How to Make Smoked Beef Short Ribs

If you have tried smoked meats, you know that there is nothing more delicious than tasting fall-of-the-bone cooked ribs.

A lot of people think that smoking meats at home is difficult and requires a lot of experience. The truth is that smoking food is not as difficult as some imagine. The simple idea of smoking is to envelop food in smoke for hours to add a woodsy nuance and flavor. As long as you keep the temperature consistent over the required hours, then you are good.

With short ribs, the precise smoking time depends on the weight and quantity of short ribs. Smoking time for a dozen or more short ribs at a low temperature of 250 degrees is about four hours. We will get more into that in the cooking section below. (You can use our quick navigation table below to jump directly to the preferred section.)

Today, I am going to show you everything you need to know to learn how to make smoked short ribs at home. This is a detailed guide, covering everything from selecting the meat, preparing, things to have in mind, best cooking methods, and servings. If you want to jump to a specific section, I recommend you to use the navigation table below.

What are Short Ribs?

Short Ribs are cut of beef ribs from anywhere on the steer’s ribcage. They can be taken from the brisket, chuck, plate or rib areas of the cattle.

Whereas other types of ribs, such as baby back ribs or spare ribs indicate a specific position of the hog, the short beef ribs consist more on HOW they are cut rather than WHERE they are cut.

Just like their name suggests, they consist of a short portion of the long rib bone. (Wiki Source)

Where are Short Ribs Located?

Beef-Rib-Location

As I mentioned in the upper paragraph, Short Ribs are a partial cut of ribs from anywhere on the cattle’s ribcage. They usually come from the areas under the brisket, chuck, rib loin, or plate, and you are free to choose whether your short ribs are plate, chuck, loin, or brisket.

Each section of short ribs will have a slightly different flavor of meat and fat, depending on the beef section, but no matter which part they come from, they are all cooked using the same method.

Types & Cuts of Short Ribs

Beef-Ribs-vs-Short-Ribs

Beef Ribs vs Short Ribs Cut

In general, there are three types of beef ribs.

The serratus ventralis muscle is the preferred muscle tissue from where the short ribs come from. This muscle is located near the second rib and covers most of the rib cage. From 2nd to 5th ribs, the muscle is much thicker and moving towards the rump, up to the 9th rib, it starts to become less dense and may not cover the entire ribs. From the 9th to 12th rib, this muscle is too thin to create a true short rib and is mostly used for ground beef.

Next, we have the latissimus dorsi muscle, which lies on top of the serratus ventralis and is separated by a layer of fat. This muscle is mostly found in the chuck area and upper portion of the plate section. It adds thickness to chuck and rib short ribs but still is less preferred by chiefs when compared to the first muscle.

The Chuck short ribs tend to have more meat than the two other types of ribs, but they are also a little bit tougher, due to having more connective tissues in them.

Plate Short Ribs tend to be fattier than the other two types.

As for the cuts, there are two major types: The ‘Flanken’, which is cut across the bone, leaving it just 1-2 inches in length and the other type, the ‘English’, which is cut parallel to the bone, leaving it up to 6 inches in length.

English cut ribs are usually served individually or in groups of three or four connected to each other (also known as the ‘Plate’ cut).

What Tools & Equipment You Need to Smoke Short Ribs?

For you to smoke short ribs at home, you will need a few tools and equipment. This is the full list of all the tools I use and most of these are not mandatory. Also, since most of them are simple tools, you probably have a few of them already in your home.

  • Smoker - Electric, Pellet or Any other kind of smoker will do the job. The electric and pellet smokers are easy to use and maintain the temperature.
  • If you don’t have a smoker, you can use an outdoor grill. You can read more below on how to smoke short ribs using a simple grill.
  • Wireless Meat Thermometer - If you want to precisely measure and maintain the temperature, a meat thermometer is the best way to do so.
  • Heat resistant gloves to insert and remove the ribs from the smoker.
  • 12-inch long tongs
  • BBQ mop/Brush
  • Smoker Box if using a grill for smoking
  • An Apron and a Chef’s Hat

How to Choose the Best Short Ribs for Smoking

As we mentioned in the ‘Types of Ribs’ section below, there are three types of beef ribs.

The cut of short ribs coming from the 2nd to most of the ribcage are probably the best since the muscle in this location is thicker and has plenty of meat to cover the entire rib. Moving forward to the end sections, it gets less dense and it may not cover the entire rib.

