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Oriental Veal Spare Ribs

Veal spareribs are a wonderful alternative for pork spareribs. Even if veal ribs are much leaner than pork ribs, and even if I cook them until they "fall off the bone", this slow food will still remain very juicy.

Since this savory veal spareribs recipe will yield pretty dark ribs, and since both the marinade and the glazing contain sugar that will tend to burn and blacken pretty quickly, it is quite important to keep the temperature inside the barbecue within limits.

Through a combination of indirect grilling and hot smoking at a temperature of in between 250F to 300F (about 120C to 150C) you can smoke these veal spare ribs to a nice and shining dark red colour without burning them.

Photo of Veal Spareribs

These hot smoked and glazed Oriental Veal Ribs are spicey sweet and smokey.

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Dark Ribs - Some Theory...

This recipe for veal spare ribs will get you very tasty ribs. That beautiful dark red colour is created as follows:

  1. First of all, the soy sauce and brown sugar in the marinade will darken the meat; and
  2. During marinating, the sugar will penetrate the meat. During the indirect grilling process, the heat will caramelize this sugar, turning the skin darker; and
  3. The apple syrup in the mop sauce is almost as dark as molasses, and will paint the meat darker during mopping. Even more darkening will occur when this apple syrup is caramelized by the heat during the indirect grilling process; and
  4. The smoking process will darken the meat as well. Even a cold-smoking will turn meat darker.

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For this oriental veal rib recipe you need the following ingredients:

6-8 pounds
3 cups
1.5 cups
Veal Ribs (or Veal Spare Ribs)
Oriental Dark Marinade
Oriental Dark Glazing

Veal Ribs?

I have not yet succeeded in buying beef ribs in Belgium or the Netherlands. While pork spare ribs are offered in abundance at butcher shops and supermarkets, beef ribs are a different ballgame.

Meanwhile, fortunately, I found an outlet which sells veal spare ribs. Not the same thing as beef ribs, but very savory, and certainly worth trying wherever you are located.


Prepping the Slabs

a)   Remove the Membrane

To get better ribs, remove the tough papery membrane from the inner side of the rib slabs. This will allow the marinade to enter the meat on both sides of the slab, and will make for easier eating later on.

This is not an easy job. Start at the thicker end of the slab and use your finger (or a table knife, or screw driver) to get under the membrane at the edge and to get a grip on the membrane and pull it lengthwise from the slab.

Usually I manage to do this with my bare fingers, but sometimes the membrane won't budge. In such case I use a pair of electrician's pliers to get a good hold on the membrane.

b)   Trimming the Slabs

Remove all loose particles of meat and excess fat.

I trim the slabs to the same size by cutting off one or two ribs at the thinner end of the slab. In this way the slabs will fit in my barbecue very nicely.

An additional advantage is that the remaining slab will have a more equal thickness, making it easier to cook the slab evenly throughout.

Yet another advantage is that you will end up with a couple of nice pieces of rib that are thinner than the slabs, and therefore will be done earlier. A good excuse to do some pre-tasting later on!

c)   Rinsing the Slabs

Rinse the ribs under cold running water, removing as many loose pieces of meat, fat and bone particles as possible.

Blot dry using paper towels.

Juancho's BBQ Tip  

A word of caution here: when working with raw fish or meat, make sure all work surfaces, utensils, and your hands are thoroughly clean before you start, and clean thoroughly immediately after you finish!

Consider the people you love. A good food poisoning can ruin more than just your reputation as a Pit Master...

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Into the Marinade

With the slabs cleaned and trimmed they are ready to take a dive into the marinade.

Put the meat in a sealable non-reactive bowl, plastic container or "zip-lok" bag, and add the marinade.

Marinate the meat for at least a couple of hours, but prefereably overnight. Turn the meat frequently to ensure even cover by the marinade.

Juancho's Split Grill

To accommodate as many ribs as possible, I set up my relatively small Weber grill for indirect grilling on one side rather than in the center.

Picture of Juancho's Split Grill For this purpose I split the lower grate (the "coal grate") in two parts: about one quarter will serve as coal pocket, in the remaining three quarters I create a drip pan out of heavy duty aluminium foil.

I call this my SPLIT GRILL, and it works excellent for me, giving me a lower smoking temperature, longer smoking duration, and improved temperature control.

