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I love smoked beef ribs.  Period.  End of sentence.  They are very easy to make, and provide a delicious, messy meal, and the rib bones left over have countless uses for soups, stews and beef stock in their afterlife.

Special tools:  Smoker, or pit barbecue; I use a vertical water smoker, aluminum foil
Preparation time:  About 5 minutes or less, 24 hours to marinate
Cooking time:  About 8 or 10 hours, or more... geez...
Yield:  1 generous serving per pound of ribs; this recipe yields 4 servings

4 pounds beef ribs
16 to 20 golf ball-sized chunks of water-soaked hardwood; see text
6 to 8 oz Basque Meat Tenderizer Barbecue Sauce

Three days before you plan to smoke, place hardwood chunks in a bucket of water, to allow them to become thoroughly waterlogged.  Waterlogged chunks produce more smoke, and don't burn as fast.  I really like mesquite chunks, but too much mesquite can implant a bitter taste to the meat, therefore I usually use hickory or oak chunks.  However, if I have a lot of time on my hands and I'm only cooking beef, I use mesquite.  The amount of chunks of wood will vary depending on the type of smoker you use and how smoky you like your meat.  This recipe is written for the equipment that I use, which is a propane-fired vertical smoker, with a water drip pan.

Left:  Hickory chunks soaking, three days before smoking day.  Right:  Beef ribs are marinating in Basque Sauce.

Most people aren't aware that a slab of beef ribs has a membrane on the underside, which should be removed, in order to allow the marinade and smoke to penetrate.  How do you remove the membrane?  Easy:  Peel back a corner of the membrane by a few centimeters, attach a pair of pliers to the peeled membrane, and pull it off.  Its as simple as that, and your guests will ohhhh and awwwe over your beef ribs.  Early in the beef rib season, say April, beef ribs are usually sold in small packages with the membrane already removed.

One day, or 24 hours before you plan to smoke, place your membrane-free beef ribs in a ceramic or plastic bowl and add the Basque Barbecue Sauce, and cover tightly.

On smoking day, fire up your smoker, and place the ribs inside of it.  Your ribs can be combined with other types of meat, but pay attention to the type of wood you use; see the paragraphs at the beginning of this article that discuss what type of wood to use.  Smoking beef ribs is an all-day affair, so plan on having good friends, good cigars, and maybe invite your buddy Johnny Walker or Jim Beam along for the ride.  

Left:  This is what you want to see, for superior taste, lots of smoke!  Right:  After nearly 10 hours of smoking, the ribs are ready.

Discard marinade.  Loosely wrap ribs in aluminum foil, poke hole in foil to allow juices to drain, and place inside smoker.  I usually smoke my ribs for 8 or 10 hours, and rarely does the heat in the smoker exceed 180 degrees.  

The whole idea behind smoking meat is to cook it over low heat, use lots of waterlogged wood, and cook it all day. This is true barbecue, not to be confused with grilling.  Most folks call "barbecue" any type of meat or entree that is cooked outdoors, by any method, on any piece of cooking equipment.  But the true meaning of barbecue is cooking the meat long and slow, over a wood-fired, or in my case, wood-enhanced flame.

Note that no rub, seasoning or barbecue sauce is mentioned in the recipe.  Belive me, after smoking these ribs for 8 or 10 hours, no seasoning or rub is needed.  That being said, if you're a fan of barbecue sauce on your smoked ribs,  your favorite type of barbecue sauce could be brushed on to the ribs during the last 30 minutes of cooking. In barbecue, no rule is etched in stone.

Photo:  It doesn't get much better than this:  Cowboy beans, smoked beef ribs and watermelon.

These ribs are finger food, or hand food and are messy, but that's part of the fun.  Whatever you do, DO NOT throw away the bones, as they should be saved in order to season numerous types of beef-based soups or stews.  I like to throw in a beef bone or two into my menudo, to give it an authentic Mexican flavor.


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