Smoked beef short ribs is a simple recipe that results in the most flavorful and juicy meat. Smoking short ribs so they cook slowly is the key to having the beef fall apart and be fork-tender. These short ribs are the ultimate bbq comfort food & are way easier to make than you can imagine.
The best way to make short ribs in my mind is in the smoker. I have been smoking ribs this way for years for friends & family with rave reviews. The low and slow method of smoking meat breaks down the meat and renders the fat for the most delicate fall-off-the-bone short ribs you will ever have.
If you love beef smoked baby back ribs or juicy pot roast, this is a must-try cookout recipe for you. This recipe was inspired by my recipe for Pressure Cooker Boneless Short Ribs. While these ribs are smoking, make sure you also make some mashed potatoes or whipped sweet potatoes for a perfect pairing.
- Steps for Making Beef Short Ribs in the Smoker
- How to Prep a Smoker
- Ingredients for Beef Short Ribs on the Smoker
- How to Prep Short Ribs
- Dry Rub Seasoning for Beef
- How Long to Smoke Short Ribs
- How To Tell When Beef Short Ribs are Done Smoking
- Let the Meat Rest
- What to Serve With Beef Short Ribs
- Top Tips
- How to Store and Reheat Smoked Beef Short Ribs
- Smoked Beef Short Ribs
Steps for Making Beef Short Ribs in the Smoker
To smoke beef short ribs, it is important to be mindful of the process and the timing it needs. If you want to eat at a specific time, you need to walk the steps back in time to ensure they are done when and ready to eat at your designated dinner time.
The quick reference guide below is a summary of all the steps & how long each takes. This will help you time your meal so you start those coals or wood early enough to eat when you plan.
- PREP SMOKER & BRING SHORT RIBS TO ROOM TEMPERATURE - 1 HOUR
- ADD SEASONING /RUB TO THE SHORT RIBS - 5 MINUTES
- COOK SHORT RIBS ON THE GRATE OF THE SMOKER - 2 HOURS
- PREP THE PAN FOR RIBS AND TOP WITH FOIL - 5 MINUTES
- COOK SHORT RIBS IN THE COVERED PAN IN THE SMOKER - 2 HOURS
- REMOVE RIBS FROM SMOKER & LET RIBS REST - 20 MINUTES
The whole process takes about 5 hours from start to finish. So for example, if you want to eat dinner at 5 pm then you need to start your charcoal smoker at noon. The ribs will go on the grate at 1 pm and so on.
How to Prep a Smoker
It depends on what type of smoker you have on how to prep it. We have a Weber and we use charcoal and mesquite or hickory wood chips. We start the coals about an hour before we want to get the short ribs smoking. This gives the charcoal time to light and then be added to more coals on the bottom of the smoker with the wood chips.
Typically within an hour, the smoker is registering at between 200-250°. To smoke beef ribs, you want to hold your smoker at a steady temperature between 225-250° is ideal.
Pellet Smoker Information
If you have a pellet smoker, prep that as you typically would in advance. Then pick up on the step where you will want to get the seasoned short ribs on the grates to being smoking. This smoked beef short ribs recipe works great in a Traeger, Kamado, Big Green Egg, Weber, and any charcoal or pellet smoker.
For more information on different types of smokers check out this article on Pellet Smoker vs Charcoal Smoker.
Ingredients for Beef Short Ribs on the Smoker
This recipe only requires a few ingredients. When using English-cut short ribs and a wonderful combination of seasonings for a rub you cannot go wrong with this recipe. The seasoned outer crust is crunchy and caramelized yet the inside is smokey and delicate all for a perfect savory bite.
The most important thing is to make sure you have good quality beef short ribs. If you are lucky enough to find that at Costco or your local butcher shop, grab some to make this recipe. I also subscribe to ButcherBox and smoke pork ribs from them all the time.
For this short rib recipe, I am using what is called English cut. Using something else like a thin-cut flanken short rib will not work for this recipe. To find out more about other cuts, check out Beef Ribs - The Different Cuts.
You will also want to have a zesty seasoning that includes plenty of salt for the short ribs. A rub that is salty, a bit sweet, and has a ton of flavor is the best when smoking beef short ribs.