Picture of Juancho's Split Grill: Water, Fire, Beer and Smoke!!! With the charcoal briquettes in the coal pocket, I put a few water soaked chunks of smokewood (say about 1"-2" thick and 3"-5" long) on top or in between the charcoal briquettes.

Juancho's BBQ Tip
Smoke is like a condiment, adding a specific taste to your food, like salt and pepper. And just like you don't want your food to get too salty or too spicy, you don't want too much smoke either.
Too much smoke will leave a bitter and/or creosote taste on your food. In general: do not exaggerate on the smoke.
                                            Just a whisp should be enough.

Click HERE to read more about CHARCOAL BRIQUETTES

Click HERE to read more about SMOKEWOOD

I pour about one quart of water in the drip pan, together with a can of cheap beer or - on a rare occurence - leftover wine.

Picture of Juancho's Split Grill: Baffle made of Aluminium Foil To prevent burning of the ribs by direct radiation I use a baffle which I make on the spot out of folded aluminium foil.

Let's Smoke!

With the glowing briquettes, the smokewood and the drip pan in place, I close the lid of my kettle smoker in order to let the fire settle and pre-heat the interior.

As soon as you see that beautiful plume of Hot Smoke (!) coming out of that little Weber, it is about time to take control of the fire by closing the bottom vent holes half way.

The top vent holes will ALWAYS remain fully open!

Picture of Oriental Veal Ribs by Hot Smoke Barbecue Once everything has heated properly I put the veal rib slabs on the grate above the drip pan. The small chuncks of ribs that I cut off the slabs during trimming fit nicely on the auxilliary rack.

Time for a Beer...

As soon as those ribs are taking the heat inside your coal fired garden microwave, it's time to seriously take it easy!

Hot Smoke Barbecue - Juancho's Split Grill: Fire and Beer!!! Take a(nother) beer, have a seat, read an interesting book, listen to some nice music, enjoy. For hours I can watch that thin whisp of fragrant Hot Smoke curling through my garden. Aah, that beautiful smell of fresh burning oak or apple wood mixed with roasting meat...

If you'd like to check out some barbeque "technology":

Slow Food - Temperature

Since these slowfood ribs will have to cook for a number of hours on a slow fire until really well done - without burning and turning black as wet charcoal - I use an electronic thermometer to continuously monitor the temperature inside the barbecue.

Hot Smoke Barbecue - Thermometer By adjusting the bottom vent holes gradually between open and closed, I try to keep the temperature inside the barbecue in between 250F to 300F (about 120C to 150C).

Mostly depending on ambient temperature and wind - and the resulting required burning speed of the briquettes - you may have to add some ten to fifteen glowing briquettes after about two or three hours.

Picture of Oriental Veal Ribs by Hot Smoke Barbecue

Try to resist peeking under the lid too often. Each time you open the lid you will lose heat, which will delay the cooking of the meat. (On the other hand, what the heck! Relax!)


To get a nice and shining layer on these ribs we start mopping them with a glazing sauce after about about two hours of smoking.

Mop the ribs every half hour or so.

Time to Attack...

After some four or five hours of hot smoking at a temperature of in between 250F to 300F and without opening the lid too often, these ribs should be really well done.

Glazed Oriental Veal Ribs - by Hot Smoke BBQ

You could check doneness using a meat thermometer. With the point of the probe stuck in the thickest parts of the meat the thermometer should read at least 175F.

I use the simple method: Just cut off a rib from the thicker end of the slab. Within two seconds you will have all the info you need, without any doubt. And you get a good excuse to be the first to taste...

Once the ribs are indeed well done, put them in a pre-heated tray or a cutting board and cover loosely with aluminium foil. Let rest for some ten minutes to allow the juices inside the meat to re-distribute, thus making the ribs taste even better!

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The PitMaster Suggests

These hot smoked veal spareribs combine very well with a cold potato salad and hot chili beans, or with Hot Smoke Barbecue Fries and Juanita's American Coleslaw or other salad.

Favorite Drinks

Cold beer (!) will go well with any barbecue, summer or winter. Also very suitable: cold mineral water with some thin slices of lemon.

Aah yes, and then there's Rianna and Juanita... No need to worry about them. Whatever's on the menu, they will stick to their red Rioja and Merlot...

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At Hot Smoke BBQ we love Chile Peppers!

Keep Smokin' !