Friday, July 26, 2013

The "Zen" of Beef Ribs (Part 2 of 2)

NOTE:  This is a continuation of "Part 1" which describes where to find these glorious hunks of beef, in your local store doesn't have them for you... Also, there is a video summary at the end that knits these together into a 5 minute video (if you like that sort of thing).

So... you found some beef ribs.  Congratulations!  Seriously, not everybody can pick up such a giant package of MEAT and resolve to bring it home and cook it!  Good for you!  Now, let's get started.  Lay out your slabs of ribs (or "plates" to be butcher-friendly) onto your work surface.  I put down a layer of plastic first because my wife won't allow me to install a stainless steel work surface in my home kitchen.  :(

On the back of the plates (inside the curve), you'll find a membrane of connective tissue.  This membrane will not dissolve or "cook away" so it has to be removed.  If your ribs are still good and cold from the fridge, this should peel off in one easy-to-peel piece.  Just cut it loose in one corner with a sharp knife and grab the corner with a paper towel and pull. 


Once the membrane is gone, you'll need to apply some "glue" to help the dry rub stick to the ribs.  I love the new "Worcetershire Thick" sauce.  It's exactly what it sounds like, a Mustard-like version of the classic Worcetershire sauce.  Go ahead and glop on a thin layer as shown.

Shake on your dry rub.  I like a sugar-based rub, and I make my own.  I use equal parts of brown sugar, Kosher salt, ground pepper, paprika, and chili powder.  I might also add a bit of garlic powder or white pepper or jalapeno powder, but I'm keeping that a secret!  Don't be shy with the rub, let her fly.  I would use 2 or 3 cups of dry rub to get all four of these plates covered.

Flip your plates over so the front side is showing, and start trimming some fat.  The "fat cap" is still on your ribs if you bought them "whole" or "un-trimmed."  How much fat to cut is up to you.  There's always a part of me that thinks, "I paid good money for these and I hate to just throw any away."  Try to resist this thought.  What makes ribs so gosh-darn juicy and flavorful is the fat and connective tissue that is deep inside the muscle.  Trust me, there is plenty of it in there.... there's no need to "skimp" on the trimming of exterior fat.

Here's what my ribs looked like after trimming the exterior fat.  If you have a dog, you can cut the fat into small portions and add it to his food over the next few weeks, right out the freezer.  Saturated fat is actually very good for them!  Anyway, once the fat is trimmed from the front side of the ribs, repeat the Worcetershire/Dry-Rub process on the front.

Now that the rub is in place, tightly wrap each plate in plastic wrap and stack them on the counter (away from the dog), and let them come up to room temperature.  Typically, I start this whole process very early in the morning (5 or 6am, "Good things don't come easy") on the day of the cook, and once they're wrapped up well, let them sit until noon (4-6 hours).  Magic happens during these hours; the dry rub penetrates the meat and turns into a spicy/sweet mushy goodness that will become a wonderful "bark" or crust on the exterior of the ribs.

The cooking process will take almost exactly 6 hours.  Get the heat in your smoker up to a consistent 225 degrees.  When you can hold 225, lay the plates out on your smoker (curve down, or backside down) with as much exposure to the smoke as possible. Make sure the thicker side is facing up.

Close the lid and let the ribs sit and smoke, untouched, for three hours.  A good smoker should be able to hold a temperature of 225 for that long without any interference, but you'll definitely want to monitor it.  Do NOT let it get hotter than 250 and certainly don't let it get any colder than 225. 

After your 3 hours are up, transfer the ribs to a large cooking pan and add one cup of apple cider vinegar and one cup of water (adjust the amount for your ribs, this amount is for 4 whole plates).  You should notice a couple of things.  The crust on the outside of the ribs should be getting noticeably darker, and the meat should be starting to pull back away from the bones.  Pour on the cider and COVER the ribs with a couple of layers of foil.  Put them back on the smoker for two more hours.  You could do this stage in a 225 degree oven if you want, but your smoker is already going so...

After the 2 hours are up, take the cover off of the ribs.  Have a look.  Is the meat falling off of the bone?  No?  GOOD!  In the end, you want to be sure that there's enough "pull" so that your teeth can pull the meat off of the bone.  At this stage, the ribs are essentially done cooking.  All you're doing now is making sure the last of the collagen and connective tissue in the ribs has melted down and cooked away.  Use a temperature probe and check the center of a thick portion of meat on one of the bones.  You want to eventually be right at 190 degrees.  At this stage, you should be between 180 and 185.  Put the ribs, uncovered, back into the smoker for about an hour to "finish" them.  Don't worry too much about your heat anymore, as long as you're around 200-225, they should be able to sit there in the smoker and finish.

I used my cleaver to cut the ribs into "individual servings" but I certainly didn't need to!  (I put that in quotes because most normal people can't finish a single rib).   A small steak knife would easily have sung it's way through these without any sawing motion, ZING!  Note the nice dark crust (bark) and the dark smokey red color of the meat on the inside.  Also note, most of the fat has cooked away (it's in the grease bucket under my smoker).

They say you should keep your lawyer happy!  Mine was very happy on this particular day, I can tell you.  We had 16 of these monstrous ribs to split between three hungry men (we did have leftovers).

These are so good, you don't really need any bbq sauce.  Some insist on it though, so use it if you want it.  Just make sure it's a vinegar based sauce and that you heat it up prior to use.

Enjoy!! 

Video Summary:

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