Did you brave the crowd at the Sparks rib cookoff this last week? Me neither, but my hankering for ribs is still there, especially beef ribs which are a rarity at that cookoff. A couple of vendors carry them and they are delicious. But now that the cookoff is over, I guess I will have to prepare them myself. I’m going to use a recipe I’ve used for years that’s fool proof, easy and delicious. Even my friend Jage could get this one right, and he loves beef ribs and is culinary challenged.
First let’s talk a little on what kind of beef ribs are out there. Beef ribs come in a rack. Seven ribs is a whole rack weighing in at about 3 to 5 pounds. Half the weight is rib weight. The problem with most ribs on the market today is, stores try to maximize their profits by cutting out most of the meat between each rib bone, which leaves more meat on the rib eye. (Rib eye’s sell for more than three times the cost of beef ribs). This leaves a much-to-be-desired rack of ribs. I sell beef back ribs that have lots of meat left on the ribs. They haven’t been carved up. Beef back ribs are the back side of the prime rib. The meat left on the ribs is desirable and can be succulent and tender when cooked correctly.
The other type of beef rib is a short rib. Beef short ribs are a cut of beef taken from the brisket, chuck, and plate area of the beef. They consist of a rib bone which is overlain by meat which varies in thickness.
Beef short ribs are popular in many international cuisines, and each are cut a little bit different. There’s the English cut, where the rib is cut parallel to the bone which makes it approximately eight inches long and usually served individually. They are meaty and one rib would serve an individual. Popular in Eastern Europe, they cut traditional flanken ribs. Same beef short ribs, except three or four ribs are still attached and then cut cross ways, usually about 3/8 of an inch thick.
Flanken ribs are boiled in broth with onions and spices until the meat is tender and served with horseradish.
Korean style short ribs are similarly cut to the flanken rib. Cut cross ways thin and then marinated in ganjang (a Korean soy sauce) then cooked on high heat. A short rib recipe that has gained popularity in the United States is the Maui style rib, also cut cross ways. This rib is cut a little thicker then marinated in ginger, brown sugar and soy sauce then quickly grilled. All these are delicious.
To get started, go to your favorite butcher and ask for some meaty beef back ribs. Have your favorite dry rub and barbecue sauce available and plan on using the whole afternoon to let these cook. You will be gnawing on some delicious ribs for dinner.
One rack beef back ribs (good rule of thumb for ribs is a pound of ribs per person uncooked weight). Season the rack of ribs adequately with dry rub (if you find the dry rub not sticking to the ribs and meat, rub some olive oil or water over the ribs before seasoning).
Wrap entire rack of ribs tightly in foil (must be sealed completely to ensure moisture doesn’t escape during cooking process).
Place in 230 degree oven on a cooking sheet for four hours
After four hours the ribs are fully cooked. Remove the foil. You can see the meat has shrank up revealing more of the rib bone. At this point finish off the ribs in the oven or on the barbecue to get that barbecue flavor. For the oven, turn your broiler on, baste the ribs with your favorite sauce and stick under the broiler until the sauce just starts to caramelize. Don’t walk away, or you will be testing your fire alarms as this process only takes a few minutes. For finishing on the barbecue, baste with your favorite sauce, placing on hot barbecue turning once just to get that barbecue carmelization of the sauce. Again, don’t walk away. It just takes a few minutes.
When finished, cut ribs apart and serve.
FYI, I’ve read a lot of recipes for beef ribs. Some recommend boiling the ribs first to precook them. I personally don’t recommend this method as it loses natural flavors. Also, don’t cut into individual ribs before cooking. They tend to dry out.
Precooking these ribs can be done several days ahead of time, just cover and refrigerate them. Ribs from the refrigerator will take a little longer to finish off in the oven or the barbecue as you are reheating the entire rack to an internal temperature 145 to 150 degrees.
David Theiss is owner of Butler Gourmet Meats in Carson City.