Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible

A 4th of July Menu, Part II: Lone Star Beef Ribs with Bare Bones Barbecue Sauce


On Tuesday, we kicked off our Independence Day countdown with some spicy jalapeno shrimp kabobs. This week, we’re turning to the, er, meat of the matter with some of the biggest bones around.
When it comes to ribs, Texas lies at the opposite end of the spectrum from Kansas City or Memphis. Texans prepare ribs with simple seasonings and an even simpler sauce. The focus is kept on what a Texan believes matters most: the marriage of meat and wood smoke.
SERVES: 4 to 6
METHOD: Indirect grilling on a charcoal grill
For the Lone Star rib rub:
3 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
3 tablespoons pure chile powder
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
For the mop sauce:
1 bottle Lone Star beer or other lager-style beer
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup brewed coffee
2 racks beef long ribs (beef back ribs; 5 to 6 pounds total)
Bare-Bones Barbecue Sauce (see below)
You’ll also need:
1 1/2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably oak), soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained; barbecue mop
1. Make the Lone Star rib rub: Place the salt, chile powder, cracked pepper, garlic powder, oregano, cayenne, and cumin in a small bowl and mix with your fingers. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the rub for the Bare-Bones Barbecue Sauce.
2. Make the mop sauce: Place the beer, vinegar, coffee, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the Lone Star rib rub in a nonreactive bowl and whisk to mix. Set the mop sauce and remaining rub aside separately.
3. Prepare the ribs: Place a rack of ribs meat side down on a baking sheet. Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of the rack by inserting a slender implement, such as a butter knife or the tip of a meat thermometer, under it. The best place to start is on one of the middle bones. Using a dishcloth, paper towel, or pliers to gain a secure grip, peel off the membrane. Repeat with the remaining rack.
4. Generously sprinkle the ribs on both sides with the remaining rub, using about 1 tablespoon per side and rubbing it onto the meat. (Any leftover rub will keep for several weeks in a sealed jar away from heat and light.) Cover the ribs with plastic wrap and refrigerate them while you set up the grill under the grate.
5. Set up a charcoal grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium (325 to 350 degrees F). Place a large drip pan in the center of the grill.
6. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the ribs bone side down in the center of the grate over the drip pan and away from the heat. Toss half of the wood chips on each mound of coals. Cover the grill and cook the ribs for 45 minutes.
7. Mop the ribs on both sides with some of the mop sauce. Re-cover the grill and continue cooking the ribs until they are well browned, cooked through, and tender enough to pull apart with your fingers, 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours longer, 1 1/2 to 2 hours in all. When the ribs are done, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about 1/4 inch. Mop the ribs once or twice more and replenish the coals as needed.
8. Transfer the ribs to a large platter or cutting board and let rest for a few minutes. If possible, save the drippings from the ribs for the Bare-Bones Barbecue Sauce (see Note). Cut the racks in half, if you are serving 4, or into 1- or 2-rib pieces. Serve at once with the barbecue sauce on the side.
Note: Drippings from the ribs will accumulate in the grill’s drip pan. Wearing heatproof gloves, remove the pan and pour the drippings through a finemesh strainer into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup. Loosely cover the ribs with aluminum foil to keep them warm while you make the Bare-Bones Barbecue Sauce. Adding the drippings is optional, but it sure makes the sauce suave and rich.
TIPS: In keeping with Texas dimensions, I call for two racks of the largest ribs commercially available–beef long ribs. There are several options for the chile powder, including chipotle chile powder (made from smoked jalapeno peppers) and ancho chile powder, which has a sweet, earthy Southwestern flavor. Texans tend to cook hotter than pit masters elsewhere in the country. It’s not uncommon to find a pit that burns at 400 degrees F. The fuel of choice in Central Texas is postoak. To approximate this setup at home, use a wood-burning grill with a cover or a charcoal-burning grill with oak chips or chunks.
If you tend to be a minimalist or don’t like sweet barbecue sauces, this one’s for you.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (for a hotter sauce, leave the seeds in)
1/2 cup Lone Star beer or other lager-style beer
About 1/4 cup beef stock (see Note)
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon steak sauce, such as A.1.
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Lone Star rib rub (see above)
1. Heat the oil in a heavy nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the beer, increase the heat to high, and boil until reduced by about half.
2. Add the beef stock, ketchup, steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and Lone Star rib rub, reduce the heat to medium-high, and slowly bring the sauce to a boil. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water or beef stock, enough to thin the sauce to a pourable consistency, and let simmer until the flavors meld, 3 to 5 minutes. If you’ve saved the rib drippings from the drip pan to make a richer sauce, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of them along with the beef stock.
Want the rest of my 4th of July menu? Check back in next Tuesday and Thursday to get recipes for Spicy Southwest Shrimp Kabobs, Cole Slaw the Joe’s Stone Crab Way, a Red, White & Blue Potato Salad, and a Blueberry Crumble.

Join the Discussion

  • Billy Roberts

    I live in Texas and like to cook with Mesquite wood only. I tried Oak and didn’t like the smoke taste.Pecan is another good wood to cook with. I only cook with charcoal when i am out of wood. I need to try cooking ribs with your recipe.Using Lone Star beer would be good as its not fit to drink.