BBQ Bonanza 2011 - Barbecued Beef Short Ribs

Sustainability at the Grill continues this week with one of my favorite meats: short ribs. My friend David Dadekian, one of the organizers of the soon to be happening first Providence Food and Wine Festival, publisher of Eat Drink RI, photographer, and all around good guy. He was one of our first BBQ Bonanza guest posters last year. In addition to his writing, photography and raising his kids, we works with a small Rhode Island farm Blackbird Farm. As you'll see, he loves their beef. He's not alone.

When people start thinking about sustainability they sometimes think they have to give up red meat, forego beef. It's easy to look for simple rules to follow but to ensure your protein is a sustainable choice, you need to ask some questions:


  • Where is it raised? Locally, or in the midwest or west? Factory operation and feedlot or pasture-raised? The carbon footprint is much smaller for local beef than for beef trucked across the country.
  • What is it fed? Grass fed? Grain fed? Given growth hormones, antibiotics? Factory farms feed all kinds of crap to the cattle raised there.
  • How is it harvested? Some farms use huge processing plants and have little if any control over the cleanliness. e. coli, salmonella and other
Read more about what makes beef sustainable here at the Sustainable Table.


As we try to improve our diets, we're diversifying the proteins we eat (like bison burgers or goat empanadas), adding more grains and beans and vegetables. We're choosing meats by different criteria, not just price. We're eating less of it but choosing better quality when we do. Now, many of the farmers' markets include farmers raising meat on pasture, usually grain-finished.

Please enjoy David's post, drop a comment with your favorite local beef farmer, or ask us a beef question. All comments enter you to win "Fire it Up!" the book that he used to make these barbecued short ribs.

BBQ Bonanza 2011 – Barbecued Beef Short Ribs

Guest post: David Dadekian

I like grilling red meat. That’s right, I said it, RED MEAT! Sure fish is healthier, and if you get the right species—after consulting fourteen different charts, twelve books and Tweeting with experts like @chefreinvented and @ldgourmet—it’s sustainable. I enjoy grilling poultry, though I really prefer to smoke poultry, which is probably something I shouldn’t discuss in public. Grilling vegetables is tasty, very healthy, they’re sustainable and, if you pay attention to whoever says things are trends, vegetables are this year’s bacon. You’ll never, ever, ever see me type something as ridiculous as “vegetables are this year’s bacon” again. My belly is one-third pork belly (also good on the BBQ).

Which brings me back to red meat. For me, it’s perfect for cooking over super hot coals. My family and I don’t eat a lot of it, but when we do we’re fortunate to get it from a local farm that raises some of the best beef I’ve ever tasted. It is true I work with this local farm but I do not come to this claim lightly. I found the beef first, loved it and then said, I want to work with you Blackbird Farm in Smithfield, Rhode Island. In the interest of truth, as much as I love the beef from this small, family run farm, we cannot claim it’s 100% sustainable. Both the husband and wife farm owners have other small businesses for income and they have to bring in hay bales from upstate New York to nourish the cows in the winter months. Blackbird Farm is on the path, but the bottom line in all this is, sustainability is very hard.

So I won’t lay claim that the beef I’ve barbecued for this post is completely sustainable, but I will say it is pasture-raised, hormone and antibiotic-free and, from personal experience, pretty content and well-cared for. It’s also humanely slaughtered, which to me is a very important piece of this conscientious carnivore puzzle.

One of the things I do at Blackbird Farm is teach cooking classes. What started this was that people would come to the farm to buy beef, and they would always want steaks (rib eyes, strip, sirloins, etc.) or ground beef. We process two, maybe three cows at a time at Blackbird Farm. There’s only so much steak in a cow, and really only a certain amount of ground beef as well, unless you want to start grinding up all the other cuts like top round, brisket and short rib. So as we get to the end of a cow, we’d try to sell customers these other cuts, and usually people would say, “what do I do with a brisket?” or, “I have no idea how to cook a roast.” There’s a whole larger issue here about our society. But I digress.

So I teach these classes, and when it comes to short ribs, I always braise them. Which, for a three-hour cooking class, requires me to do the TV cooking magic trick of “this goes into the oven for three hours [turn back to audience and switch Dutch ovens] and look here they are all finished!” But I just read something to do with short ribs that I had never done before, and now I was going to barbecue them. What I read is in a new cookbook I was sent that I truly just fell in love with, “Fire It Up: More Than 400 Recipes for Grilling Everything” by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim with photographs by Alison Miksch. It just happens to be the cookbook giveaway this month on this very page so make sure you enter because you sure as heck aren’t getting my copy.



