The 3-2-1 Ribs Method How To Make Juicy Ribs

The 3-2-1 Ribs Method How To Make Juicy Ribs

The 3 2 1 Ribs Method *exposed* and How to use it so that you can make Professional Barbecue juicy Beef Ribs with a "Twist" thrown in. Well just about everyone in the US has had their hands on a beef rib at one time or another with the exception of vegetarians. And at least 50% of them has had the opportunity to make beef ribs or be at a barbecue or some restaurant serving beef ribs. 

We all know that beef ribs done right takes time to make.  In fact they can take two to three times what it takes to make exceptional pork ribs.  And unlike pork ribs which can be cajoled into better taste, beef ribs are less forgiving.  Sometimes it seems as if they have a mind of their own.

Well today I'm here to demystify that process and to teach you an amazing step that will blow the roof off the 3-2-1 process.  Some say life changing and life affirming and even stupendous but I wouldn't go that far.  In fact what I would say is once you work this process you'll never want to have beef ribs any other way. 

The 3 2 1 Process Defined

The 3 2 1 process is defined as 3 hours of cooking with indirect heat, 2 hours of cooking with indirect heat wherein the meat is wrapped in foil.  Those 5 hours of cooking are followed by 1 hour of resting in a dry container or oven.  

Now lets get to the basics of beef ribs.  Almost everyone knows that beef ribs come from the ventral section of a cow.  That's a mouthful and actually means that ribs are taken from the lower mid section of the cow from about the 6 to 10 rib segment known as the plate.  And since the plate only consists of about 10 ribs they are commonly called short ribs. The short part having more to do with the length of the ribs as opposed to the quantity of the ribs available.  

Since you can get two segments of the best sections of ribs that being that the cow has two sides then the ribs are segmented and displayed usually in sections of between 4 and 5 rib bones per segment.  Beef ribs are fatty and by that we mean that they are usually left with the inner bone fat on the ribs.  Unlike pork ribs where one pulls back the silvery membrane to remove the layer of fat film beef ribs require cutting and shaping. 

I find the best time to trim beef ribs is when they come out of the standard part of the refrigerator.  The beef ribs are cooled and firm whereas if they were warm they might feel greasy and slick and harder to trim.  So consider temperature if you decide to trim your ribs. 

Trimming and Cleaning

Regarding the trimming process and the fat actual trimming is relatively unnecessary.  You might want to trim away some of the overlapping fat at the top end of the bones and maybe just a little of the fat on the inner curve of the ribs.  Because the cooking process is not high heat grilling then one does not need to remove a large portion of fat as in the case of the pork ribs or other spare ribs.  We will be taking our time with these ribs so you might want to consider that when purchasing beef ribs. 

To the process of grilling which term is basically a misnomer since grilling refers to high heat and barbecue refers to slow in terms of time and low heat cooking we will actually barbecue this ribs.  And since we're going to use the 3-2-1 process with a twist one must be prepared to spend at a minimum 6 hours in the process not including the time it takes to get your charcoal up to speed or the movement time in the process. 

By the way this 3-2-1 process with a twist as discussed will apply to charcoal barbecue.  Yes, you can easily use your gas barbecue for beef ribs but in this discussion we're going to use a smoking method that is usually easier in the charcoal barbecue grill.  

Let's talk rib preparation.  Let's say you've trimmed some fat from the ribs and have cleaned and washed them thoroughly to remove any bits leftover. Now what?  Well if you seen any of the online videos there's lots of discussion about how you prepare your ribs.  Some say just add good quality kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper.  Some say add a little onion powder, black pepper and table salt and some say just put the ribs in a container with a marinade.  Now of course the quality of the ribs you buy will probably determine just how you prepare them. 

If you buy ribs that are in the $5 to $8 range for a rack then you might want to prepare them in some basic marinade.  If the ribs run $10 to $30 for a rack then you're getting the better section of ribs that don't need as much preparation and a nice dash of kosher salt and pepper will do. 

