Beef short ribs are probably my favorite cut of meat to smoke at the moment.
Don’t be fooled by the name. There’s nothing “short” about these huge meaty ribs.
Beef short ribs contain more flavor, fat and connective tissue than pork ribs. There’s also a lot more meat on them! This does mean they take longer to cook though.
For this recipe, we’re cooking Texas Style which means we’re skipping the sweet rubs and sauces. This will let the delicious beef flavor shine through.
What you’ll need:
Before you get started, ensure you have:
- A smoker – I’m using my trusty Weber Smokey Mountain but any kind of smoker will do
- One or more slabs of beef short ribs
- A decent temperature probe
- A binding agent like yellow mustard, olive oil or hot sauce and the ingredients to make your own rub.
- 6 – 10 hours until you need to eat.
What are beef short ribs?
Beef short ribs come from the chuck primal cut found on the shoulder and neck area of the beef animal. The chuck area contains a lot of muscle, fat and connective tissue, and gets a lot of work during the life of the animal, making it perfect for low and slow bbq.
Short ribs are incredibly meaty and usually come in a set of three to five ribs, with just one rib weighing in at 1 – 1.25 pounds!
You can often find them sold as single ribs, but I find the whole slab works best otherwise the meat can dry out during cooking.
There are three main types of beef ribs, and there’s a lot of variation in how much bone and meat different butchers leave on so if you can’t find the exact ribs used in this recipe don’t worry it will still work.
Before we get into how to smoke these short ribs, let’s run through what to look for when you’re at the butcher.
Choosing the best beef ribs to smoke.
- Try to get the best quality you can afford. Some things to look out for include USDA Choice, USDA Prime, Wagyu, or Certified Angus Beef.
- Look for a rack of ribs on the thicker side, with decent marbling throughout. You can see in the picture below the lines of marbling running through the meat. This is going to break down and make your ribs taste delicious!
- You don’t need a large fat cap as we’ll trim most of that off, but being able to leave a little on helps
Now that you’ve selected your beef ribs you’re probably rearing to go. But before you can throw it on the smoker we need to make sure we maximize the flavor.
Smoked Beef Short Ribs
You can’t go wrong keeping things simple and going for Texas Style short ribs. Using a simple rub of mainly salt and pepper allows the beef flavor to shine through.
1. Trimming your beef ribs
These BBQ short ribs are very easy to prepare.
Begin by removing the fat and the very tough silver skin from the top of the meat. It might be tempting to keep the fat on but it won’t render and it will stop your rub flavor from getting into the meat
You can leave a little bit of fat, especially if around any thinner areas as this will help prevent them from drying out.
2. Removing the membrane
You don’t HAVE to remove the membrane from the exposed side of the bones but I like to take it off to get a tiny bit of extra rub flavor in. Use a paper towel to grab a corner of the membrane to make it easier to pull off.
If you can’t get a good grip, try and loosen the membrane with a butter knife.
If you want to you can salt the ribs the night before but it’s not required
3. Seasoning the short ribs
We’re cooking these ribs Texas Style which means keeping the flavors super simple. You could go with a rub of 3 parts black pepper to 2 parts salt, but I like adding garlic powder and smoked paprika for a little bit more flavor.
Mix the rub ingredients together and preferably add to a rub shaker to help you get an even coat of seasoning over the ribs.
Before applying the rub, spread a thin layer of yellow mustard over the ribs to help the rub stick. Oil or Worchester sauce work too.
- Make sure you apply the rub evenly all over
- Be careful you don’t over apply the rub. You should still be able to see the meat, we don’t want a thick crust of spice!
- It doesn’t need to sit overnight or anything like that. Just leave it to rest while you fire up your smoker.
Let your ribs sit for 20 minutes and absorb the rub while you get your smoker setup.
4. Setting up your smoker
These ribs are simple to smoke, and the exact setup depends on the type of smoker you are using.
- I recommend cooking on the higher end of low and slow around 250°F. Aaron Franklin does beef short rubs at 285°F so feel free to experiment with temperature.
- I used Apple chunks but you could use any fruit wood or oak, which is traditional in Texas.
- Go easy on the wood. Two large chunks are enough to produce a deep rich smoke ring.
Set up your smoker to cook between 250-300°F.
Place the ribs on the grill, bone side down to protect the meat. Make sure you have a bbq thermometer to keep an eye on temperatures and put the lid back on.
