If you run among Texas pitmasters, then you often hear about the “King of Texas Barbecue.” While many may default to brisket as the title holder, the real ones know that the true mother of all cooks is the beef rib. Also known to many as short ribs or plate ribs, these colossal bone-in big daddy’s are the undisputed flavor champion of the world. The bone adds a distinct moisture and bite, and with just a few simple tips, you can cook up these dino-ribs to satisfy anyone on your block.
Before we dive into how to prepare these meaty monsters, you should know that beef plate ribs can be tough to find. Often, you will need to go to a specialty shop like Hamm’s and pre-order them. So just be aware that if this feature gets your mouth watering, you probably won’t be able to head down to the local grocery store and find some today. Likely, you will have to pre-order them and wait a few days. We were able to secure ours from Hamm’s, which got them from Rosewood Ranches. Rosewood specializes in Texas-raised Wagyu, and, simply put … you won’t find a better vendor for top-quality, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef in the state. Now that we have that little nugget of important information out of the way, lets discuss how to prep, cook and serve these bad boys.
With beef plate ribs, unlike their pork counterparts, they’ll need a little prep-work before hitting the smoker. On one side of the ribs, you will likely encounter some hard fat that will need to be trimmed off. This hard fat will not render during the cook, so it needs to be removed. As with pork ribs, there is a membrane on the underside of the rack, and there is some debate as to whether this needs to be removed. With pork ribs, this membrane is universally removed by pitmasters, as it prevents smoke from hitting the meat and makes for a strange texture when finished. With plate ribs, however, this membrane can be left on, if you choose, with little impact on the finished product. However, the choice is yours.
When talking about Texas barbecue, most pitmasters will recommend a simple rub of kosher salt and 16 mesh black pepper, but there are other more dynamic ways to season, if you choose. I used some of Hamm’s Brisket Rub for this cook, which is a great combination of salt, pepper, garlic powder and a few other spices known only to those in the Hamm’s trust tree. However, you can feel free to use whatever you like, even if you go the old school Texas way and just hit it with some salt and pepper.
For this cook, I highly recommend post oak. It is the traditional Texas way and will give you some tremendous flavor to the finished product. Per usual, if you prefer another wood like hickory, please do. This is just my personal suggestion, not the gospel.
The ribs will go on the smoker at 250 degrees for anywhere from 8-12 hours, depending on the size of the ribs. With a brisket, we typically look for a probe tender result anywhere from 200-203 degrees. With these plate ribs, typically we will go a little higher on the temperature to make sure they are fully rendered and tender. This may be about 6-7 degrees higher, maybe about 209-210-degrees. But, as always, let your temperature probe and your fingers make the judgment for you. If the probe slides in and out with no resistance and the meat has a nice jiggle to it, the ribs are probably done.
There are a couple things to consider during this cook. The first is a cider vinegar spritz. You may see pitmasters using this method during pork rib cooks, as well, often with apple juice or another liquid. If your dino-ribs begin to look a little dry, you can certainly spritz to moisten them back up a bit. However, beware of using too much liquid, as it can wet the ever-important bark and make it soggy. The long cook results in that great bark, and we wouldn’t want to ruin it.
The second consideration for this cook is whether to wrap your beef ribs. With brisket, we wrap in foil or butcher paper to help the meat along through the inevitable stall period. It also locks in some of the moisture, making for a tender final product. You can let the ribs roll through the process, building a mega-bark, or you could speed up the process by wrapping in unwaxed peach butcher paper. I chose to wrap mine for this cook, and I was pleased with the end result. Should you choose foil to wrap, know that you will lose more of the precious bark, so you may want to remove from the foil late in the cook to regain some of the lost bark. Again, this is up to you and your personal preference. One tip I can give you, is that if you plan to wrap with butcher paper, spritz it with a little of that apple cider vinegar first to make it a bit more pliable as you work. It makes things much easier.
To serve these beef ribs, you can remove the ribs, which should be easy after a 10-hour cook, and slice the meat into nice large chunks, or you can slice them in between the ribs and keep the meat on the bone to serve. However you may choose, be prepared for one of the best bites of barbecue you have ever tasted.
If you are looking for sides for your beef ribs, there are plenty of great ones. Baked beans can also be done on the smoker for another level of flavor, mac ‘n cheese is always a hit, or some good potato salad would be a great sidecar to the richness of the Wagyu ribs. There are no wrong answers here.
If you are interested in a beer pairing for the ribs, you need to be a bit careful what you choose. Of course, you could go with a standard light lager as you cook away, but for the finished product, you may want to choose something more appropriate for the king of all barbecue. Nobody wants to eat a Wagyu plate rib with a Keystone Light (or maybe you do, no judging). For me, the time of year can dictate which beer I pair with my barbecue. In general, bolder-flavored beers will hold up well to the bold flavors of the beef; but if it’s mid-summer, you likely won’t want a heavy, dark beer like you might during the winter months. In warmer weather, I recommended a great IPA (India Pale Ale). The hoppiness of a good IPA will stand up to the richness of the Wagyu beef. If it is a winter month, a good stout might be in order. Stouts are heavily bodied, but well-balanced and will stand up to the beef flavors.
Beef ribs are without a doubt the undisputed king of any barbecue plate, and the great thing about these ribs is they are super simple to prepare. To be honest, the hardest part of this particular cook is actually finding the ribs themselves. Once you have acquired them, it’s just a matter of finding a day to babysit the smoker and cook them off. If you have the time, trust me, you won’t find anything else like them.