How to Prep Short Ribs
Once you have the smoker going, be mindful of the timing which I shared above. As it warms up, also bring your beef short ribs to room temperature. You do not want to be putting cold meat in a hot smoker. Smoking beef ribs like in this recipe, at the right temperature with the right seasoning rub, will become your new favorite smoked meat.
Trim the Short Ribs
If your short ribs have silver skin or membranes on them (see image below for an example), you may wish to remove them. Use a sharp knife to get under the membranes to remove them.
Leave the fat intact. That is the flavor and moisture that your meat needs to turn out rich & decadent. The fat will render down and you want that.
Dry Rub Seasoning for Beef
Now it is time to liberally season all surface areas of the short ribs. You want A LOT of spices or a dry rub on these. Hearty beef like this really benefits from a lot of salt and flavorings.
I like a lot of Kinder's brand seasonings, so for this recipe, I use a combination of the Butcher's All-Purpose seasoning and the Buttery Steakhouse rub. This has some sugar in it but if you want a keto, sugar-free, or low-carb rub for your smoked short ribs, you can make your own homemade rub blend or buy another brand.
In a pinch, I have also used just salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and minced dried onion which is a great keto rub for short ribs.
How Long to Smoke Short Ribs
There are two stages when smoking beef short ribs. They need to be cooked both directly on the grill racks and also in what is called a "Texas Crutch". Both of these stages when you smoke any sort of ribs are important.
It ensures your smoked ribs are both smokey with an outer crust but also tender and juicy. This is key so you do not dry out your meat and instead, you get the perfect short rib and internal temperature when cooking.
Smoking Step 1: Cooking Directly on the Grate of the Smoker
Once the smoker is at the ideal cooking temperature, between 225-250°, the short ribs are ready to go on. This is the first step in the cooking process. Place them on the grill on the highest rack from the coals if you are using the Weber style that we use.
HINT: it takes the same about of time to smoke ribs as it does a whole chicken. So why not cook both since you have the coals going, this is what we do often.
Close the lid and let it go for about 2 hours. Check the temperature periodically to be sure you are holding steady in that 225-250° cooking temperature range. Adjust the heat up or cool it down as needed.
Some people like to spritz the ribs every 30 minutes with apple juice or apple cider vinegar. We actually like a good bark/crust on our ribs and find that the spritzing adds too much moisture on the surface for our preference but please do whatever you like best.
Smoking Step 2: The Crutch Method
After two hours of direct cooking in the smoker, it is time for the second step when smoking beef short ribs. This step is what is referred to as a "crutch or Texas Crutch". There are two reasons to do this, one is to ensure the meat temperature is still rising and does not plateau.
Typically smoking meat will have a low and slow rise but it can also stop and for a short or long time, the meat does not continue to rise in temperature. Wrapping it up helps the short ribs to not stall but to continue cooking evenly.
In addition, the ribs' juices remain inside and keep the meat moist so it does not dry out. This is especially true for large cuts of meats like when smoking brisket or pork butts for pulled pork.
Start the Crutch
In a foil pan that will fit all your beef short ribs, add a tablespoon of butter for every 2 ribs you are making. Then add in a single layer add the short ribs. Make sure there is space between them so they have room to cook.
Do not add any liquid to the pan, you do not want to braise them and make them too moist, which will take away from the lovely bark you have already got on them. Finally, wrap the top with foil and place the pan in the smoker.
How To Tell When Beef Short Ribs are Done Smoking
After about another 2 hours, the beef short ribs should be about ready. You can tell smoked beef short ribs are ready when the internal temperature reaches 205°, and somewhere between 200-210.
For bigger or smaller-sized ribs, it could take up to 3 hours of cooking at the crutch stage and that is ok. Use a quick read thermometer and check for doneness at 200-210°.
Let the Meat Rest
Once the short ribs come out of the smoker, let them rest. I like to vent the foil a little bit to let the steam out and to get that crust redeveloped a bit. They will stay warm in the foil tray while you prep the last few things you are making to eat with them.
