Gaucho-Style Beef Ribs

(Costelas de Boi)


Adapted from Steven Raichlen, Planet Barbecue (Workman)

Visit the iconic Brazilian steak house Fogo de Chão (with branches throughout Brazil and North America), and the first thing you’ll see is the namesake campfire with racks of ribs roasting on upright metal stakes around it. That’s the traditional way to cook beef ribs gaucho (Brazilian cowboy) style, and if you have a big enough backyard and several hours to do the cooking, you’ll find instructions below on how to do it. But excellent Brazilian beef ribs can be made on a rotisserie, on a charcoal grill using the indirect method, and yes, even on a gas grill. Whatever method you use, you’ll get ribs with a sizzling salty crust on the outside and tender succulent meat inside—a Brazilian’s idea of nirvana, and mine, too.


2 racks (7 bones each) beef long ribs (each 2½ to 3 pounds), or 1 large rack (6 to 8 pounds)
Coarse (and I mean really coarse) sea salt
Cracked black peppercorns (optional; Brazilians don’t use it, but I like the way it rounds out the flavor)

You’ll also need:
2 cups oak or other hardwood chips (optional; see Note)

Advance preparation:
None, but allow yourself a couple of hours to cook the ribs.


Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of each rack of ribs: Turn a rack of ribs meat side down. Insert a sharp implement, such as the tip of a meat thermometer, under the membrane (the best place to start is on one of the middle bones). Using a dishcloth, paper towel, or needle-nose pliers to gain a secure grip, pull off the membrane. Repeat with the remaining rack of ribs, if using.

Right before grilling, very generously season the ribs on both sides with salt and pepper, if desired.

To grill: Grilling with a rotisserie produces beef ribs that are closest to those served at Fogo de Chão. (The campfire ribs are largely for show.)

If you are using a rotisserie, thread the ribs onto the rotisserie spit: Using a sharp, slender knife, make starter holes in the center of the meat between every two ribs. Twist the knife blade to widen the holes; this will make it easier to insert the spit. Use an over and under weaving motion to thread the spit through the holes in the racks of ribs. Two racks will fit on a large rotisserie, otherwise you’ll have to cook one at a time. Set up the grill for spit roasting, following the manufacturer’s instructions, and preheat the grill to medium-high. Attach the spit to the rotisserie mechanism, turn on the motor, and cover the grill.

If you are using the indirect method, set up the grill for indirect grilling, place a drip pan in the center, and preheat the grill to medium. When ready to cook, if you are using a charcoal grill, toss the wood chips on the coals. If you are using a gas grill and want a smoke flavor, add the wood chips to the smoker box or place them in a smoker pouch under the grate. Place the racks
of ribs, meaty side up, in the center of the grate over the drip pan and away from the heat and cover the grill.

Cook the ribs until they are well browned, tender, and cooked through, 1 to 1½ hours for smaller racks, 2 to 2½ hours for a large one. When the ribs are done, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about ½ inch. If you like, during the last half hour, baste the ribs with any fat in the drip pan. If you are using a charcoal grill, you will need to replenish the coals after 1 hour.

Transfer the grilled ribs to a cutting board, carefully removing the spit, if necessary. Cut the ribs into 1- or 2-bone sections and serve at once.


Yield: Serves 4

Note: I’ve made the wood chips optional. If you want a light smoke flavor, use unsoaked chips. For a more intense smoke flavor, soak the wood chips for 1 hour in water to cover, then drain them.

Grilling Ribs Over a Campfire: Build a brisk campfire. Using wire, attach the racks of ribs to a vertical metal stake (like a rotisserie spit) and stand them in front of the fire so they are 12 to 18 inches away from it, starting with the fatty side facing the fire. Grill the ribs until they are well browned, tender, and cooked through, 1 to 2 hours per side depending on the size of the ribs. Add fresh logs to the fire periodically and turn the ribs half-way through so the other side grills the same way. When the ribs are done, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about 1/2 inch.

Recipes: Meat, Beef Ribs, Grilled, Kosher

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