Just cooking: barbecue rotisserie prime ribs of beef

These slow-cooked ribs will really get your taste buds tingling – whatever the season.

By Tom Knowles

I always enjoy a slow-cooked piece of meat. There’s something about the melt-in-the-mouth texture that stimulates the appetite. And it’s so easy to serve: cut up in a bun, with salad or veggies, or just to snack on all by itself, in the manner of a mediaeval banqueter.

Give this recipe the time and care it deserves and you’ll cement your reputation as a barbecue king or queen par excellence. You’ll easily feed a large party with a cut of prime ribs. So invite your mates around, crack open the beers, and get ready for slow-cooking heaven.

And remember, there are no rules about what time of year to barbecue. Whether you want to cook prime ribs in January’s swirling snowstorms or August’s searing heat, that’s your lookout. They taste delicious all year round.

The meat

First things first: let’s treat these majestic prime ribs with the respect they deserve. This isn’t your everyday roast. Take your time. Let the meat cook nice and slowly – then let it rest before serving. Your patience will be well rewarded.

To justify such reverence, you need to choose the right cut. I always go to a reputable local butcher like Alan Leeder in Boxford. Order at least four weeks ahead of cooking so the meat can hang. Don’t be shy about visiting the butcher in between, so you can admire the changing colours and textures of your gently maturing beef.


After being hung for so long, your meat will have developed blackened ends (“faces”). Remove these as they’ll prevent the flavour spreading evenly throughout the joint while cooking.

I like to butcher my own meat by removing the backstrap and chines and trimming the ribs to a suitable height. But don’t be afraid to ask your butcher to do this if you’re short of time or expertise. It’ll take a matter of minutes for them to achieve something that could take you hours to sort.

The crucial thing in preparing the meat is to leave a good amount of fat. This helps with self-basting, ensuring the cut stays nice and tender as it cooks.


Next up is the rub, which I keep simple so that the flavour of the beef speaks for itself. My recommendation is:

  • Half a cup of plain flour
  • Half a cup of mustard powder
  • Two tablespoons of coarse seasalt
  • Two tablespoons of coarse ground black pepper
  • One tablespoon of garlic powder

Just before cooking, give the ribs a generous rub with a good quality oil (use something like sunflower or rapeseed oil, which has a high smoke point) then a healthy coating with the mixed rub ingredients, making sure you work it into all the nooks and crannies.

BBQ time

Remove your meat from the fridge an hour before cooking, so it gets up to room temperature. In the meantime, you can focus on getting the fire lit.

For me, there is only one charcoal barbecue to even contemplate using: the Weber Kettle. I use charcoal rather than lumpwood for this recipe, sourced either locally or from Weber itself.

Light your charcoal either in a starter chimney (if you don’t have one, I highly recommend them) or in situ. Give it 30 minutes or so with the lid open (or in the chimney) to turn grey, then pop it into the char-baskets with the lid closed so that the temperature can even out to about 200˚C. 

With your meat rubbed and ready (allow 15 minutes to do this properly), you can get the spit in place. Aim to position it as centrally as possible in the joint so it turns evenly. Now you can locate it in the rotisserie motor and slot it in place on top of the barbecue.

Check the meat after 15 minutes to make sure everything’s in order. Spread four charcoal briquettes evenly in each char basket to keep the temperature up and leave it for an hour.

Once this time has passed, the temperature will begin to drop. Add a further three briquettes to each basket and do the same an hour later to ensure it doesn’t dip below 170˚C. As you enter the fourth and final hour, add four more briquettes to each basket.

You should keep a check on the temperature of the meat, working as quickly as possible to retain heat in the barbecue. To attain a finish that is well done at the edges and medium in the centre, you should aim for a core temperature of 58˚C to 65˚C.

And… rest!

Now comes the most important part of the whole process: leaving the meat to rest. I give mine a good 40 minutes in the pantry, leaving it uncovered so the flavours can really develop. As a rule of thumb, leave your meat until no steam escapes when you cut into it. That means the tenderness will be retained.


Cut the ribs into hearty slices and serve them on a platter, or individually. The meat should glisten with tenderness: smoky and charred on the outside but pink and moist in the centre. Try to carve on demand, so that you can store leftovers whole. That locks in the texture, ensuring it’ll be just as tasty tomorrow.

Waste not want not

Don’t throw away the bones from your rack of ribs. Cover them with water and boil up for 20 minutes on the hob, along with some carrots, celery, onions, bay leaves and a bouquet garni. Then put them in a low oven for four hours, giving you the perfect stock for winter soups and gravies.

As for the dripping, which should be caught in your barbecue’s drip tray, pop it in the fridge. It’s great for making roast potatoes, or a slice of the finest fried bread you’ve ever tasted.

© Copyright Just Recruitment 2018

If you like these tips on cooking see our tips on Recruiting and Business - Top Tips

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