The Meatwave: Barbecue & Grilling Recipes, Reviews, Tips, and Tricks

Thu Jul 7, 2016

Salt and Pepper Beef Back Ribs

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Salt & Pepper Beef Back Ribs

I like to pride myself on my regular posting habits—one new recipe every week for all you Meatwavers. So you may have noticed last week came and went without a new recipe, and on top of that, it was leading up the grand Fourth of July grilling holiday, gasp! While I felt regret letting such a hugely meat-heavy period of time go without new content, I hope my excuse is somewhat good enough—the Meatwave was relocating to its permanent home.

Yup, after years and years of renting in New York, and then testing the waters here in Durham, my wife and I have found the right place for us and settled into our first home and with all the craziness of packing, moving, and unpacking, I had to let a few things slide and the blog happened to be one of them. But I'm never down for the count for long, and I'm back with what's both an appropriately simple, yet hugely beefy recipe for smoked salt and pepper beef back ribs.

Salt & Pepper Beef Back Ribs

This recipe kind of encapsulates a lot about my life in this exact moment. First, after moving to NC, I found beef back ribs a common site in most grocery stores after not really seeing them at all in New York. So this provided easy access to a cut I had never previously used, plus it helps fill a hole for beef barbecue, something that is not so plentiful here in pork country.

For those not familiar with beef back ribs, they're what's leftover when the ribs are divorced from a standing rib roast. Since that's a cut that fetches top dollar, as much meat as possible stays with the roast, leaving the ribs skimpy on meat on the top, but rich in it between the bones.

Salt & Pepper Beef Back Ribs

The simplicity of ingredients here is also a reflection of what I had available to cook with over the past few weeks. As I slowly packed up the house, the last two pantry items to get stowed away were salt and pepper—two things I feel always need to be on hand and at the ready. I went with a ratio of the two that slightly favored pepper, since I wanted to give these ribs that crusty, spicy Texas-style flavor in the end.

Salt & Pepper Beef Back Ribs

And getting that ideal bark meant not being afraid to go all in on the seasoning—I made sure this rack of ribs was more than well appointed with copious amounts of salt and pepper.

Salt & Pepper Beef Back Ribs

After that, all I did was throw the ribs in the smoker and let them cook until they were tender enough to eat off the bone. I tested doneness mostly by feel, but knowing about beef barbecue, the internal temperature was probably around 195°F after the five hours these were on the pit running at 225°F.

Salt & Pepper Beef Back Ribs

After pulling them off, I wrapped them in foil, tossed them in a oven to keep warm, and let them sit for an hour. The more I try to replicate good Texas barbecue, the more I realize the importance of this rest. After an hour or two of resting, brisket and beef ribs come out even more tender with the perfect slightly crunchy, yet a little soft bark.

Salt & Pepper Beef Back Ribs

For so little ingredients and work, these ribs really deliver. They're not the meatiest of ribs, but what they lack in volume is made up with flavor—the meat is incredibly beefy with a nice smokiness. The crust is wonderfully peppery, giving them a bite that pairs up well with the beef without overwhelming it. Basically, these ribs just boil down to great barbecue as it should be and are a perfect simple respite from what has been a few weeks of non-stop work related to the move, which has the ultimate payoff of finally giving The Meatwave the home it deserves.

Salt and Pepper Beef Back Ribs

Needing nothing more than salt, pepper, and smoke, these ribs are big, beefy flavor.
  • Prep Time:
  • 5 Minutes
  • Inactive Time:
  • 1 Hour
  • Cook Time:
  • 5 Hours
  • Total Time:
  • 6 Hours 5 Minutes
  • Yield:
  • 4 servings


  • 1/4 cup coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 racks beef back ribs
  • 3 chunks of a medium smoking wood, such as oak or hickory


  1. In a small bowl combine pepper and salt to make the rub. Season ribs all over liberally with the rub.
  2. Fire up smoker or grill to 225°F, adding chunks of smoking wood chunks when at temperature. When the wood is ignited and producing smoke, place the ribs in the smoker or grill, meat side up, and smoke until an instant read thermometer registers between 195-203°F when inserted into the thickest section of meat between the ribs, about 5 to 6 hours.
  3. Wrap each rack of ribs tightly in butcher paper or foil, place in a cooler or oven, and let rest for 1 to 2 hours. Slice ribs into individual bones and serve.


  • 01
  • Mitch B says
    Check your quantities of salt and wood chunks :>)
    Posted Fri, Jul 8 2016 7:45am
  • 02
  • Josh says
    @Mitch B: Thanks, fixed.
    Posted Fri, Jul 8 2016 2:38pm
  • 03
  • Bk all day says
    Surprised to see beef back in here. First time I made these, must have gotten lucky because there was some good meat on the bone. Tried making them a few more times and after a few hours in the smoker there's no meat left. I'll probably stick to short ribs for beef. It's a shame because the first time they were amazing but basically just bones every time after.
    Posted Wed, Jul 13 2016 12:09am

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