Sunday, November 6, 2022

Thai-Style Beef Back Ribs

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These Thai Style Beef Back Ribs have a deep flavor that sings. The melodies are salty, smoky, and peppery while the harmonies are aromatic notes, umami, and a subtle dark sweetness.

Thai-style Beef Back Ribs on the Big Green Egg

This is a recipe development post so these are more notes than the recipe itself. I'll do a full version later and get better pics.

This recipe was inspired by a chicken recipe, of all things. James Beard Award-winning Chef Andy Ricker of Pok Pok demonstrated his Thai roasted chicken on Man, Food, Fire (S:5 E:7). He uses a brine, a herb paste stuffing, a sauce, and a glaze. We made that at home and it was as fantastic as it looked on TV. 

I used a lot of the same flavor treatments for a rack of beef back ribs: 

  • a brine, 
  • a rub, 
  • a braising liquid for the wrap, and 
  • a glaze.

The Rack

There are two main types of beef ribs - short ribs and back ribs. Short ribs are meatier and taste like brisket. This was a 4.5-pound rack of beef back ribs from Costco, USDA Choice. Not bad, nothing special.

  • Beef back ribs
    • Ribs which are the bones cut from the ribeye subprimal. These are the same bones you would see in a prime rib or a bone-in ribeye (if they hadn't been cut off here). 
    • Because the meat from these becomes high-dollar steaks, butchers cut all of the meat that they can off of the ribs. Therefore there isn't a lot of meat on back ribs, they're mostly bone.
    • Not surprisingly, beef back ribs taste like steak.

Beef back ribs are trimmed from the same subprimal that gives us prime rib and ribeye steaks.


This is where the flavor starts and it starts with a bang. I mixed up the brine featuring the Thai flavors that Chef Ricker used on his birds. I let it brine for about 18 hours before smoking on the Egg. Next time I might swap the soy and sugar for a half cup of sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) for its depth of flavor. 

Thai-style Beef Back Ribs on the Big Green Egg

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce 
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cilantro stems and scraps
  • 1/4 cup lemongrass, sliced and crushed
  • 25 grams galangal root, chopped
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 3 quarts ice water

Mix everything except the water and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and mix with ice/water to lower the temp to 40f. I put the ribs in a non-reactive hotel pan, covered it with the brine, covered it and placed it in the fridge. I flipped the ribs about halfway through. 18 hours was perfect.

Note: I adjust the salt in my brines. Generally, I do 30 grams (~ 2 tablespoons) of salt per quart of liquid for longer brine periods (18-24 hours). If I have to get it done shorter (8-12 hours), I will increase the salt up to 60 grams per quart.

The Cook

When I cooked Chef Andy's chicken, we went hot and fast in a drum but smoking was a better idea for the beef ribs. 

  • Grill - I gave serious thought to hanging the ribs in a drum cooker since Chef hung his chickens. But the weather was iffy so I went with one of our Big Green Eggs since they are under a roof.
  • Fuel - Chef specifically mentioned using Thaan binchotan-style coal. I didn't have that so I went with a quality lump charcoal (Jealous Devil, Fogo, Rockwood, etc). Quality coal is key because I'm not using any smoking wood, I'm just letting the lump give it a light smokiness.  [Thaan binchotan-style coal Affiliate link]
  • Grill set up - Kick Ash Basket to ensure good airflow and make clean up easy. I used a cast iron grate from Craycort and a cast iron plate setter for the indirect piece between the fire and the grates. 
  • Plan - Season the rack with Lane's Q-Nami. Cook it at 275f for about 2 hours. Wrap it in foil with a Thai-flavored paste for about 90 minutes. Take it out of the wrap, glaze it with a sweet soy-based sauce, and finish it on the cooker for 15 more minutes.

Here's how the cook went.

  • 1:00pm -  I set up the Egg, lit it with a propane torch, and let it come up to 275f using manual controls and a natural draft. I wanted a low, steady, and clean burning fire.
  • 2:30pm - Took ribs out of the brine and did not rinse. Give the ribs a light to moderate coat of Lane's Q-Nami, an Asian fusion rub with a nice peppery kick.
  • 2:40pm - Ribs placed on, bone-side down.

I did my best to make sure the ribs didn't stick out above the open areas. 
Cast iron grates don't add sear power in a low temp cook but they do add some thermal mass which always helps with holding steady temps. Plus low and slow cooks help keep your cast iron well-seasoned.

  • 4:40pm - Two hours in and ready to wrap.
Thai-style Beef Back Ribs on the Big Green Egg
So I forgot something...I forgot to peel the membrane off the back of the ribs before putting them in the brine. Oops. That contributed to the ribs twisting like this. Not a big deal and surprisingly, it wasn't noticeable at the end.

The Wrap

My braising liquid for the wrap was inspired by the paste that Chef Ricker used on the inside of his birds.  I put it all in a mini-blender and spun it until it was a chunky liquid.
  • 1/4 cup sliced lemongrass
  • 1/4 cup beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and chopped galangal
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled

I formed a well in a 24 x 24 piece of foil and poured about 1/3rd of the liquid in that. I placed the ribs bone-side up and poured the rest over the ribs. I sealed that up and put it back on the Egg for 90 minutes.

The Glaze

The dark, sweet almost-smoky flavor of sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) is the star of the glaze. Don't be tempted to substitute regular soy for sweet soy.  Sweet soy sauce is much different than soy sauce in texture and taste. We buy ours at Sunshine Market in Knoxville but you can order it online. [Sweet Soy Sauce Affiliate Link]
  • 1/4 cup sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground fresh ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground fresh galangal
Thai-style Beef Back Ribs on the Big Green Egg
Noice rack!

Thai-style Beef Back Ribs on the Big Green Egg
To be honest, I didn't time how long it was on after glazing. I just waited for the glaze to cook on and get tacky to the touch. It was about 10 minutes but I wasn't timing it.

Thai-style Beef Back Ribs on the Big Green Egg
Beef back rib deliciousness. 

These ribs were literally "shut your mouth good" because all three of us got quiet when first biting into them. Then came the praise. So much taste in every bite. The salty, sweet, smoky, and slight heat blended flawlessly with the ginger, galangal, and umami profile. 

We will absolutely do these again in the near future. That will let me re-test the recipe and get better pictures.

Note: Chef Ricker has a few books available: [Both are Amazon Affiliate links]