difficult. You just have to work with it.

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  • 05 of 08

    Beef Rib Rub

    Beef Rib Rub
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    The best and easiest way to add flavor to beef ribs is by applying a barbecue rub. This mixture of spices will sit on the ribs the whole time, sinking in and making the meat flavorful. The rub you choose is entirely up to you, there are many fantastic rub recipes. You can pick a sweet, spicy or savory rub, but avoid anything with too much sugar as it burns at 265 F. If your smoker hits this temperature for just a few minutes, the burnt sugar can ruin the flavor of the ribs.

    With the beef ribs trimmed and the membrane removed, you are ready to apply the rub. You don't really need to "rub" it into the meat, but you want a good coating over every square inch of the ribs. The amount of rub that will stick to the ribs is exactly how much you want.

    Handle the ribs gently from this point forward so that you don't lose any of the rub. The more you handle the ribs, the more rub will fall off.

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  • 06 of 08

    Putting the Beef Ribs on the Smoker

    Beef Ribs on Smoker
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    The more familiar you are with your smoker, the better the quality of barbecue you can achieve. It is important to lay out the rib racks in such a way to let air and smoke flow between each rack.

    If your smoker is hot on one side, you might need to rotate your beef ribs or switch them around to get an even heat. Otherwise, you don't want to move them during the whole cooking time. There is no flipping with these ribs.

    Place the racks of beef ribs bone-side down and press them together from the ends. This compacts the rack. During the cooking time, the meat is going to shrink and you do not want to slow this process by spreading the rack out on the cooking surface.

    Beef ribs will take about 6 hours to cook properly at a temperature between 225 F and 250 F. The best way to tell when your ribs are close to done is by the tenderness of the meat. Properly cooked meat will be fork tender.

    If you don't have a smoker, you can cook barbecue ribs on the grill. Here's a step-by-step tutorial on cooking barbecue ribs on a charcoal grill.

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  • 07 of 08

    Adding Barbecue Sauce

    Beef Ribs with BBQ Sauce
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    It's ideal to put a barbecue sauce on your beef ribs. While pork ribs are great with or without sauce, beef ribs benefit greatly from a good barbecue sauce. Again, it would be a good idea to avoid a sauce with too much sugar, like those from the grocery store.

    You can add sauce at any point during the smoking, but it's best to wait until the last hour. This will give you time to apply several thin coats of barbecue sauce to get a nice, sticky layer of sauce that will make the beef ribs delicious. If you want to add some real smoke flavor to the sauce, throw a few extra chunks of wood on the fire to build up the smoke.

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  • 08 of 08

    Cutting and Serving your Beef Ribs

    Cutting Beef Ribs
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    Once the beef ribs are completely cooked and you have applied the barbecue sauce, take them off the smoker. Like any meat, you should let the ribs rest before carving. Resting meat allows the heat and juices to even out and the meat to relax, making it more tender. Let beef ribs rest, covered in a sheet of foil, for 5 to 10 minutes.

    When the resting time is complete, it's time to carve. The easiest way to cut beef ribs is to stand them up on their ends and to slip a knife down between the bones. If the ribs are cooked properly, you can easily cut through the meat without it tearing away from the bones. Ribs are best eaten on the bone. While fall-of-the-bone ribs sound good, it's a little more difficult to eat.

    The last part is to take note of your ribs. Too tender? Not tender enough? Too sweet? Too spicy? If you record your process, the next time you smoke a rack of ribs, you can make the necessary adjustments to produce the desired result.