When asked how to cook BBQ beef ribs, I tell them low and slow…just like pork ribs. And that’s where the similarity with pork ends. Pork ribs have much more fat content than that of beef, therefore they basically baste themselves. Beef ribs don’t have that advantage. In addition, a steer is more muscular than a hog which requires a little bit more attention if we are to break down that muscle into a tender piece of meat.
Although beef ribs may require a bit more tender-loving care, if done right they produce some of the most flavorful meat there is. While the low and slow method may be more of a fool-proof path to tender ribs, it’s not to say that beef ribs can’t be cooked over an open fire. We just may need some assistance from a marinade or basting sauce, or maybe both.
Keep one thing in mind when cooking beef ribs, once the ribs have reached an internal temperature of 160-degrees F, they’re done! Cooking them any longer will begin to toughen them up as well as start drying them out. After several slabs of beef ribs under your belt, you’ll know by looking at them that they are done. Until then, keep a reliable meat thermometer close at hand.
Refer to the sidebar for information on how to prep your ribs before cooking.
How to Cook Beef Ribs on a Grill Using the Low and Slow Method
Start your grill about 30 minutes prior to cooking. Prepare the grill for indirect grilling. Stabilize the temperature at 225 to 235-degrees F. Place ribs bone side down on the grill grate, away from the fire. If cooking several racks of ribs, use a rib rack and place the meat side of the ribs facing the fire. Add the smoking chips and cover the grill.
On average, beef ribs will need about 3 to 5 hours of cooking time, depending on the thickness of the meat and other factors such as weather conditions.
Your main goal at this point is to watch and adjust the temperature. The heat will have a tendency to climb up to the 300-degree F range rather quickly. Adjust the vents or completely close them in order to maintain the optimum temperature. Once the heat is under control, it will eventually level out and remain somewhat constant. Check the temperature about every 30 minutes, or so and adjust the vents as needed.
After the first hour, begin basting the ribs ever 30 minutes, or so. Halfway through the cook, rotate the ribs so that the side that was away from the fire is now facing the fire. This will assure evenness in cooking. This is also a good time to check the fire and replenish it, if necessary. Also add more smoking wood, if desired. Don’t go overboard with the wood. The flavor of beef can hold its own and you don’t want to drown that flavor out.
When basting, I prefer a basting sauce, yet if the ribs are sitting in a rib rack, I use a spray bottle filled with apple juice.
The ribs will be done when tender when pierced with a fork, or when the internal temperature reaches 160-degrees F. Baste with your favorite BBQ sauce if desired and serve ’em up!
How to Cook Beef Ribs Using the Direct Grilling Method
Direct grilling will cook beef ribs faster, yet we risk the possibility of drying them out. There just hasn’t been enough time for the fat to render off. Therefore, it hasn’t penetrated the meat and contributed to the moisture of the ribs. Our self basting ribs have not been basted. We’ll have to manually do that.
In addition, the fat and the low and slow method adds to the tenderness. When using the direct grilling method to cook beef ribs, it’s a good idea to marinade them for a few hours. Overnight is best. An easy marinade is Italian dressing. Simply place the ribs in a zip lock storage bag and pour in the marinade. Force out the air and seal. Turn a few times to assure that the ribs are completely coated. Place in the refrigerator, turning every few hours.
As far as a basting sauce, two of the easiest to make is one part of barbecue sauce mixed with an equal amount of apple cider vinegar or apple juice in a spray bottle. Regardless if I have mixed up a more complex basting sauce, I always have these two options readily available.
Start a medium fire for direct grilling 30 minutes before you want to cook. Remove the ribs from the marinade and allow to reach room temperature.
Proceed with the rest of the recipe. Once the coals are ready, brush the grates with oil and add smoking wood if desired. Place the ribs bone side down and cook for about 45 minutes. Again, your cooking times may vary. Turn every 15 minutes while basting both sides. Continue this process until the ribs are tender. If flare ups occur, extinguish them with the apple juice. If using a BBQ sauce, apply a coating during the last 10 minutes to both sides and turn. Do this a couple of times. Remove ribs and give them another coat of your sauce. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.
How to Cook Beef Ribs on a Gas Grill
Cooking beef ribs on a gas grill isn’t really much different than on a charcoal grill. Follow the same procedure as outlined above for charcoal grilling.
For the indirect method, turn off half of the burners and place your ribs on the cool side.
For a smokey flavor, use smoking chips. Wrap them in heavy duty aluminum foil, creating a flat packet. Pierce several holes in the top of the packet using a fork. These holes will allow the smoke to escape. Place the packet on the diverter plate, right under the cooking grate. Remember to keep the pierced holes in the up position.
How to Cook Beef Ribs in the Oven
Prepare the ribs as directed in your recipe. Preheat an oven to 350-degrees F. Place the ribs with bone side down on a wire rack in a roasting pan. If you’re doing several slabs, it’s OK to stack them on top of one another.
Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour. Remove the ribs from the oven and carefully drain off the fat. Continue baking ribs uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes or until tender. Turn and baste occasionally with your particular sauce during the last 20 minutes of cooking. An option at this point is to turn on the broiler and sear the ribs for an extra crusty texture on the surface or to caramelize the sauce. Take care, though. Sweet and tomato-based sauces tend to burn easily.
Remove the ribs from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Brush again with your sauce and serve.
An additional trick to the oven method is to utilize liquid smoke in your sauces . Contrary to popular belief, liquid smoke is an all natural product. Use in moderation. A little goes a long way. Experiment with it and eventually you’ll create a pretty good rendition of smokey flavored BBQ ribs.
All these methods should convey one main point about cooking pork ribs…there are no set rules. Do what best works for you, but work it to perfection.
I know I often mention that there are no set rules at TopRibs, yet there may be a few. One that comes to mind as I write this post is, “NEVER BOIL YOUR RIBS!“. As a child, I remember my Granny use to boil ribs with cabbage. I didn’t like them then…I don’t like them now! Unless you’re making soup stock or must be fed intravenously, all you’re doing is boiling out all that tasty beef flavor and leaving it in the water. Stick to the above methods…please?
Enjoy your ribs and always remember…admire the fire!
How About Another Perspective?
Visit QualityGrillParts.com where they’ve assembled a few other ideas to great tasting beef ribs. Check out their article: Smoked Beef Ribs: Beefy, Beefy Goodness for Your Belly.