This is not a BBQ blog for one very simple reason, I am not a BBQ expert. I’m what you would call an enthusiastic amateur. I enjoy eating BBQ, I enjoy BBQing but I am still very much a novice in terms of skill. Mostly because when I do something good on the grill I struggle to replicate it. This immediately suggests I don’t understand what I got right. But I have been making inroads. I feel fairly confident smoking beef ribs for instance because today’s Smoked Beef Ribs with Sumac Onions forced me to buckle down and figure the damn thing out. So maybe that’s the key to my future BBQ success. Make it part of my work and I’ll actually pay attention and document the process.
Now, before you click away from this BBQ recipe because you don’t have a BBQ, you can make these ribs in the oven. I suppose they are not necessarily “smoked” anymore but they will still be delicious. And quite frankly, they’ll probably cook more evenly. My oven is much better at holding a consistent temperature than I am at fiddling with vents and coals all afternoon.
But if you have both an oven and a BBQ, I strongly urge you to actually smoke these ribs. It’s worth the fiddling, in fact, I find it downright fun. There is nothing better than cooking something lazily on the BBQ while you drink beer in the backyard. You get the satisfaction of doing something without doing much. And you get to enjoy the summer sun instead of cloistering yourself away in the kitchen. It does nothing for your tan or your social life.
So let’s talk ribs. I used beef back ribs for this recipe because they are a little easier to source than plate ribs. Plate ribs come from the same area as the short rib. Plate ribs are essentially short ribs except the ribs are presented in a rack rather than separated. These ribs also go by the name Dino ribs because they look so damn huge. They are sourced from the belly area, snuggled between the brisket and the flank. Because of their location, plate ribs are well-marbled and meaty to boot. But they are difficult to find in a rack. Most butchers prefer to break them down and sell them as traditional short ribs.
Back ribs, which I’m using today, are cut close to the spine near the front of the animal. These are the ribs you generally get with a prime rib roast or a ribeye steak. Because both prime rib and ribeye are such lucrative cuts, most butchers prefer to section off the back ribs and sell them as part of these cuts. And in the case of boneless ribeyes, the steaks are cut away from the ribs so close to the bone that many rib racks have little meat left.
So why did I choose back ribs? Well, it’s because I have a quality local butcher that sells racks of beef back ribs with a generous amount of meat left on them. And I would advise you to do the same. Go with a reputable butcher over a grocery store. Local butchers are more likely to accommodate and fulfill your request than a grocery chain that operates on a volume business model.
Phew! Beef ribs are complicated. Who knew? But do you know what isn’t? Smoking them. Now, we smoked our beef ribs on our Weber Kettle BBQ but if you have a smoker handy, this is even simpler. Simply rub your beef ribs with your favorite dry rub and let the meat sit uncovered in the fridge for a minimum of four hours. The rub I’ve provided below is kofta inspired. But use any rub that speaks to you. If you leave the ribs overnight, you enter dry brine territory, which is a very good territory to be in. This will tenderize the meat as well as season it.
Once it’s time to grill, heat one basket of coals and shunt it to one side of your grill. You can also add some wood chips for flavor. We used hickory. Try to keep your grill at 250°F. You have about 30° of wiggle room on either side. But keep an eye out and be ready to intervene if the temperature radically starts to drop or rise. And you’re going to leave those ribs for 4-5 hours or until they register an internal temperature of 209° F. But before you reach that temperature, start misting your ribs with red wine vinegar in the final hour of cooking every 15 minutes or so.
When the ribs come off of the grill, wrap them in tin foil or waxed butchers paper and let them sit for 35 minutes. This is arguably the hardest part of this recipe. The ribs will smell amazing but you will have to wait. If it’s any consolation, the ribs will be much juicier because of your patience. From there, your Smoked Beef Ribs are ready to slice and eat. I obviously topped mine with sumac onions. But you could go with chimichurri, BBQ sauce, or any other side or condiment that speaks to you. I served mine with pureed white beans with yogurt. But the more traditional BBQ beans are also an option. Really, you can do a lot with this base rib recipe. I actually have another take on ribs using the same method coming up soon. So be sure to check back for that.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Smoked Beef Ribs with Sumac Onions. This is a great basic smoking recipe to have in your back pocket. And it’s such a fun one to pull out for company. Especially if you’re planning on hosting a lazy sunny backyard afternoon. Just make sure you have plenty of beer and sunscreen handy.
Smoked Beef Ribs with Sumac Onions
- 1 food processor, blender, or immersion blender
- 1 spray bottle
- 1 rack beef back ribs
- 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp cardamom
- ½ tsp coriander
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 1 red onion halved, thinly sliced
- 1 lemon juiced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp sumac
- ½ tsp kosher salt
Pureed White Beans
- 1 (398 ml, 14 fl oz) can white beans drained and rinsed
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup yogurt 3% milk fat or higher
- fresh mint leaves for sprinkling
For the Ribs
- Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. ** Place the ribs on a cooling rack suspended over a baking sheet. Set the ribs aside.1 rack beef back ribs
- In a bowl whisk to combine the sugar and spices. Rub the mixture all over the ribs and transfer them to the fridge. Let the ribs chill uncovered for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight.1 tbsp dark brown sugar, 2 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp cumin, ½ tsp cardamom, ½ tsp coriander, ½ tsp black pepper, ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- Take the ribs out of the fridge one hour prior to cooking. Preheat the oven to 250°F or heat your charcoal grill to the same temperature using a single basket of coals organized to one side of the grill.
- Place the ribs in the oven or over indirect heat on your BBQ. Let smoke or bake for 4 hours. Start misting the ribs with red wine vinegar every 15 minutes in the last hour of cooking.¼ cup red wine vinegar
- Take the ribs out of the oven or off of the grill when they register an internal temperature of 208°F. Wrap the ribs in tin foil or waxed butcher's paper and let rest for 35-40 minutes before slicing and serving.
For the Onions
- Once the beef is on the grill, make the onions. Place the onions in a bowl and add the lemon juice, olive oil, sumac, and salt. Stir to combine, cover, and transfer to the fridge. Let the onions chill for a minimum of 2 hours.1 red onion, 1 lemon, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp sumac, ½ tsp kosher salt
For the White Beans
- Place the white beans and garlic in a food processor and blitz. With the food processor running, stream in the olive oil and lemon juice. Add the salt and blitz for a few minutes more.1 (398 ml, 14 fl oz) can white beans, 1 clove garlic, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp olive oil, ½ tsp kosher salt
- Transfer the white bean puree to a bowl and add the yogurt. Stir to combine. Taste and season with additional salt accordingly. Let the beans chill for 1 hour prior to serving.1 cup yogurt
- Arrange the beef ribs on a platter and cover them with onions. Top with fresh mint leaves, if desired. Serve immediately alongside the remaining onions and the white bean puree.fresh mint leaves