So, we suggest looking for a rack of ribs coming from the thicker side of the cattle, with decent marbling throughout. The lines of marbling through the cut will break down during smoking and make the ribs taste delicious. You can look at the picture below for reference of a decent marbled rack of ribs.

Two-Flanked-Cut-Short-Ribs-Type

Two Flanked Cut Short Ribs Type

Also, you are free to choose ribs cut into individual pieces or cut them into 3-4 ribs per piece.

How to Prepare the Ribs for Smoking

Before putting the ribs on the smoker, you have first to prepare them.

Begin by removing the fat and the tough silverskin on top of the meat. I suggest removing all of it since it won’t melt or penetrate inside the meat. Also, leaving the fat on will prevent any dry rubbing or seasoning from penetrating the meat.

As for the membrane from the exposed side of the bones, I suggest you NOT to remove it since it will prevent the meat from falling off.

Next, if your ribs didn’t come cut up, I prefer to cut them into individual or double bones. You are free to cook them in a slab but it will take more time to cook and if you want to try Texas-style, you have to expose more surface to the heat, so individual or double bones is recommended.

Smoked Short Ribs Marinades

There is a wide variety of short rib rubs and marinades. Down below you can find two marinade recipe which I prefer:

Marinade Recipes for Ribs 

Marinated short ribs can be made from a simple recipe of lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, hot sauce, chopped garlic and cracked black pepper.

Another type of marinade can be made from:

  • 1 Can of Prepared Tomato Soup
  • 1/2 Cup Cola Soda
  • 2 Tbsp. of Blackstrap Molasses
  • 1 Tbsp. of Honey Mustard
  • Chopped Onion
  • A Dash of Worcestershire
  • Finely Chopped Garlic
  • A Dash of Soy Sauce

Mix well all the ingredients and allow short ribs to marinate for at least one hour or overnight in the refrigerator.

Short Ribs Rubs Recipes & Styles

Beef-Ribs-Dry-Rub

There are a wealth of rubs that are simple to make for smoked short ribs. The basic ingredients in most rubs are:

  • Paprika
  • Chili Powder
  • Cumin
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Garlic Powder and/or Onion Powder

Some cooks prefer to vary their rubs with other ingredients such as cayenne pepper, dried hot red pepper flakes, dried coriander seeds, curry powder, sage, cinnamon, dried lemongrass, ginger, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, dry mustard, Chinese five-spice powder or anise seed. These ingredients add a certain nuance to the short ribs as well as a more eclectic flavor.

To make a Thai style rub, mix together paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic and/or onion powder with a dash of cinnamon, curry powder, lemongrass, thyme, sour salt and dried ginger.

For a Tex-Mex style rub, choose the basic ingredients and add in red pepper flakes, dry mustard and brown sugar.

An Italian style rub for short ribs includes the basic ingredients plus oregano, basil, rosemary, dried fennel and crushed anise seed.

To make a rub with an Oriental flavor, choose red pepper such as Cayenne, brown sugar, sour salt and garlic powder.

Some cooks prefer to add beef boullion in the powdered form to rubs for short ribs. This adds a meatier flavor especially to beef short ribs. For short pork ribs, chicken boullion also adds extra flavor. Adding boullion depends on personal preference for deeper meat flavor.

How to Properly Apply Dry Rub in Short Ribs

Applying-Dry-Rub

Applying Dry Rub on Beef Ribs

As the name indicates, after you mix your rub ingredients together, it is time to apply it to the meat. 

No matter which type of rub you choose, the important thing is to make sure each short rib is thoroughly covered. If your rub has hot pepper flakes in the mix, you may want to protect your hands and eyes with plastic gloves. 

You can use up to two tablespoons of rub for each short rib. Coat on both sides thoroughly. Vigorously massage the rub into the short ribs to ensure the rub penetrates the meat fiber. 

Since short ribs contain a natural amount of moisture, it is important to allow the rub to be absorbed into the meat with its natural juices for up to two or more hours or overnight in the refrigerator. 

How to Cook Short Beef Ribs

After you have prepared the meat, now you are ready to start cooking it.

Preparing the Smoker

You can prepare the smoker while you wait for the ribs to marinade.

For cooking short ribs, you are free to use any type of smoker, as long as it is capable of maintaining a 225-250°F for several hours.