We are going to focus on the $5 to $8 dollar ribs that almost everyone buys.  Let's start with the most basic of marinades.  We like Yellow Mustard.  Why because it really helps tenderize and break down the muscle fibers of the meat I know some will argue with that but we've done hundreds of racks and we've done them with and without and each time we used the mustard the end result and taste was always better.

So, let's get the mustard on the ribs covered completely front to back and side to side.  Now let's allow the ribs to rest.  I find that if I rest the ribs for at least 3 hours then the next step drives the flavor profile even higher.  After resting it's time for the dry rub.  Of course we'll be using our Jake's Famous Righteous Tri Tip Steak and Rib Rub.

We use it because it contains kosher salt, coarse ground black pepper, garlic, onion and some nice herbs to bring up the flavors of the meat.  So, let's get that on then allow the meat to rest at least another 2 or more hours.  Ideally if you prepared the meat in the morning at say 7 AM you could easily get the ribs on the barbecue by 12 Noon and have the result for dinner around 6:30. But if you can't do that then preparing the ribs the night before is the best bet.  

Preparing the BBQ Grill

With the ribs all prepped and ready to go let's focus on the bbq grill.  We'll be using a standard Weber kettle about 18 inches across.  Since we're going to focus on the low and slow process we want to make sure that we manage the burning of our charcoal.  Now, again we've performed this process at least 150 times and we've learned how to manage charcoals and heat so follow along carefully.

The charcoal bbq grill is easy to use if you work methodically to ensure some basic action steps are followed.  First ensure that your bbq grill is cleaned and all debris removed. Second ensure that the bottom and top vents are wide open. Third we'll be using standard non-infused charcoal.  Get some of the traditional stuff in your local area. 

We're going to make a charcoal ring inside the grill and by that we means we'll place charcoal cubes side by side following the circular shape of the bbq grill.  Layout your charcoal into two rows side by side then place one charcoal briquettes on top of the row all the way around until approximately 3/4 of the grill has a row of charcoal.  

Wood smoke which we have not covered but will cover here.  We like the flavor add of wood smoke and so we add about 8 ounces of wood chips spread evenly around the charcoal ring.  If you have small chips you can place them evenly.  But if you have larger segments like Red Oak then decide if you'd like the meat to receive the maximum amount of heat at the front end of the cooking process or at the near end.  With larger segments of red oak we place those near the front when the meat is tender and receptive.  

On heat management we're focusing on a temperature range of 225 to 250 degrees.  A good digital or remote thermometer will help you determine the heat level but if you don't have one a decent kitchen thermometer will work as well.  So, how do we start this thing you ask? Easy and it all depends on if you have a charcoal chimney or not.  But no matter we'll go over the ways with and the ways without.  With a charcoal chimney we take about 10 charcoal briquettes and place them in the chimney.  We take newspaper or some other balled up paper and use that.  A really good item if you don't have either is to take lint from your dryer.  Get a big ball of lint and place that under the chimney which lights amazingly well. 

If you don't have a charcoal chimney you can place the paper or lint in the center or the grill.  Place the briquettes on top of the paper or lint pile leaving enough of it for lighting.  Then light the charcoal in either method.  Allow the charcoal to burn until most of the coals are ashed white.  This can take up to 20 minutes.  You must ensure that the vents are open in the bottom of your grill if placing the charcoal in the center ring.  After the charcoal has reached an ashy state place at the head segment of the charcoal ring. 

Keep in mind the charcoal will create a domino effect burning charcoal around the grill as the cooking process continues.  Give the charcoal an additional 5 minutes to burn in the open then place the lid on the grill.  Allow the charcoal to burn at least 5 minutes then measure the temperature through the open vent holes.  If you've achieved your desired temperature around 225 to 250 then it's time to place the meat on the grill.  If the temperature has not been achieved allow the charcoals to continue burning for a few more minutes then check again.  In extreme cases if you've spread the coals too far apart they will burn out so you'll need to check them to ensure they are touching.  

Now with the charcoals ready it's time to place the meat on the grill.  Position the beef ribs so that they will be opposite the burning charcoals.  Keep in mind over the 3 hour cooking process the charcoals will burn in the circular pattern.  When positioning the ribs it's a good idea to consider where the charcoal will burn next then place the ribs so that they won't get scorched or part of them overcooked.

