Back to Basics: Barbecue Beef Back Ribs

So, I lit a fire the other day. I whipped out my trusty Weber Smokey Mountain, loaded it up with some Kingsford and chunks of cherry and oak and let it burn. I tried a new method of lighting the fire that really pleased me. Maybe it was just the fact that I was building a fire, but I was pleased.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had picked up 16lbs of beef back ribs; well, I finally got my chance to cook them. As my cooker was getting settled temperature wise, I skinned the ribs and rubbed them down. I made new rub of Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and a little cumin. I have no idea what the measurements of any ingredient is. It’s all by eye and feel.

I put a generous amount of rub and all sides of the ribs and let them sit out on the counter for about an hour as I cursed and crashed through the house as I unsuccessfully looked for my thermometers. “How as I going to cook this if I can’t find my thermometers,” I cried. Barbecue is all about temperature control. After what seemed like hours, I abandoned my search. “Screw it,” I thought, “I’m going boy scout.”

When I was kid in the scouts, I was taught that you could tell the temperature of a fire by holding your hand above the coal bed. Here’s the explaniation from ehow

Test the temperature of the grill to make sure it is at the right temperature for your meat. The grill is at low heat (225 to 250 degrees F) if you notice a thick ash covering and light orange coals. If you hold your hand 4 inches over the coals, you should only be able to stand the heat for 11 to 14 seconds. For medium heat (325 to 350 degrees F), the coals will be a glowing orange, and you should only be able to hold your hand 4 inches above the coals for 6 to 8 seconds. At high heat (450 to 650 degrees F), the coals will be bright orange and you will only be able to stand the heat for 2 to 3 seconds.

But, that’s not how I did it. I’ve learned over the years where the vents should be for the Weber Smokey Mountain to hold the right temperature, so I locked down the bottom vents so that they were barely open and let the cooker settle into temp. Now, I don’t recommend this, but I came out and put my hand on the lid of the hot cooker. Then I moved my hand into the hot smoke coming from the top vent. Yep, this felt about right.

I loaded up the cooker and went inside to make a mop. I mixed a very beefy beef-broth with some butter, a little vegetable oil and some agave nectar. No salt, as there was enough on the ribs. I tasted it, hated it, but I knew it was right for this cook. I boiled it and kept it warm. Every hour I basted the ribs with the mop.

7 hours later, the ribs were loose and ready to come off the cooker. I’ve never seen my mini-dachshund so freaked out. As I transferred the ribs from the cooker to plate he was circling me, hoping, praying if that’s possible, that I’d drop a rack!

I let the ribs sit as I prepared the rest of the meal. The dog paced and yelped and begged. Finally, we all sat down for dinner. As we ate, the dog begged, whined and stalked the table, looking for the ribs. Now the cat joined in by hopping up on the empty chair next to my wife. At one point the cat bit my wife’s elbow.

After dinner, the cat was given some meat and the dog a meaty bone. The beef back rib bone was bigger than him. I sat back content. I haven’t lost my knack for barbecue. No tricks, no fancy tools, hell not even a thermometer. I can still cook. It’s a good feeling.

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6 Responses to Back to Basics: Barbecue Beef Back Ribs

  1. T Alm says:

    I love how you said numerous times negative things: like "don't do this" or " I hated it" and you were still pleased with the outcome.

    • brooklynq says:

      It's funny, I've never liked any mop I've used over the years. I think it's because the mop is only one part of the recipe. It's only one part of the final product. Once combined with the seasonings of the rub and the juices of the meat, only then would it be complete.

  2. Chris says:

    Funny. When I first started trying to learn the art of BBQ 10 years ago, my first mentor showed me the same trick about I should be able to keep my hand on the el cheapo offset smoker lid for a few seconds.

    And I don't blame your dog. Beef ribs have been my favorite for the past two years, even better than pork spares or loin backs.

  3. brooklynq says:

    As for the "don't do this" aspect of touching a hot cooker's lid, well, I do it, but I wouldn't recommend anyone else trying it. I don't want to be responsible for someone else burning their hands.

  4. dla seniora says:

    Simple and delicious recipe. Thanks for it. Greetings from Poland:)

  5. BBQ & Grill says:

    There's something uplifting about this post. It's easy to get bogged down with techniques and equipment – as if you can't barbeque without a digital thermometer and precise quantities of ingredients. The ribs look great by the way.

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