You shouldn’t need to add any more wood and I wouldn’t bother turning the meat over. I wish I could tell you exactly how long it’s going to cook but there are so many factors that can influence cook time.
For a general rule of thumb these time estimates are pretty accurate:
- 1″ thick meat about 5-6 hours
- 1.5″ thick meat about 6-7 hours
- 2″ thick meat about 10 hours
5. Monitoring your beef ribs during the cook
Leave your ribs to smoke for three hours. At that point, you can start spritzing every hour with beef stock or apple cider vinegar.
You really don’t need to, but if you see spots starting to burn this can help.
Now you need to sit back and wait until the ribs get to at least 200°F internal temperature and the probe goes in and out like butter.
If you’re used to cooking pork ribs you might be in for a shock at how long these can take.
This is what my ribs looked like after about 5 hours. You can see the bark still has a long way to go.
These bad boys can take a long time to cook.
6. Resting and serving your short ribs
This is where all your patience pays off. The probe goes in like butter and measures at least 200°F.
Carefully pick the ribs up and wrap them in aluminum foil or butcher paper
Be careful not to damage the bark. A good tip I got from Aaron Franklin’s video is to pick the ribs up with a damp towel so you don’t accidentally damage the bark.
Leave your ribs to rest for at least one hour wrapped in foil or butcher paper and a few old towels inside a cooler.
If you’re serving them for a party you can easily leave them in a faux cambro for a couple of hours.
Once your ribs have rested for at least an hour slice them into individual ribs with a good slicing knife.
Beef ribs like these really don’t need any kind of barbecue sauce, but if you really like sauce use something that goes well with beef like this Texas mop juice
And that’s it! If you’ve followed this guide your ribs should be tender, with a rich smoke ring around the outside.
The hardest part about this recipe is the amount of time it takes. But they wouldn’t taste as good if they only took an hour.
You can’t tell just how moist and juicy these ribs were in the photo. When I picked them up and gave them a gentle squeeze there was juice oozing out of them.
How long does it take to smoke beef short ribs?
As a general rule of thumb, you should allow 6-8 hours to smoke a large rack of beef short ribs.
I wish I could give you a more accurate time estimate, but the cooking time will vary based on the thickness of the meat, the number of ribs in the rack, and the temperature you decide to smoke at.
If you are pressed for time feel free to smoke a little hotter, around 275-300°F.
Don’t forget to include the time it takes to prep and heat your smoker, and an hour to rest the ribs.
So from start to eating, allow a solid 8-9 hours. This is why I like to always have more time than I think I will need because if the food is finished early I can always leave it in faux cambro for longer.
What temperature should short ribs be cooked to
Beef short ribs are typically done between 200-210°F. I usually aim for the higher side, between 205-210°F.
I use my Thermapen ONE to check the internal temperature in multiple parts of the rib, and don’t consider it done until everywhere is probing like butter.
At that point, the ribs should be almost falling off the bone.
Do you need to wrap beef short ribs when smoking?
I find that wrapping during the cook prevents the bark from forming properly, and there’s really no need.
Aaron Franklin doesn’t wrap his beef ribs, and that’s good enough for me!
If you are really pushed for time you can wrap when the ribs hit 165°F and add some beef broth so the ribs braise. The texture and flavor will be different, but they should be done faster.
Ready for more delicious rib recipes
- 3-2-1 Smoked Pork Ribs
- Lemon & Rosemary Grilled Lamb Ribs
- Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs
- BBQ Ribs the Johnny Trigg Way
Texas Style Smoked Beef Short Ribs
- 5 lb rack beef short ribs
- 2 tbsp yellow mustard
For the rub:
- 2 tbsp black pepper freshly ground
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- apple juice for spritzing
- Prepare smoker for indirect cooking at 250-275°F using a neutral wood like apple, cherry or pecan.
- Trim fat and silver skin from the meaty side. Remove membrane from bone side.
- Mix rub ingredients together and set aside.
- Coat ribs in a mustard, olive oil or even hot sauce.
- Apply rub evenly being sure to get plenty on the sides.
- Place bone side down on pre-heated smoker.
- Smoke for between 6 – 10 hours between 250° – 275°F
- You can give the ribs a spritz of apple juice after about 3 hours if the edges are starting to burn (apple cider vinegar or water work as well)
- Remove the ribs from the smoker when your temperature probe reads 203 – 210°F and wrap in aluminum foil or butcher paper and leave to rest for at least an hour wrapped in old towels in a cooler.
- Slice the ribs and serve with beans and coleslaw