Step 1: Make the brine: In a large container, such as a stockpot, bring half the water (2 quarts) to a boil with the kosher salt, pink salt, juniper berries, mustard seeds, and celery seeds, whisking until the salts are dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 quarts of cold water. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Step 2: Add the ribs to the brine, placing a pot lid on top to keep them submerged. Brine the beef ribs in the refrigerator for 8 days, stirring once a day so the ribs brine evenly.
Step 3: The last day, make the rub: Roast the spices in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 1 minute. Let cool, then coarsely grind in a spice mill or clean coffee grinder, working in several batches. Place in a small bowl and stir to mix.
Step 4: Drain the ribs and discard the brine. Rinse with cold water and blot dry with paper towels. Place the ribs on a rimmed sheet pan. Season each rib generously on all sides with the rub, rubbing it into the meat in a single layer. You may have more rub than you need: store any excess in a sealed jar away from heat and light.
Step 5: If you have a smoker, set it up following the manufacturer’s instructions, and heat to 250 to 275 degrees. If you’re working on a charcoal grill, like a Weber kettle, set it up for indirect grilling and heat to 250 to 275 degrees. You may need to use fewer coals than usual to keep the temperature this low. Place a bowl of water in the drip pan or smoke chamber. Add the wood to the fire—about 1-1/2 cups soaked and drained hickory or oak chips or 2 good sized chunks (no need to soak them)—every hour. Adjust the vents and replenish the fuel as needed to maintain the temperature.
Step 6: Arrange the ribs in the smoker fat side up with at least 1 inch between each rib. Smoke the ribs until darkly browned on the outside and very tender inside, about 6 to 8 hours. To test for doneness, insert the probe of an instant-read thermometer parallel to but not touching the bone: the meat should be 200 degrees. Or insert a metal skewer; it should pierce the meat easily. When cooked, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by 1 to 2 inches.
Step 7: The ribs are ready to eat now and will be nothing short of awesome. For ribs that are even more tender, juicy, and amazing, place them in a foil pan loosely covered with foil in an insulated cooler and let them rest for 1 hour.
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Steven Raichlen’s Project Fire is a production of Maryland Public Television, Barbacoa, Inc., and Resolution Pictures. © 2018 Barbacoa, Inc.