Beef short ribs are probably my favourite cut of meat to smoke at the moment.
Don’t be fooled by the name. There’s nothing “short” about these huge meaty ribs though.
These 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. 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.
You can serve these on their own as a meaty snack, or pair them with beans and coleslaw.
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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 ribs
- A decent temperature probe
- Salt, black pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika
- A binding agent like yellow mustard, olive oil or hot sauce and the ingredients to make your own rub. Check out #7 in this guide.
- 7 – 10 hours time until you need to eat.
How to choose and prep your beef ribs
Before we get into how to smoke these bad boys, lets run through what to look for when you’re at the butcher.
There are a few guidelines for choosing the best beef ribs to smoke.
Choosing the right short ribs:
- There are two main types of beef ribs. Short and back. Back ribs come from the prime rib roast and wouldn’t be suitable for this style of low and slow cooking.
- You can buy individual rib bones but I prefer a slab with at least 3 ribs (although this will increase your cooking time)
- 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. For this recipe I found some USDA Organic ribs.
- 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!
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.
Preparing your beef ribs:
One of the best things about cooking beef ribs is that they are very easy to prepare. You don’t need to fuss around with fancy rubs, sauces or injections to get a delicious result.
- 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’s won’t render and it will stop your rub flavor from getting in to the meat
- 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 want to you can salt the ribs the night before but it’s not required
- Wet meat lightly (water, worcestershire sauce, mustard, hot sauce all work)
We’re cooking these ribs Texas style which means super simple. I could have just gone with 3 parts black pepper to 2 parts salt, but I like adding the garlic powder and smoked paprika.
- 3 Tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp salt
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
If you want to try something more fancy we have guide to the best barbecue rubs you can buy online.
- 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!
- I tip all my ingredients into my rub shaker to make sure I get an even application.
- It doesn’t need to sit overnight or anything like that. Just leave it to rest while you fire up your smoker.
The cook – how to setup and manage your smoker for beef ribs
Let your ribs sit for 20 minutes and absorb the rub while you get your smoker setup.
Because I’m cooking low and slow I setup my smoker using the Minion Method. This involves lighting a handful of coals in my chimney starter and then pouring the lit coals over the over a pile of unlit coals.
Get your smoker setup
- We are going to be 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.
- Add the wood – I used Apple chunks but you could use any fruit wood or oak, which is traditional in Texas.
- Go easy on the wood. Those two chunks you can see in the photo below were enough to produce a deep rich smoke ring.
- Place the ribs on the grill, bone side down to protect the meat
- Put the lid 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 hours
- 1.5″ thick meat about 7 hours
- 2″ thick meat about 10 hours
I would say my ribs were close to 2″ thick and I took them off after 9 1/2 hours when they were probing around 205°.
Monitoring your beef ribs during the cook
Now you need to sit back and wait until the ribs get to at least 200° internal temperature and the probe goes in like butter. If you’re used to cooking pork ribs you might be in for a shock.
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.
- Don’t use a leave in probe with ribs
- You can spritz after about 5 hours with apple juice, apple cider vinegar or water
- Some people choose to wrap the ribs around the 5 hour point but you really don’t need to.
The payoff – resting and pulling your short ribs
This is where all your patience pays off. The probe goes in like butter and measures at least 203°F. On the outside a rich dark crust should have formed.
- Carefully pick the ribs up and wrap in tin foil. 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.
- In the photo above you can see my Smoke thermometer probe. I’ve been using it for about a year and it’s a beast. Check out my review here.
- Leave your ribs to rest for at least 30 minutes. 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 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.
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.
- 4-5 Lb rack beef short ribs
- 2 Tb Olive oil
- 3 Tbsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp salt
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- Prepare smoker for indirect cooking at 250°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 liquid like olive oil or 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
- Give the ribs a spritz of apple juice after about 5 hours (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 foil and leave to rest for 30 minutes
- Slice the ribs and serve with beans and coleslaw