Restaurant Style Oven Baked Beef Back Ribs
These dinosaur bones have become a rarity in these parts recently unless you want to pay through the nose at places like Tony Roma's. All-you-can-eat specials were popular fare in bars,steak houses, and restaurants that didn't specialize in smoked BBQ. I've read that places used to par boiled them in water or beer mixtures,some steamed them over water. Some places were claimed to slow roast them. Whatever the method,they were finished with sauce under a broiler or salamander. I don't recall any of these places finishing on a flame/char broiler unless they were a BBQ joint and finished over fire. Those places would probably have smoked the ribs first. That was uncommon and most BBQ places didn't serve beef ribs, only pork. Buffet or several by the plate was usual. They were meaty, unlike now where virtually every beef rib that you can buy is surface trimmed to the bone. Still,you still can find some decent ribs every so often when a bonless rib eye steaks are on special.
I've tried the boiling and foil cover rack steaming methods which turn out spongy and gnarly ribs. I've also tried slow roasting/basting with poor results too. Finishing any of these methods a few inches from the broiling elements with sauce hardly makes for good ribs. I have tried broiling the ribs directly on a rack about 5 min/side with a few minutes brushed with sauce and surprisingly they turn out much better then any of the other methods. Still,whatever the restaurants were doing either had something to do with the radiant heat from a deck oven sealing the meat or there's something else that approximated smoking that did the same at lower temperatures. I've heard that one secret may have been using gelatin powder mixed in the baste that sort of emulated the smoking sealing process. Whatever the process, these were never fall-off-the-bone soft ribs,but ribs that had a bit of a chew and tug.
I've posted in the chain section about how Victoria Station's ribs used to be made which is sort of what remember. The last,remaining restaurant appears to have adopted flame/char broiling from the descriptions that posters report. I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas about how many of the old non BBQ places used to do them.They generally were described as oven baked back then. So far,the closest that I seem to have come is direct broil just under the elements.
I love those ribs. Do you want to find a restaurant or figure out how to make them?
The only way I have found these days is to buy a full, 7-bone bone-in rib roast, and then trim off the rack of ribs with at least 3/4-in. of meat still on the ribs. You get a great rib roast, and also a great rack of ribs.
These got S&P, a little garlic and cayenne, roasted/smoked low and slow indirectly in a Weber kettle for several hours (3-4). Used charcoal and a little mesquite.
Agreed that you can do great ribs this way. I've smoked batches in my electric smoker (Cookshack clone) and finished them over coals. Those are wonderful,especially if you can get some meaty racks. Rib roasts,even on sale are not a very good way to do this if you don't have the expertiese to trim and the idea of leaving excess meat on the ribs is an abstract to many grocery store butchers and the results are often disappointing.Considering the expense,it's not worth it to pay the money for a rib roast. Furthermore, it's rare that you're going to see ribs larger then 4"-5" on most cryovac roasts destined for retail.
The question remains how the restaurants used to do this with a similar result in a regular kitchen.
I am always on the lookout for great beef ribs, and as you've noted, good ones can be almost impossible to find in the markets. Usually all the best meat is taken off so they can sell it with the prime rib. Those are not a bargain at any price.
But sometimes, usually at the smaller or non-chain markets, you can find a really nice rack or two in the meat case, and there seems to be no relationship to cost -- I've seen prices all over the place. I always swing by the meat case and buy any decent beef back ribs I can find whether I need them or not.
The thing to remember is that while you can do them like spare ribs, they don't necessarily need the low and slow treatment, as they are naturally very tender. They're off the prime rib, after all.
So while I sometimes do BBQ them, more often then not I simply roast them. Into a low oven just like a prime rib. You can slow roast them at 250 for a couple of hours or regular roast them at 325 for less than an hour and do them just to medium rare, and then finish them off with some sauce at 400 or so just until they caramelize. Then they remain tender and juicy just as if they came off the whole Prime Rib.
Give this a try if you can find some nice meaty ones at the market.