Now comes the monitoring time.  A couple of things to keep in mind.  As the charcoal burns and as it starts to burn the wood chips the temperature will rise.  This is natural and if you've done it correctly once the wood is burned the temperature will drop down again until it reaches the next segment of wood.  Adjust the top vent only if the temperature exceeds 260 degrees and do that by adjusting the vent by a 1/2 inch turn. 

This will reduce the airflow out of the grill which means that the entering oxygen from the bottom of the grill is burned up leaving carbon monoxide and when that happens it slows down the burning rate and thus the temperature is decreased.  The reaction happens quickly so since you are outside there is no effect as oxygen is constantly regenerated by trees, grass and plants.

Fantastic, three hours have gone by.  Now comes the *TWIST*.  Take a large segment of foil and lay that out on your counter.  Curve the foil inward as we will be adding some ingredients to the foil to complete the cooking process.  Now you can decide if you want your ribs to have a sweet flavor, salty flavor or savory flavor on completion.  We like to flavor our ribs.  We do this because over time ribs will just be plain old ribs if you grill them enough.  So to make the process exciting we experiment with different syrups and flavors. 

We've found some killer combinations which take rib making up to a whole new level.  So, we'll take some concentrated pomegranate syrup like what they use at bars and restaurants.  We'll also layer some brown sugar approximately 1/4 cup along with 2 tablespoons of honey and 1/4 cup of orange juice.  You'll need to be careful when placing the ribs in so that you don't tear the foil.  In fact you might want to place two layers of heavy duty foil before adding the mix of ingredients.  Here's a key step in the process *remove the ribs from the grill and place them meat side down on the foil.*  

Now wrap up the ribs folding the foil over the top. The foil does not need to be hermetically sealed but seal enough to allow some steam to escape. Place the ribs back on the grill and close the lid.  After about 10 minutes check to ensure that the temperature of the grill is steady at around 225 to 250 degrees.  Now most in the barbecue world tell you to follow through with the two hour wrapped in foil process but we're going to change that step completely.

After 1 hour and 30 minutes open the foil and turn the ribs over so that the meat side is up on the foil.  There will be a lot of liquid below the ribs so be careful not to tear the foil when turning the ribs.  Fold the foil over the ribs again loosely.  Ensure that there are still some wood chips on the burning section of coals.  Now replace the lid on the grill and allow the ribs to smoke for about 40 minutes. 

After the ribs have completed smoking remove them and place them in a container.  Some have dry coolers that can take the ribs.  I just use my oven.  I've placed them in an aluminum pan as they were slightly sealed then I close the door of the oven but place some folded paper between the door and the frame to allow moisture and steam to escape.  This is the resting process so we'll allow the resting process to take a minimum of 30 minutes.  If you have more time you can rest the beef ribs for an hour.  But if you add up all time used in this process it's now around 6 pm and believe me if you're not hungry by them I sure am. 

One thing I'm sure you've done while this cooking process is going on I've been making a side salad and some baked potatoes or while I was changing the ribs I place some asparagus on the grill.  Why not take advantage of some prime charcoal heat. 

Now if you haven't burned through all your charcoal a good way to save the left overs is to pull out a few of the charcoal briquettes between the burned and unburned section.  Once the charcoals are out close both the top and bottom vents so that the oxygen is burned up and the coals put themselves out. After about an hour the grill will be cool to the touch.

With the 3-2-1 beef ribs properly rested they can be sliced and placed along side your dinner items.  Press lightly on the top of the ribs and notice how juicy they are not to mention the aroma of the ribs is just heavenly. 

This is absolutely, hands down the best way I've ever made beef ribs.  Once you make them a few times you'll get the hang of it and it will become second nature.

Enjoy your ribs! If you have questions on this process or comments please don't hesitate to let me know.  You can contact us with your comments at [email protected].


Pure Santa Maria 11 Oz   Tri Tip Steak Rib Rub 11 Oz


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