barbecue beef short rib

We are spending the month of July getting down and dirty with some proper US style barbecue. As in low and slow. Time to really get to know your barbecue equipment and develop some real outdoor cooking skills. It really is worth the effort.

Although you can follow a recipe such as this, and even watch the video that goes with this post, the art of cooking over fire is a learning curve that involves a variety of factors. Your grill, fuel, meat, weather, and personality will all come into play and as such you need to be flexible and willing to learn.

You will need a barbecue set up large enough to accommodate indirect cooking. That is fire on one side and rack on the other. When barbecuing in this context your grill becomes an oven, and an oven thermometer becomes your best friend. Even if you rarely use one, your next best friend is the meat thermometer. Without these you are literally operating on instinct alone, and you need to hone those instincts first. We use a drum style barbecue and would not consider anything else, although the technique can be adapted to most any style of equipment.

Cooking low and slow over fire can be tricky. Getting the temperature right inside the oven is not as simple as it seems. You need to know your kit and your coal. We have had issues with getting enough heat when using briquettes, yet the burn of lump wood charcoal can be fierce and short lived. Eventually we went for lump wood. The problem is that by the time the coals are cool enough to begin, they are very nearly burned away. Which suggests a smaller pile of coals; you may go through many trials of fire before hitting the sweet spot.

Cooking for 5 hours plus means you will need to add more coals, yet without changing the temperature too much. The best way to do this is with a starter chimney set to one side over concrete or another non-flammable surface. Get the coals glowing in that, and add as required. You will also need to add some smoke in the form of woodchips. They are not always easy to get so aim for oak if you can, something mild like beech if not.

As for the meat, short rib is sold in a few different ways. As a single rib (which can weigh roughly 1kg), as a slab (known as Jacob’s Ladder in the UK), or as pieces of a slab. We went for the single rib as it was what was available. A happy choice as it turns out.

Serve with coleslaw, potato salad, and our Texas BBQ bean recipe. The beans will cook on the fire, next to the rib, if you have a cast iron pan to use.

Recipe for Texas style barbecue short rib

Serves 4

2 single short ribs, or a 4-rib slab, or 4 individual pieces of a slab. More if they are scant.

Sea salt for dry brining

For the rub

2 tsp ground garlic

1 tbsp onion powder

2 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp sugar

2 tbsp black pepper

1 tsp ancho chilli powder

1 tsp chipotle chilli powder (for optional heat)

  1. Pat the meat dry, cover with a tablespoon of decent salt, and leave in the fridge overnight. A process known as dry brining, this helps to tenderise and flavour the meat.
  2. When ready to cook, light your fire with coals on one side of the grill. Once the flames have died down, place an oven thermometer on the rack next to them and close the lid.
  3. Mix the rub ingredients together.
  4. Dry the meat of any excess moisture and rub all over with the dry spice mix.
  5. Once your oven thermometer is at 225F (they have both Celsius and Fahrenheit, but the F is easier to read and gauge) place the meat on the rack next to the coals, not over the coals. If your fire is too difficult to control at 225, you can get away with up to 300F but the meat will not be as tender.
  6. Scatter a handful or two of wood chips over the fire and close the lid.
  7. Cook the meat, without turning, for roughly 5 hours. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the fire and add more fuel as necessary.
  8. When ready, the meat thermometer should hit 205F. This is most likely beyond the red zone which may stop at 190F.
  9. Wrap the meat in foil for 30 minutes whilst you assemble sides etc.
  10. Serve hot with coleslaw, potato salad and our Texas BBQ beans.