Perhaps you are used to smoking pork ribs and think that nothing can be better. However, have you tried beef short ribs? If not, you will be surprised at how delicious, moist, and tender they are. In this article, we will be telling you more about them and how to smoke them for the perfect dinner.

What are Beef Short Ribs?

Beef short ribs are a cut taken from chuck, brisket, rib, or plate areas of a cow. They have more fat and connective tissue than pork ribs and as a result, have more flavor. They do take longer to cook than pork ribs, but the wait is well worth it.

Beef short ribs are anything but short. The name comes from the fact that the cut of meat only contains some of the beef ribs. There are 2 major cuts, the ‘English’ which is cut parallel to the bone. The length of the bone is about 6 inches. The other cut is called the ‘Flanken’ which is cut across the bone. Here the bone is just 1 -2 inches in length.

Beef short ribs are extremely popular in Texas and we will take a look at how they are smoked there. The Texans have their own ideas about how to cook short ribs and we are sure that you will want to try smoking them as they do. 

What You’ll Need

  • A smoker. You can use any type you want, be it charcoal, wood pellets, gas, or electric
  • 1 or more slabs of beef short ribs. How many you cook will depend on how many people you are catering for.
  • A temperature probe. A built-in lid thermometer will give you the temperature of the air inside the smoker, but not of the meat itself. To be certain that the meat is cooked through and is therefore ready to eat, you need a temperature probe. It is best to insert it into different parts of the meat. Even the best smoker might have hotspots and you might have to move the ribs around. A temperature probe will give you a reading within a few seconds, so you won’t have to leave the smoker door open for too long. This can let out valuable smoke and heat.
  • Seasonings. Texas-style beef short ribs usually have a very simple rub, not any of those sweet marinades that are often used for pork ribs.
  • 7 – 10 hours of smoking time, depending on the thickness of the ribs. If you want to eat them for dinner, you will need to get up early.

Choosing the Right Beef Short Ribs

Look for a rack of ribs that is thick as you will naturally get more meat. Make sure that it has decent marbling. This fat breaks down while you are smoking it and gives a delicious flavor to your meat.

Try and get the best quality of ribs out there. If your meat is labeled Certified Angus Beef, USDA Prime, or USDA Choice, you know that you are getting a good rack of ribs.

Preparing Beef Short Ribs

  • Begin by trimming off the fat and the tough silver skin from the top of the meat. This fat won’t render so there’s no point keeping it on.  It will also stop your rub getting into the meat to flavor it. 
  • There is a membrane on the exposed side of the bones which you don’t need to remove, but if you do your rub will give even more flavor to your ribs. To remove the membrane, get a paper towel, and grab a corner of it. This makes it easier to remove.
  • Prepare a rub for your ribs. As we have said, Texas-style beef short ribs don’t have fancy sauces. A lot of people use just salt and pepper, with 3 parts black pepper and 2 parts salt. However, some Texans will add in garlic powder and smoked paprika. Another popular rub is coarsely ground black pepper, white sugar, onion powder, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder. Use a shaker to sprinkle your rub over the ribs so it gets spread evenly. However, you don’t want a thick crust on the ribs, so go easy with the rub. You can put it in the fridge overnight if you want, but it’s not necessary. Just put on the rub before lighting the smoker. Leave for around 20 minutes before putting the ribs in the smoker. 
  • Wet the meat slightly before you put it in the smoker to keep it moist. You can use water, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, or hot sauce. 

Cooking the Beef Short Ribs

Get your smoker lit. It is pretty easy if you are using gas or electric as you just have to turn it on. Wood pellets and charcoal take more effort as they take longer to reach temperature. If you are using charcoal, it is a good idea to use a chimney starter as it makes the process easier and quicker. What you do is light some coals in the chimney starter, which is a long and hollow unit. When they have lit pour them over the unlit coals in the smoker.

Keep an eye on the temperature and allow it to rise to around 250F. If you are using charcoal, gas, or electric, this is the time to add some wood to give some extra flavor. You only need a few pieces as they give out a strong flavor. You have a broad choice of wood, but the most used in Texas is oak or any fruit wood, like apple. Generally, above the burner, there is a tray for chunks of wood and there is also a water tray pan that you can fill with water, cider, or beer. Cider and beer will add an extra flavor to your ribs. 

Finally, it’s time to put the ribs in the smoker. It is best to put it bone side down as this will protect the meat from too much heat. Put the lid on or shut the door if you have a vertical smoker and leave your ribs to smoke away. You don’t need to turn the ribs over, nor do you need to add more wood as that will be overkill on the flavor.

So how long do you have to smoke them? It depends on the thickness of the meat and the thicker your ribs are, the longer you will have to smoke them for. If your meat is 1 inch thick, it will take approximately 5 hours to smoke them, if they are 1 ½ inches thick, you will need around 7 hours, and if the ribs are 2 inches thick, it will take 10 hours. If you have the time, it is better to go for thicker ribs as it’s more value for money in the amount of meat you get.

You can give your ribs a spritz halfway through the smoking with beer or cider. If you’re not keen on alcohol, use apple juice, apple cider vinegar, or water. All will help to add moisture to your ribs, making them tender and juicy.

Some people choose to wrap their ribs in foil halfway through the cooking process, but there’s no real need to do this. The ribs will taste good either way.

The cooking times we have given are pretty accurate so near the end of the cooking process, measure the internal temperature of the ribs. Take the temperature from different parts of the ribs to make sure that the temperature is correct all over. The ideal temperature of your ribs is 203F, but it can go a couple of degrees over. The outside of the ribs should have a rich dark crust.

Resting and Pulling your Beef Short Ribs

When your ribs have reached temperature, take them out of the smoker with a damp cloth so that you don’t damage the bark. Wrap the ribs up in tin foil and leave them to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes. The reason you need to leave your ribs to rest is to allow the juices to redistribute otherwise they will flow away, leaving you with dry meat. If you’re cooking in advance for a party and you want the ribs to be ready on time, smoke them earlier and then keep them in a Faux Cambro which is an insulated box that keeps food in the safety zone of 140F.

Final Thoughts

Follow this guide and you will end up with tender and moist ribs, with a rich smoke ring. Juice should be oozing out of them which will be delicious. It’s not difficult to smoke beef short ribs, but you need the time. You can’t just leave them to smoke for hours on end without checking up on the temperature, so you do need to reserve the day for smoking them. However, it’s worth it in the long run. We hope that you have a fun summer smoking your ribs outdoors.