You simply do not go to Bullard in Portland without ordering the Slow-Cooked Beef Rib. And you probably shouldn’t eat them without bourbon.
It’s fair to call Bullard’s beef ribs an interstate meat masterpiece. Texan chef Doug Adams smokes the Painted Hills beef for twelve hours before serving it with fresh flour tortillas, bread and butter jalapeños, and green sauce.
The dish is insanely tender and rich, and calls for a bourbon complement. “In the summer I would love a light and refreshing cocktail made with Basil Hayden’s,” says Adams. “If I am smoking meat and it’s cold and rainy out, you better believe I am sipping from a bottle! I love Willet if I am feeling fancy, but there is nothing wrong with some Jim Beam and a buddy to pass it to.”
Because we want to eat this beef rib as often as possible, we asked Adams to help us make it at home. Here are his tips, with Adams’ signature BBQ spice at the bottom.
How do you go about selecting the right meat for the smoked beef rib?
We always start by looking at the best product we can get from as local as possible. So once we find a farm or ranch that we know there are happy animals getting lots of time free we get into the nitty gritty. For a slow smoke on short rib plates, I am looking for the right amount of fat to balance with the size of the rib.
When you smoke, you are flavoring as you cook, so a great product is the result of the right amount of smoke matching up with the right amount of doneness. We look for well marbled but not overly fatty meat that we know will cook in about 12 hours, but will not break down to a fatty pile of meat. We need to be able to slice it and for it to hold shape, and not need so much time to cook that it gets overly smoky, or too charred on the outside.
How can the home cook make something similar at home?
Most local butchers can order you a rib plate. It’s important to ask for the short rib section and not the chuck. Chuck ribs have less marbled fat and will cook much quicker and can result in a dry rib. Once you have your rib plate, rub down with lots of salt and black pepper, and get that smoker going! I like smoking on Traegers at home; they are easy and keep consistent temperature. If not, any smoker will work as long as you are comfortable keeping the temp right around 215-220°F for a good portion of your day.
What’s the secret to keeping the dish super tender?
The meat is going to be inherently tender, as long as you cook it slow and low and break down the fibers of muscle. Cooking too fast will tighten those muscles instead of allowing them to breakdown, cooking too slow, or undercooking, will not get the meat up to around 200°F to break down and render fat.
Any other tips to making this perfect at home?
Good smoked meat is all about practice. Learning the ins and outs of your smoker just takes time, and patience. Finding the right wood to burn is crucial, not wet or sappy. Good, dry oak is my favorite. It burns fast enough to create good, clean smoke, but not so fast that it will spike your temperature uncontrollably.
What are your favorite sides to serve with the rib?
I prefer my BBQ with bright acidic sides and pickles. The meat is so rich you need something to cut through. At Bullard we love serving our smoked meats with TEXAS CAVIAR, which is a cold black eyed pea salad that is hearty but light and bright and super herbaceous.
1 tbs. toasted and ground coriander
1 tbs. toasted ground cumin
1 tbs. toasted ground fennel
2 tbs. cayenne
3 tbs. black pepper
3 tbs. brown sugar
– Mix all ingredients, I like to double or triple the recipe so I have extra for next time (it works great on chicken and pork as well).
– Season the beef rib generously with salt, fatty beef needs a lot more salt than you would think!
– Allow to sit for 10 min or so, then rub the beef rib with the BBQ spice.
– Pre-heat smoker to 200, smoke the rib between 200 and 225 for 10-12 hours or until tender.