Smoked beef ribs and the art of looking busy.

smoked beef ribs

Well now, it’s nice to be writing about a subject dear to my heart once again.

I was recently speaking to some friends about ‘low and slow’ barbecuing, or rather smoking to be exact, a subject they know a lot more about than I do. Not that I don’t enjoy it, but it’s quite an art, and I really do mean that, as everything involved needs factoring into the equation –  equipment set-up, the wind strength, ambient temperature,  types of fuel, cut of meat, even breed of meat apparently (according the Pitt Cue Co). It all needs careful balancing – and that takes dedication. There are basic parameters, but after that you’re on your own.

The other thing about low and slow barbecuing that I’ve come to realise though, is that it’s a genius way to sit around the back garden on a Sunday whilst looking busy. Ushering the kids away from the Weber and keeping the heat set ‘just so’ is a responsible job. No time to cut that hedge or nip down the garden centre for me, no way, I’m far too busy.

Whilst I’m here, I may as well finish that Pale Ale I was saving in the back of the fridge too. Hectic I tell you.

The other weekend I managed to spend such a day cooking these beef ribs I’d found at a butchers. Amazing cut of meat, yet ugly enough to discourage the supermarkets and keep the costs reasonable. I normally braise them, but smoke and beef are such happy bed-fellows I just had to give this a go.

These took a good 7 hours on the barbecue using indirect heat with some hickory wood chips thrown in at the start. I got a fancy new grill which flips up at either end, allowing you to add more charcoal as needed. A life saver.  The cooking took a little longer than I expected to be fair, and needed pretty regular fresh charcoal interventions, but it was a pretty windy day for July, even by UK standards.

The ribs were brought out the fridge to come to room temperature whilst the coals were being lit and it was all systems go. I rubbed the beef with a fairly standard barbecue rub (well I think it is – hopefully any American readers will set me straight), of roughly equal quantities of salt, garlic and onion powders, black pepper, paprika with about twice the amount sugar and a good pinch of oregano.

Keeping the temperature at a steady 110ºC/230ºf there or thereabouts, as research dictated, I admit was tricky but achievable by fiddling with the air vents and the use of a thermometer. Once they reached an internal 65-70ºC/150-160ºF, they were done though, so that was my Holy Grail.

I tried to baste them with a little bbq sauce in between too, but not so much that I kept losing the heat. A tray of water was added for a little heat consistency – I’m not convinced that it keeps the meat from drying though as some suggested.

smoked beef ribs

Just getting started. Wood chips soaking for use later.

Pretty much ready....

Pretty much ready….

The result was a nice ‘bark’ (as I believe it’s called) with a strong but not overpowering smokiness from the hickory chips.

smoked beef ribs

They would have been amazing on their own, but I tried some spiced, pureed butterbeans and rye toast –  it was a great match. A nice contract in texture and flavour. The beans were simply blitzed with gently fried garlic, plenty of butter and loosened with a little full milk. I only wish I made more.


18 thoughts on “Smoked beef ribs and the art of looking busy.

  1. I should not be doing this. Looking at blogs while I should be working AND while I am hungry. Lovely job. Mind you, I do look busy, which is part of your theme here….

    • I find frowning and nodding slightly as you read does the trick and keeps people out the office….Thanks Conor. Weighing in at around 7 hours cooking time, it just a shame I can’t do this more often.

      • Great approach. I knew a guy who would fall asleep with his head on the desk. He would have positioned a pen on the floor so when he became aware of anybody in his room, he would just sit up having picked up the pen. He thought it was a great plan. What he didn’t know was that he snored. We used to love catching him. Though we blew it when about ten of us snuck into his office to watch the pen retrieval. Very funny all the same.

      • Ah, the snore. The thorn in the side of many an office snoozer! Must admit got to love his technique.

        My wife worked with a guy who had sleep apnea and as a result would drop off mid typing and wake himself up with a loud ‘rasp’. Best bit was he would immediately start tapping away on his keyboard as if nothing had happened, staring round at everyone as they stifled their laughter.

      • There’s nothing wrong with that – if you get a chance, I recommend reading Jeffrey Steingarten’s description of judging the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, in his book, The Man Who Ate Everything. It will fuel your enthusiasm and the rest of the book will make you extremely hungry 😉

      • Nice one, I’ll look out for it. I’ve been reading the Pitt Cue Co cookbook, which is very good but a little ‘restauranty’ if that makes sense. Easy, if you have a day to prep and a chef to assist!

      • You’ll like Jeffrey Steingarten – he’s completely obsessed with food and you can get his books on Abe Books for about £2 😉

  2. Are you sure you’re not an American? That’s what American males do! I guess it’s just having a penis allows you to use barbequeing as an excuse to hang out and pretend you’re busy! Love that top photo!

  3. Hi Phil, how are you doing. Just noticed this posting from back in July. How did you find the short ribs at 150-160f internal temp. I was aiming for 200-203f on the one occasion I have cooked them on my BBQ/smoker. Would be interested to see the difference between the two different temps?

    • Hi Nick, glad you got to see it as you’re mentioned at the start! I was a little dubious about that temperature as I’m used to braising them in the oven so the internal gets to a lot more than that. The were tender enough though after a good half hours resting in foil though not falling apart (as you can see in the photo). Very tasty though. Will have to do that ‘Meatapalooza’ next year and compare notes…

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