Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Smoked Beef Back Ribs with Red Wine Barbecue Sauce

When I smoke ribs, it’s usually pork baby-backs. There’s just no denying the great flavor and satisfaction from those tender, juicy, succulent little bones. But it was time for a change—a BIG change to beef back ribs. They're huge—but they did not disappoint.

You may be more familiar with beef short ribs instead of back. The difference? Short rib meat is on top of the bones; back rib meat is between the bones. So that means back ribs are less meaty and need a little more loving care in preparation to remove the tough membrane on the underside of the racks. But like short ribs, the beef backs need long, slow cooking to tenderize them and bring out their natural meaty flavor—and the result is well worth the effort.

Note: Obviously, five pounds of ribs (or anything else) sounds like a lot for two to three people. But the racks are mostly bones. Two ribs will generally satisfy a smaller eater, but plan for three or four ribs for bigger eaters.

With baby-back pork ribs, I like to make a spicy barbecue sauce with hot chiles and smoky chipotle. But for these beef ribs, I wanted a mellow, rich sauce with a red wine base for deep, savory flavor. The tomato paste adds thick, fruity texture and taste.

Tip: You’ll need to remove the fat from the underside of the racks in order to get to the membrane. Once you cut away the fat, use a paring knife to scrape the membrane from a top portion of the rack and then pull it down. It can be slippery, so use a paper towel to grasp it if needed.

Beef Back Ribs 
Remove the Membrane
For a beef short rib recipe, check out Braised Beef Short Ribs with Red Wine Sauce. For pork rib recipes, see Smoked Baby-Back Ribs, Slow-Grilled Western Ribs with Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce,  and Smoked Ribs with Spiced Maple Barbecue Sauce.

Serves 2-3


For the Ribs
  • 2 tsp chile powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 lbs beef back ribs (3-4 ribs per rack), membrane removed
  • 2 cups hickory wood chips (or other wood chips)
  • 2-3 unpeeled, smashed garlic cloves and fresh herb sprigs, about a handful
  • 12 oz. beer (or apple juice), plus more liquid as needed
For the Sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the Ribs
  1. Combine the first 7 ingredients (through black pepper) in a bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the ribs. Wrap them in plastic wrap, then foil. Refrigerate at least 6 hours, or overnight.
Spice Rub 
Spice Rubbed Ribs 
Cover in Plastic Wrap
Ready to Chill
  1. Light a smoker or prepare a grill to use as a smoker. Set the ribs out of the fridge 30-45 minutes before needed.
  2. Soak the wood chips in water 30 minutes before needed. Drain well. (Use about 2/3 of the chips at the start of smoking, then add the remaining chips about 45 minutes before the ribs are done.)
  3. Place the garlic and herbs in a disposable aluminum pan or a metal pan lined with aluminum foil.
  4. When the coals are gray and cool enough to hold your hand 5 inches above for 3 seconds, scatter the drained wood chips over them. (Note: The temperature at the beginning of smoking will be around 350° F with the lid on the grill.) 
  5. Pour the beer into the pan with the garlic mixture (adding water to fill it a little more than halfway) and set the pan on the rack above the coals.
  6. Place the ribs on the opposite side and close the lid, leaving the vents open. 
Aromatics for the Smoker
Ribs Beginning to Smoke
  1. Smoke the ribs for 15 minutes in one position, then turn them over and smoke for another 15 minutes. Smoke for a total of about 3 hours, shifting positions every 25-30 minutes after the first half hour. (Add more liquid to the pan as it evaporates.)
  2. Let the coals cool naturally so that the ribs cook low and slow during the second half of the process.
  3. Baste the ribs with barbecue sauce (recipe follows) about 5 minutes before removing them from the smoker. Let them rest 3-4 minutes before slicing.
Ribs after 2 Hours
Smoked Ribs 
Basted with Sauce
Stack on a platter and serve, passing any remaining sauce at the table.

Smoked Beef Back Ribs with Red Wine Barbecue Sauce
For the Sauce
  1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Add the garlic and onion and sauté 2 minutes.
  2. Add the wine and next 7 ingredients (through mustard) and season with salt and pepper. Cook uncovered until slightly thickened, 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and let stand at room temperature 1 hour. (Or cover and refrigerate up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before using.)
Onion and Garlic 
Sauce Beginning to Cook
Cooked Sauce
Red Wine Barbecue Sauce


  1. These look delicious. My hubby is the rib man and has several rubs and mixes, some of his own recipes, that he uses. He will love to try this and I can't wait to try them either! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hey, Nancy, thanks for your comment. My hubby is a rib man, too---when they're on his plate! :)

      Hope you enjoy---best,

  2. I've never used red wine in a BBQ sauce before. These look like they'd taste and smell amazing! Thanks for sharing, your post will be featured in tonight's What'd You Do This Weekend. Pinned :-)

    Ashley @ PioneerMomma.com

    1. Ashley, thanks so much. And I hadn't used red wine in BBQ sauce either, but I know I like red wine reductions with other beef dishes, so what the heck---I think it worked!