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Duke's Food Obsession

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Cooking up brontosaurus bones

Truly great bbq beef ribs are as easy as 1-2-3.  But we’ll get to that in a bit.

I grew up in Texas, and I remember once as a boy, my family went to dinner at a chain restaurant called Victoria’s Station.  It was a classic 70s chain, where diners actually eat in an old rail car.  Great stuff for kids.  It was a prime rib place, but on the menu they also featured beef ribs—probably as a by-product of cutting their own prime rib.  All I remember is that they were huge: full of meat and sticky with sauce. Ever since then I have been on a quest to make great beef ribs.  In the case of these ribs, it is not so much the cooking of the rib as it is finding a suitable rib to cook.

In Steve Raichlen’s book, “The BBQ Bible,” he writes about making beef ribs—so called dinosaur ribs—by using back ribs from the grocery store.  While I like this book for the most part, I couldn’t disagree more with his recipe.  

He is not alone in recommending back ribs to barbecue.  On the surface it seems logical: they are cut from the prime rib so the meat will be tender and flavorful.  But have you ever seen these ribs? They are nothing but bone with a little meat thrown in! You can’t blame the butchers—they are trying to get as much of the prime rib off as possible to sell at a higher price.  

But you can have great ribs!  I mean the best beef ribs ever—I call them Brontosaurus Bones.  

All you have to do is look for—beg your grocery meat manager to order for you—beef ribs 123B.  This is the code from the National Meat Processors guideline for a 3-rib rack of ribs cut from the chuck. I am not kidding when I tell you this took me years to find, but I am a bit slow.  

You want these for a few reasons: the chuck, while tougher, is more flavorful as it is a working muscle and is high on beefy flavor. And did I mention they are huge? In fact, a 3-rib rack weighs about 15 pounds before cooking! Enough to make you cry like a baby.  (These ribs are the same as “short ribs” in the store that are popular for braising.)  

If you can get your hands on these ribs, here’s how to cook them:  If you smoke them, you will need to smoke these for a while—if you keep the rack whole, they take about 12 hours at 200 degrees. If you cut them into individual ribs, they take about 8 hours. If you don’t have a smoker, or don’t want to deal with smoking this time of year, use your oven.  Put the ribs in a hot oven—450 or so for 45 minutes or so to develop a bit of a crust, then wrap in foil and continue to cook in a low oven—200 degrees.  Cook them for 8 hours or so, or more, to your desired tenderness. I like a little fight left in the meat, but some prefer them to be fall apart tender.

What about a fancy rib rub? Don’t bother! There simply is no better rub for brisket, these ribs, steaks or any beef product than kosher salt and pepper. Period.

  Like brisket, big cuts require a lot of seasoning, so go heavy—you have a lot of internal surface area to cover. At my old BBQ joint it was rare for anyone to eat more than one-and-a-half of these. These are Bovine Bliss!

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Duke Diercks Duke Diercks is the owner of Duke’s Cowboy Grill in Ponderay. Visit his blog at www.bbq-recipes-for-foodies.com

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