Coffee and beef go very well together. If you see it in writing, you know it would. And we have used ground coffee in dry rubs before, but because we are experimenting with cocoa and chocolate, we wanted to see if we could make a dry rub with coffee and cocoa.
We tried this dry rub on some short ribs, and it tasted like nothing we had before. It does not taste like coffee, but you taste a hint of chocolate in the back of your mouth. With the bitterness of the coffee and the sweetness of the sugar, it’s a fantastic combination.
How do you recognize good quality short ribs
We are often told that the expectations of deliciously juicy short ribs are disappointing. This usually has to do with the quality of the meat they used. You can’t make great bbq with mediocre meat. You have to get the best meat you can afford. And if your budget is not high enough to get good meat, it’s better to smoke something else.
To recognize good quality meat is not that difficult. You’re looking for bright red meat with a good amount of intramuscular fat. These are the white lines of fat in the meat. This fat ensures that the meat remains juicy, becomes tender and tastes better. Without this fat, the end result will always be disappointing. Then you get dry and tasteless meat on your plate.
This is a Jacob’s ladder. An Irish cut of beef that is beautifully veined with thin lines of fat. The meat is also not very thick, making it easier to cook for the beginner. Usually, beef ribs are two layers of meat with a hard layer of fat in between. These cuts are more difficult to smoke and typically take longer to cook.
On the bone side of short ribs is a membrane that ensures that all the cow’s intestines are kept in place. However, this membrane is an impenetrable and tasteless piece of skin that ensures that the dry rub and the smoke cannot enter the meat on that side.
So to give the meat more taste, we remove the membrane. You insert a blunt knife between the membrane and a rib somewhere in the middle of the short ribs. Then you pull it up until you can get a finger under it. Then you can pull it off the meat in one go.
The coffee and cocoa dry rub smells really delicious. You should make coffee with this dry rub. If volunteers would like to try it out, we’ll hear how it turned out.
We set up our kamado to smoke at an indirect temperature of 140ºC (284F). You can go a little hotter but keep it under 160ºC (320F) because otherwise, the sugar in the dry rub will burn.
After an hour or two, you will see that the ribs are coming loose from the meat, and the bark has formed. The bark is the dry rub, which has created a crust with the smoke and fat from the short ribs. This bark looks really great because of the coffee and cocoa.
Also, the whole backyard smells like coffee. Your neighbours really don’t know what to expect coming out of your grill.
What is the stall?
To speed up the cook, we will wrap the short ribs. If you don’t do this, you’ll experience the stall around 70ºC (158F). The stall is the period when the meat expels (or sweats) moisture, making the surface moist.
This moisture cools down by the flowing oxygen and ensures that the meat underneath does not heat up anymore. This only stops when the moisture has dried, and this really can take hours and be very frustrating. We call this period the stall.
They invented the Texas Crutch during barbecue competitions to remove the stall from the whole process. Before the meat starts to sweat, it is wrapped in aluminium foil or butcher’s paper so that the meat is no longer cooled by the outside air. It works as if you put on a jacket when you’ve sweated.
We will use butcher paper for wrapping this time. Paper has the advantage that it breathes better than aluminium foil so that the bark is not steamed and gets soft. And at the same time, the paper closes enough so that the meat does not cool down during the stall.
If the short ribs are tender enough, you should not unpack and eat them just yet. The meat will have to rest first. The resting is an essential part of the cook. While resting, all the moisture that has been forced to the outside will be distributed back in the meat.
If you don’t do this, you will notice that a lot of moisture ends up on the cutting board, and the centre of the meat dries out very quickly. And that, of course, cannot be the intention.
After resting, you must admire the meat first before eating it. You can see that there is a clear smoke ring. Not just on the top but also on the bone side of the meat. That’s because you removed the fleece. You can proudly show this smoke ring to friends and put it on social media.
These are our short ribs with coffee and cocoa dry rub. If you are going to make these short ribs, let us know in the comments below. Or better! Take a photo and post it on Instagram. Tag @bbq.heroes so we can see what you made.
- short ribs
For the dry rub
- 3 tbsp smoked sea salt
- 2 tbsp ground coffee
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp garlic granules
- 1 tbsp onion granulate
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp mustard powder
- 2 tsp chilli powder
- Remove the membrane from the short ribs. See above how to do that.
- Mix all the ingredients for the dry rub. Brush the short ribs with a little Tabasco and sprinkle the dry rub over all sides of the meat in a thick and even layer.
- Prepare a barbecue with an indirect temperature of about 140ºC (284F) and one or two chunks of smoke wood. Place the short ribs on the grates and close the lid.
- After 2 hours, when the core temperature is about 70ºC (158F), check whether the dry rub is firmly attached to the meat.
- Wrap the short ribs in butcher paper or aluminium foil and place them back on the grates. Stick your thermometer probe through the paper and into the meat and close the grill.
- When the meat has reached a core temperature of 96ºC (205F), check whether the short ribs are soft enough by poking it with the probe of your thermometer or a skewer. When it goes in and out without resistance, it’s tender.
- Rewrap the meat and let it rest in a cooler for an hour.