Beef ribs are all the rage in the barbecue world these days.
I first saw beef ribs 20 years ago in Nassau, Bahamas. Looking for the best local food, I asked a taxi driver to take me to his favorite restaurant. He took me to a barbecue shack way off the tourist path and introduced me to the finest plate of beef ribs that -- up to that time -- I had ever eaten.
Not only were they the tastiest, but they were the biggest ribs that I had ever seen. He aptly called them "Brontosaurus Bones" because of their dinosaur size, and it stuck with me. The Bahamas' roadside barbecue shack served the meaty-style, sometimes called "Hollywood," beef back ribs. The ribs come from the same place on a cow as the well-known pork baby back ribs.
Today, the meatier short rib is the "Texas" beef rib of choice. This rib was made popular by Wayne Mueller of Taylor, Texas, and perfected in New York by Billy Durney of Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook, a Brooklyn neighborhood in New York, who learned from Mueller.
Durney took the ethnic foods of his Brooklyn upbringing and remade them using southern barbecue techniques. Think pastrami-cured pork belly, jerk ribs, and a smoked lamb belly Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. The beef rib that he is famous for is his interpretation of what he ate during his first visit to Mueller's restaurant.
In a recent conversation, Durney told me that when Mueller started smoking short ribs, they weren't used in restaurants for any other preparation than braising, and they were relatively cheap. These days, they have become so popular that they are very expensive and barbecue restaurants often lose money serving them. Durney buys 123-A beef-plate short ribs in three-bone racks from his butcher. If you have a good butcher, you can request that cut. Each bone-in short rib can be cut into 6-8 pieces, which will serve 2-3 people, and will weigh around 1.3 pounds once it is cooked.
When I asked Durney why he thought that he was known for beef ribs, he modestly said that he figured out when to pull the ribs from the pit and how to rest them to maximize their tenderness and flavor. He very generously shared his secrets with me and you.
No. 1, you have to "feel" the ribs to know that they are done. They are ready to come off the heat once the bones have receded from the meat. "The center is soft and tender to the touch and the top of the meat should also be wet and glistening because the fat and collagen from the beef has rendered," explained Durney. "If the beef ribs are dry and crusty, you have overcooked them."
And, they have to rest a good long while -- 40-60 minutes on a rack set into a sheet pan so the air can circulate around the meat. "If you set the ribs on the surface of the pan, they will steam and continue cooking," he warned. After the initial rest, "wrap them tightly with a layer of plastic wrap and a layer of butcher paper," continued Durney.
Since you will be making these at home, you can finish the resting process in a preheated 145-degree oven for 30 more minutes before serving. When ready to serve, unwrap and slice the meat vertically off the bone in equal chunks and reassemble on the bone for presentation.
• Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and the author of three books, including "Taming the Flame."