The easiest smokers to use for beginners are probably electric and pellet smokers since they have digital smoking presets and you can easily control the temperature.

If you are using a charcoal or wood pellet smoker, then you should start the fire up, prepare the cooker for indirect cooking and wait for the temperature to reach around 220-225°F before putting the meat in.

Choosing the Best Wood for Smoking Short Ribs

Best-Wood-for-Smoking-Short-Ribs

Cedar is one of the most popular woods for smoking short ribs in a standard smoker, outdoor grill or indoor oven. Others are apple or other fruit and nut woods that impart a smoky, yet fruity or nutty aroma to smoked short ribs. Other woods to consider are:

  • Pecan
  • Maple
  • Mesquite
  • Hickory
  • Oak
  • Alder

In many areas of the U.S., certain of these woods are more available according to their growing region. For example, pecan wood is found mainly in the south, whereas oak, maple and cedar are found mainly in the northern regions of the country.

However, if these are not readily available in stores, check online for sources that sell wood for smoking.

These woods may be purchased as chips and sold in bags. They can also be purchased from a retailer in logs, pellets, briquettes, or sawdust. Check with a local lumber yard that may also sell scrap woods for smokers in these forms. The prices are usually very reasonable.

If you know your woods, you might be able to forage for wood scraps in your own local wooded areas. Check with your municipality or state to make sure this is permissible.

Smoking Short Ribs

After the smoker is ready, you should place the ribs into it, bone side down, to protect the meat.

Most of the smoking process in a standard smoker is fairly automatic according to the manufacturer's instructions. Temperature and cooking time are easily regulated. 

How Long to Smoke Short Beef Ribs

Smoked-Short-Ribs

I have found that the best way to smoke short ribs is at a lower temperature, like 225-250°F and using a fruitwood or oak since it is mild. 

Have in mind to not put too much wood. 2-4 ounces on a tight cooker is enough. You can put more if the smoker is leaking smoke but don’t overdo it since too much smoke will ruin the meat.

Smoked Short Ribs Temperature Graphs & Cooking Times

In general, you should cook beef ribs at 225-250°F cooking temperature and they are considered done when they reach an internal temperature of 200-205°F.

Since the cooking time depends on a lot of factors, I cannot tell you the exact time needed to cook your ribs perfectly.

You can use the table below as a reference to know how long to cook beef ribs:

Short Beef Ribs Cooking Times

1” Thick Meat should hit 205°F in about 5 Hours

1.5” Thick Meat should hit 205°F in about 7 Hours

2” Thick Meat should hit 205°F in about 10 Hours

Monitoring Temperature

Don't rely entirely on your smoker, indoor oven or outdoor grill for precise temperature.

Since beef ribs are not recommended to leave with any probe inside the meat during cooking, a wireless meat thermometer is probably the best option to help monitor and maintain an accurate smoking temperature.

Smoking-Temperature-&-Time

Check the temperature and the condition of short ribs at regular intervals. You may wish to raise the temperature in the last 30 minutes of smoking time to ensure short ribs are fully cooked and smoked.

This is also a good time to do the final basting with the remaining marinade. If you want juicier short ribs, wrap them in foil for the last half hour of smoking time.

Make sure the exhaust damper on your outdoor grill or standard smoker are properly vented. Too much smoke results in bitter-tasting short ribs.

Things to Have in Mind

A few things to have in mind are:

  • Short ribs should be smoked when the meat is at room temperature. If they have been refrigerated overnight, allow them to come to room temperature before smoking so the smoking temperature and cooking time are not affected.
  • You should NOT turn the ribs once every 20 minutes during the smoking, as you do on other types of beef cuts.
  • If you plan to use a marinade for your short ribs, reserve the remaining marinade and use it to baste ribs.
  • Short ribs are delicious prepared with a seasoned rub or marinated.
  • Keep in mind the smoking process should also allow for smokey air to circulate around each short rib to ensure the smoked flavor permeates fully.
  • Woods used for smoking should be slightly damp before placing in a smoker.
  • One of the handiest tools for barbecuing or smoking is a barbecue mop. Some cooks prefer a brush. For rubs and marinades, a barbecue mop that has been dipped in apple cider vinegar, beer or brandy helps rubs and marinades stick more readily to short ribs.

Should You Wrap Ribs Midway Through the Cook?

