It is a glorious pre-summer day, windless and warm, and I am out back at the grill getting drunk. Not on beer (although a couple more and I'll be what my wife calls "cute"). On smoke.
The aroma curling up from the grill makes me practically tipsy. I am smoking beef short ribs. A leisurely bath in the vapors deepens their beefy flavor and softens their chewy texture.
Beef short ribs are not short. They can be 10 inches long or longer. They're called "short" because they come from what is called the "short plate" of the animal. Barbecue joints will slow-smoke the entire bone, which is so huge it looks Flinstonian when served. Retail butchers, though, commonly cut them in half, creating from these massive meatsicles something more resembling their name. That version is what is used in this recipe. (Beef short ribs are not the same thing as beef spare ribs, which have less meat on them.)
Short ribs, which have a slab of beef atop the bone, take well to smoke. You can marinate the meat or coat it in a complicated dry rub, but the rib's character is most truly revealed by the simplest treatment: salt, pepper, smoke. These ribs do not fall off the bone and aren't meant to. They are juicy and a little chewy, providing a primal and enormously satisfying eating experience.
This recipe calls for 2 short ribs, but you can add more to feed a crowd. The instructions remain the same: about a teaspoon of coarse kosher salt and cracked black pepper per rib and 2 cups of hardwood chips for smoking, and the same cooking times as listed below.
You'll need to soak 2 cups of soaked hardwood chips or 8 fist-size chunks (preferably oak, but apple, pecan or cherry may be used) in water for 1 hour.
These ribs don't need sauce, but feel free to serve them with your favorite one.
Smoked Bone-In Beef Short Ribs
2 meaty bone-in beef short ribs, 4 to 5 inches long and about 12 ounces each
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
Prepare a charcoal grill for indirect heat. Liberally coat each short rib with about a teaspoon of salt and pepper. You may find that your short rib needs a little less than a teaspoon of each to be fully coated; that's fine. Let the ribs rest at room temperature until the fire is ready. Once the coals are ashen, dump them onto one side for indirect grilling.
Drain the wood chips and scatter them onto the coals. Close the grill lid, leaving the vents slightly open. After the wood catches (about 5 minutes), place the ribs on the indirect-heat side of the grate. After about 1 hour, add a half-dozen more coals.
About 30 minutes later, check the ribs for doneness. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the meaty part of a rib should register 180 degrees. The ribs should be dark brown, and the meat should have shrunk to reveal about 1/4 inch of bone.
If using a gas grill, preheat the grill with all burners on high. When it reaches a temperature of 500 degrees, adjust for indirect grilling and reduce the temperature to 300 to 350 degrees. For a two-burner grill, turn off one of the burners; with three or more burners, turn off the center unit. Place a smoke box filled with the drained wood chips onto a grate over a lit burner. If you don't have a smoke box, you can wrap the wood chips loosely in an aluminum foil packet and poke some fork holes in the top to allow smoke to escape. Close the grill lid. When smoke begins rising from the packet or box, place the ribs on the cool side of the grate, away from the fire. Close the lid. The ribs will take about 3 hours to cook.
Let the ribs rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Nutrition Per serving: 320 calories, 33 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 19 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 100 mg cholesterol, 1,980 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar