Memphis-Style Barbecue Beef Back Ribs

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.

You’ll Need:
2 racks (1/2 package) of US Wellness Meats beef back ribs (8 lbs)
1/2 cup sugar-free barbecue rub
1 tbsp yellow mustard
2/3 cup red wine
1/2 cup honey
2 cups Paleo barbecue sauce

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!

21 thoughts on “Memphis-Style Barbecue Beef Back Ribs

  1. I have a serious case of rib envy!! We usually only do pork ribs at home, which are delicious, of course, but these look mind-blowingly amazing! Yup, definitely have to try my hand at beef ribs. Great meaty collaboration.


  2. Living in Memphis, knowing how to do ribs right is an art and a common point of argument.

    Here’s how I typically do mine:

    Dry Rub (all amounts are basically to taste, but figure around 1/2 tablespoon of each for one rack of ribs)
    black pepper
    garlic powder
    a bit of cayenne…amount is up to you depending on how spicy you want it

    You can either just truly rub it dry, or add a touch of red wine vinegar and make it more of a paste to apply.

    Apply rub and wrap ribs in foil and then bake in the oven (or a smoker, or indirect grill heat) at around 250 for 3-4 hours. When they’re good and tender, toss on a hot grill for about 5-10 minutes per side, let rest for a bit, and serve.


    1. Hi Maureen, I’m not sure what you are referencing, where I said that honey isn’t sugar? The barbecue rub used in this recipe is sugar-free, maybe that’s where the confusion is coming from? Honey definitely contains fructose and glucose, but I tend to favor it in cooking since it has been consumed by humans far longer than plain sugar itself.


      1. Yes and Yes, Also so much easier for your body to metabolize (we also use Grade B organic maple syrup to sweeten) We have found that the [organic] Honey and Syrup don’t cause a dip in our blood sugar levels as much as raw or refined sugar.


  3. I don’t know why people think when all the meat has shrunk from the bone that this is a good thing? You don’t shrink prime rib so why would you take all the juices out of the meat and over cook it? Then add stuff. That meat from the rib is awesome, so why over cook great ribs?


    1. Hi David, I think you may be misinterpreting the photos. If you look at the first set of photos, you’ll see that this rack of ribs had a significant amount of fat on them, especially over the ribs. This low-and-slow method of cooking absolutely did not take away the meat’s juices and didn’t overcook them in the process – this is actually a fairly fast way of cooking beef ribs as far as barbecueing goes – but it allowed for the fat to melt away and flavor the meat while the other additions (rub, wine, honey) added some depth to the flavor. These were some of the meatiest racks of ribs I’ve ever eaten!

      Cooking prime rib is a completely different beast than ribs, wherein you would start it at a high heat and taper it down to achieve a crusty outside shell and pink meat inside. Doing a similar process with these beef ribs would likely give you extremely tough ribs since it wouldn’t be enough time to allow the ribs’ connective tissue to break down.


  4. Can you look at a guy who has a video on youtube as the greatest beef ribs ever. He uses sous vide method then smokes them. I have always cooked my ribs until IT temp is 150 long and very slow for great ribs. But he’s cooking them first at 133 them smoking them?


    1. Hey David, I did check out that video, it’s great ( Sous vide is awesome and something I haven’t really delved into yet. The smoker is very nice as well, and similar to the one we used in this recipe – but at a much lower temp (140) for 6 hours (plus the 12-14 hours in the sous vide). It’s an excellent video but something beyond my means of making ribs. My 3-4 hour recipe definitely won’t compare to a 18-20 hour rack of ribs, that guy is a pro! :)


  5. Beef Back Ribs are best cooked by smoking at 200 – 225 for 2 hrs… then, wrapped in tinfoil and cooked at 225 for an additional 4 hrs.


  6. These look great and I happen to have some beef back ribs from Publix sitting in the fridge. Since our smoker is up in Michigan and I just have our gas grill down here in FL it’s going to be a little different, but it’s not my first rodeo using my grill as a smoker-substitute.


  7. These look great! I am going to attempt using my grill as a smoker for this recipe for a cookout tomorrow. I have four racks of beef back ribs totaling approx 18 pounds of meat. Do you think I could do two racks together in a grilling tin or would you recommend keeping it to one rack per tin? Thanks for your help and recipe!


  8. Way too complex.

    Use a low sugar beef rub, like Big Bad Beef Rub. Apply after slathering on some good fat like tallow or coconut oil, sprinkle the rub. The herbs in any rub are more explosive with fats.

    Smoke at 225 degrees or less, cook until tender.

    Eat. How hard is that?


  9. Cooking these today with grass fed ribs, i have to say i am getting hungry just waiting… will let you know how they come out.


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