A lot of people think that they should wrap their ribs midway through the cook, just like it’s done with brisket. This step is not necessary for short ribs.

A few people suggest wrapping the ribs midway through the cook only if you notice that the meat will not turn out tender enough since the temperature gets a little high too quickly.

What you can do in such case, is wrap using aluminum foil and braise them to incorporate even more the wine and other spice flavor, making them more tender at the same time. 

Should You Use Sauce on Beef Ribs?

I personally don’t prefer to use any kind of sauce on my smoked ribs. A lot of people have a habit of using the sauce on everything they grill, but sweet-based sauces don’t go very well with beef. They are more suitable for pork meat.

If you still prefer to use a sauce on beef ribs, I recommend using a thin beef stock sauce with a little sugar or no sugar at all.

How to Smoke Short Ribs without a Smoker, using a Grill

Though you can use a standard BBQ smoker designed specifically for smoking, there are other ways to smoke short ribs without a smoker. You can use your indoor oven or outdoor grill.

If you choose to use an indoor oven or outdoor grill, you need to keep short ribs basted or the meat will dry out. Baste approximately every 30 minutes. Also, the smoking temperature should be around 225 to 275 and smoking time around four hours.

Slow smoking time results in fully cooked and smoked short ribs.

To use this method, place short ribs in a roasting pan or aluminum baking pan. Create a tent of aluminum foil over the top of the pan.
For indoor ovens, place moistened wood chips in the bottom of a heat-proof roasting pan.

For outdoor grills of propane, electric or natural gas, there are two ways to add wood for smoking:

Smoking-on-Gas-Grill

Placing Smoking Box on Gas Grills

Fill an aluminum pan with moistened wood chips, chunks, sawdust or briquettes and cover with foil. Poke holes in the foil and place atop the grate. Close the lid and turn the grill burner to medium-high. When the wood begins to smoke, turn the burner flame to low and place short ribs on top of the pan and close the lid. Check the smoking process for this method at least once every thirty minutes.

The second way to smoke short ribs on an outdoor grill is to remove the grate and place a stainless steel smoker box inside the bottom of the grill. Add the moistened wood chips, chunks, short logs or briquettes to the box before turning on the burners. Replace the grill and add short ribs onto the grill. Turn the burner flame to low and close the lid. You should notice a light smoke from the grill's exhaust vent.

If your short ribs have a marinade coating, you may want to line the grill with foil before adding the short ribs to prevent loss of juices, sticking to the grill surface and also for easier grill clean up.

Smoking Short Ribs for Everyday Meals

Smoked short ribs can be prepared at home for everyday meals. To cut the amount of smoking preparation time, keep several jars of rub handy on the spice rack. Marinades can also be prepared ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

Whether you purchase your short ribs from a butcher or your local grocer, have them remove the membrane from short ribs and store overnight in the refrigerator. If you plan to smoke short ribs on the day of purchase, you can remove the membrane with a sharp knife.

Final Thoughts

Now everyone can enjoy smoked short ribs for meals indoors or out. It just takes planning ahead to serve the tastiest short ribs. 

Smoked Short Beef Ribs Recipe

Note: The recipe below is based on the popular Aaron Franklin's beef ribs recipe.

Ingredients


  • 1 Rack of Short Ribs
  • 3 Tbsp. Mustard
  • 3 Tbsp. of Beef BBQ Rub (You can use a pre-made rub or make your own from our dry-rub section in the upper paragraphs) 
  • Meat Spritz of Your Choice (I recommend a mixture of Apple Juice, Vinegar & Hot Sauce)

Directions


  • Start by preheating the smoker to 285°F.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the ribs by trimming excess fat and silver skin from the top.
  • For better results, I recommend to flip the ribs on the other side and create crosshatch patterns on the membrane, using a sharp knife.
  • Now, start rubbing the meat with mustard and then sprinkle with dry rub all over the surface.
  • Leave the ribs for 15-20 minutes and then put them into the smoker.
  • After one hour of smoking, spritz the ribs but be careful to not overdo it. 
  • Continue to smoke until the ribs reach an internal temperature of 205°F.
  • After they reach the temperature, remove them from the heat and let them rest for around 1 hour.
  • After they have rested for 1 hour, you can cut them between the bones and start eating.

About Kendrick

Kendrick is an outdoor cooking enthusiast, currently living in Kansas. He loves to share his knowledge and passion about cooking with everyone online (Read More)

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