US Wellness Meats recently asked me to make a recipe for their beef back ribs, and I was happy to oblige (note: don’t ever turn down ribs). Little did I know, I was in for a surprise: this package, which included four racks of ribs, weighed in at SIXTEEN POUNDS of beefy goodness. I immediately knew that I had to call in for backup to give these monsters the attention they deserved.
Enter my friend Jeremy from SeaDog BBQ. SeaDog BBQ is a locally-based Kansas City Barbeque Society competition team, and they’ve done pretty well here in Maryland against some very talented teams. Not only did he come up with an awesome sugar-free barbecue rub recipe to accompany these beef ribs, he brought over his own smoker! While his smoker is from a small, locally-produced source, he did mention that the Weber Smokey Mountain is one of the best introductory smokers that are commercially available. If you don’t own a smoker, never fear – I added tips on how to replicate this recipe using a grill.
Okay, enough with the background, on to the ribs! For this recipe we cooked two of the racks, totaling eight pounds. We opted for a dry, sauceless cooking method, typical of Memphis-style barbecue, with an hour’s braise in the middle to speed up the cooking process and to keep the ribs juicy and full of beefy flavor.
Remove the two racks from their packaging, and gently rinse with water and pat dry with paper towels.
Rub the yellow mustard over the tops of the ribs (1/2 tbsp per rack).
One thing that surprised me is that we didn’t season the underside of the ribs at all. In the end, it made sense, both from a culinary standpoint and economically: the well-seasoned tops of the ribs had the overwhelming majority of the meat, and the unseasoned underside’s mild taste was an awesome complement to the tasty top.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the barbecue rub on each rack. Set the ribs aside while we prepare the smoker.
For the uninitiated (which includes myself), here’s what a smoker looks like on the inside. The bottom section holds the fire, which allows you to regulate the temperature in the top section. If you’re using a grill, this is essentially the same setup as my indirect method of smoking meat, which you can find in recipes like my lemon and dill smoked chicken.
Add a few handfuls of hardwood charcoal to the bottom element, along with a chunk of hickory and a chunk of applewood. If you’re using a grill, the same effect can be produced using wood chips on the heated side of the grill. Light a fire using lighter cubes and allow it to burn for five minutes before closing the drawer.
Close everything up and allow the top section to reach and stabilize at 300 degrees. This part could take up to 30 minutes.
Place the ribs in the smoker/grill on roasting pans or on heavy-duty tin foil, and smoke for two hours.
After two hours, lay out two large sheets of heavy-duty tin foil and pour 1/4 cup of honey on each sheet in a zig-zag pattern like you see above.
Place the ribs on top of the honey, top-side down. Curl up the sides of the tin foil, add 1/3 cup of red wine to each rack, and then seal up the ribs in the tin foil.
Place the covered ribs back into the smoker, and smoke for another hour. After one hour, check for tenderness with a toothpick – the meat should be very tender and give way easily. If it’s still tough, put it back in the smoker and check it every 20-30 minutes.
Take the ribs out of the tin foil and return to the smoker/grill for another 30 minutes to finish them off.
Allow the ribs to rest for at least five minutes before cutting them up. Try not to get any drool on them while you wait.
Using a knife or kitchen shears, separate each rib for maximum presentation and convenience.
Spoon on some barbecue sauce right before serving, or serve it on the side. That’s it!