Latin American Cuisine: Colombian-Style Barbecue Ribs

Colombian-style Barbecue Ribs

Once you've got the ribs, there's not much more to it other than building a fire and waiting. Get the recipe »

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Here's the recipe for real Colombian llanos-style barbecue:


  • 1 whole beef hind quarter, about 160 pounds, preferably from the cebú
  • Salt and black Pepper


  1. Build a large hardwood fire from woods only available in the Colombian llanos. Skewer beef on supersized metal skewer (available at your local supersized metal skewer outlet), season liberally with salt and pepper, and rest skewer vertically about 3 feet from smoldering embers.
  2. Cook until done, about 12 hours, making sure to look as manly as possible during the process. Carve and serve with beer, sauce, and blood sausages.

It's delicious, I swear. Just try it!

Alright, so it may not be the most practical recipe, and it's not really conceivable to cook a whole steer quarter on your deck. But you can cook my favorite part of the cow: beef ribs.

You know those bits of fatty, crispy meat that you have to gnaw off the bones when you've just finished off a nice ribeye steak? Those bits that your dogs just go nuts over? Well here's a secret: You don't have to eat the steak first.

Any true-blooded Texan will know this, of course. Beef ribs are a staple on Texas-style barbecue menus, and in many ways it's very similar to the Colombian-style barbecued beef ribs. Both are seasoned with nothing more than a simple salt and pepper rub. Both are cooked over hardwood embers. Both are served neat with perhaps a tiny bit of sauce on the side if you really insist. Both are incredibly delicious.


The key to good beef rib barbecue is getting good beef ribs. Short ribs, cut from the ribs underneath the loin muscle will work, but what you're really looking for here is the upper section of the ribs—the rib bones you'd see on a prime rib roast or a ribeye steak. Most good butchers sell boneless ribeye steaks, which means that somewhere in that shop, they've also got prime rib bones kicking around. This is what you're after, and you should get it cheap.

Once you've got the ribs, there's not much more to it other than building a fire and waiting. Low and slow indirect heat is the key here, so you want to build a two-zone fire in your grill with all the coals (or lit burners) on one side and a cooler zone on the other side.

Fat will render. Connective tissue will soften. Bark will be formed. Dinner will be had.