I got this book and I thought, “eh, it’s a grilling cookbook.” But my lack of enthusiasm quickly dissolved as I flipped through the book. First of all, there’s a lot of great grilling information in it. Sure, there’s a lot of great grilling information all over the place now, but that’s the point, this book has just about all of the information you could need in one place.  Secondly, the flavor combinations in the recipes, while not hugely unique, are still very interesting and, as with the grilling info, the recipes are very well organized. There’s a seriously huge amount of recipes in one resource. The other thing I love about the book is it really is, as the title says, about grilling everything, and I mean everything. The chapters include: Beef, Veal, Pork, Lamb, Goat, Bison & Other Game Meat, Chicken & Turkey, Duck, Goose & Game Birds, Fish, Crustaceans & Mollusks, Vegetables, Fruit, Cheese, Other Dairy Foods & Eggs and Breads, Sandwiches, Cakes & Cookies.

Now I’m hooked on this book and as I’m going through it I see a page on butterflying short ribs for grilling. As I said I’ve never done this before. All the more reason to try it.


The instructions in the book are very clear and it’s ridiculously easy. Even if you’ve never butterflied something before you should be able to learn this rather quickly.



Depending on your source for short ribs I would usually advise marinating them for a few hours or overnight because it’s traditionally a not-so-tender cut. “Fire It Up” points to a recipe for short ribs using a Korean Barbecue Marinade, though there are a bunch of great marinades you could try from the book. The Salsa Beer Marinade looks great as does the Rosemary Red Wine Marinade. I chose to go straight to a rub because I know these Blackbird Farm short ribs are somewhat tender. I went with the:

Toasted Cumin Rub

Recipe from “Fire It Up: More Than 400 Recipes for Grilling Everything” by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim with photographs by Alison Miksch - you can win a copy by commenting below)


  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt or smoked salt
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
  • ½ teaspoon sugar


Toast the cumin, coriander and peppercorns in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes, and then grind in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Combine with the salt, smoked paprika, chipotle and sugar. Store in a tightly closed container for up to 1 month.

I fired up some natural lump charcoal in a chimney starter, put the hot coals on one side of my grill, seared the short ribs for a minute or so on each side—there’s generally a lot of fat on short ribs so watch for flare-ups—moved them over to the other side of the grill and let them cook for another 5-10 minutes. I didn’t want to cook them rare like a steak, but I didn’t want to make them tough by overcooking. Unlike a braise which you could let go for days, by butterflying you’ve created somewhat thin slabs of meat, one third of which is mostly bone, so take the thickness of your final butchered product into account as you cook.

As you can see, because of the high amount of fat in the short ribs, there is a considerable amount of shrinking as the meat cooks. It’s also a bit easy to char that fat, but personally I love a little crispy fat flavor and the interior was a nice color pink. I thought the rub gave enough spiced flavor so while I had prepared a basic barbecue sauce, we didn’t use any. But there are a number of sauces in the book that I could see going well with this dish, depending on your overall dinner. Perhaps try the Espresso Grilling Sauce or the Grilled Tomato Marmalade.

There you have it, barbecued beef short ribs. A great way to grill a different cut of beef than the usual steak. Plus, if you’re concerned about eating too much beef—because portions really can get out of control with places selling 16 ounce or larger steaks—there’s not nearly as much meat on a short rib, perhaps 5-6 ounces, which is really a good thing in the long run for the sustainability of you.


Great News from Our Sponsors giving away another set of their terrific barbecue sauces; each winner will receive:


  • one bottle of Carolina sauce (for dressing pulled pork);
  • one bottle of pomegranate chili sauce (versatile sweet/sour/spicy);
  • and one bottle of jerk marinade (meat brine or stew base or ceviche base).



Comment on BBQ Bonanza August posts also enter you to win Fire it Up: 400 Recipes for Grilling Everything. (Even includes recipes for goat! Donuts, I kid you not, and scallops with grapefruit mojo. Really there ARE recipes for grilling everything!)



The good people at OXO have graciously added this Four Piece Grilling Set to our August Contest!


How to win one of these THREE prizes:

  1. Enter a comment in any August BBQ Bonanza post.
  2. Write your own post on the theme of Sustainability at the Grill and link back here. You'll get a second entry!
  3. Hit the Silk Road! Find the phony location of a Silk Road yurt, post the true and the false locations in your comment here, and gain another chance to win.
  4. Tweet, RT (#BBQBonanza), post to Facebook.