Burgers, steaks, kabobs – during the summer grilling months, beef is king. However, when it comes to ribs, pork tends to steal the crown.

Pork lends itself to a satisfying fall-off-the-bone experience; however, BBQ enthusiasts are also curious about beef back ribs, also known as “brontosaurus” ribs, from cattle.

And why not? Beef is a great source of zinc, iron and B-vitamins that support immunity, cognitive function and healthy development in every stage of life. It is a sustainable, real meat protein often raised on grazed lands that help sequester carbon and improve soil health. Plus, since the 1990s, beef production in the United States has increased by 18% while per-unit emissions of carbon have decreased by 8%.

Despite these positives, the fear of a dried out, less flavorful beef rib creates some hesitancy. To give backyard grillers a hand, Chef John Andres, director of the Iowa Culinary Institute, has some helpful tips for smoked beef ribs or beef ribs on the grill: 

  • After a couple of hours of direct smoke in a smoker, you’re not necessarily picking up more smoke flavor, says Chef John. The exposure could then dry out the meat. To avoid this, wrap ribs in aluminum foil to keep moisture in and finish them off unwrapped to get the much-desired outer crisp.
  • While we often think of food prep in terms of cooking time and temperature, Chef John says the best way to get a succulent rack of ribs every time is cook them “low and slow.” Use a thermometer to know when the meat reaches an internal temperature of 195-203 degrees.
  • Want to simply marinate the meat and throw it on the grill? Cross-cut ribs, like Korean style, are a great option. Having a thinner rib “completely changes the dynamic” says Chef John who describes this cut as a “beautiful, luscious” piece of meat.
  • Seasoning? Barbecue sauce? Sparingly? Generous? It’s about preference! But Chef John tends to keep rubs more basic for beef because of the meat’s “innate flavor.” With pork’s neutral flavor, he leans toward more seasoning as the meat takes on more of that spice. When using brown sugar, he cautions to watch cooking temperature or wrap the meat, so the sugar doesn’t burn after caramelizing.

Whether you choose to throw pork or beef ribs on the grill, livestock farmers appreciate fellow Iowans supporting the high-quality proteins raised on their family farms. Farmers work year-round to keep their animals comfortable in Iowa’s extreme colds and heat. They also participate in voluntary educational programs and training to keep up to date on the latest research related to animal health, environmental stewardship and public health.

Just like when foods are “made with love,” foods raised with care taste better. Sprinkle in a few tips from experts, and it’s an incredible culinary experience!