The pan will have juices and melted butter in it. The beef ribs will have a dark seasoned crust on them. Inside the short rib will be a bit pink from the smoking process, plus flaky and tender.
If you cannot wait, you can grab a fork and sneak a bite - admittedly, you know I do this! Someone has to make sure the short ribs are perfectly smoked and delicious.
What to Serve With Beef Short Ribs
To complete your meal, here are some great side dish recipes to serve with smoked beef short ribs:
All of these great tips are shared in the post. But these are so good and important they are worth mentioning again so you don't miss them. Here is what to remember to make this recipe foolproof & easy!
- Plan ahead to time your meal. Take into account all the steps and the time it takes from prepping the smoker to resting the short ribs.
- Bring the meat to room temperature while you are waiting for the smoker to come to the temperature.
- Start the ribs directly on the rack in your smoker.
- Finish the ribs in a wrapped method called "the crutch".
- Rest the ribs before digging in.
How to Store and Reheat Smoked Beef Short Ribs
If you have any leftovers, you can store short ribs in an air-tight container in your refrigerator for 3 days or the freezer for up to a month. If you freeze cooked short ribs, place them in the refrigerator for about 48 hours to defrost.
To reheat, you can microwave for a few minutes or place them in a 400° oven to warm them. Or reheat your ribs in the air fryer - my favorite method!
Ideally, your smoker will hold a steady temperature of around 225 while smoking short ribs. If the heat is consistent, it takes about 4 hours for English-cut bone-in short ribs to smoke.
See the steps above for the proper way to smoke ribs. It includes two steps that result in the best short ribs from the smoker you will ever try. It includes both direct heats on the grate cooking times and for ribs wrapped in a foil pan for the crutch step.
The key to cooking short ribs so they are tender & juicy is for the meat & tissues to break down. The low & slow cooking on a wood, pellet, or electric smoker does the job well. The main reason your ribs may not be tender is that they did NOT cook long enough. Many think they are well-done and overcooked but that is likely not the case. Continue cooking the short ribs until the meat pulls away from the bones. The internal meat temperature should be 205°.
Product Recommendations for this Recipe:
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Smoked Beef Short Ribs
- Smoker with charcoal & wood chips
- foil pan & aluminum foil
- 2 ½ lbs Beef Short Ribs about 6-7 large
- ¼ C each - Kinder's Butcher's All Purpose Seasoning & Kinder's Buttery Steakhouse Rub OR ½ C total of your favorite rub/seasoning blend
- 3 TB salted butter
- Start your charcoal. Heat up the coals until they are heated through and glowing red and white. Then add more coals and the wood the wood chips of choice to the smoker (or prep your pellet smoker as normal to get to this temperature) This process for us takes typically about 45-60 minutes.
- While the coals are heating up, let your short ribs come to room temperature.
- Once the smoker is holding a temperature between 225-205°, combine your seasonings for the rub. LIberally add the rub to all sides and surfaces of the short ribs. You will want a thick layer as shown above.
- Place the short ribs on the grate of your smoker and close the lid. Maintain the smoker at a constant temperature between 225-250°. Smoke the short ribs for 2 hours during this step.
- After 2 hours, gather your foil pan and foil to prepare for the "crutch" step. In the foil pan add the butter in cut into small pieces. Add the short ribs to the pan in a single layer with space between each one. Top with foil and seal. Place this back in the smoker to continue cooking for roughly another 2 hours.
- Around 4 hours of total cooking time, check the internal temperature of the meat. The short ribs should be around 200 - 210° when they are done. They will flake apart easily with a fork. If the temperature is still below that or the meat is still tough and not coming apart, they still need more time. 2-3 hours for the "crutch" stage for 4-5 total hours cooking is typical for English Cut Short Ribs.
- Once the internal temperature is around 205°, take them out of the smoker. Vent the foil and let them rest in the pan with the juices and with the foil still partially in place so they stay warm.
- Let rest about 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
- Store any leftovers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for up to a month.
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 21.7g||28%|
|Saturated Fat 9.1g||46%|
|Total Carbohydrate 1.2g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 0.1g||0%|
|Total Sugars 0.8g|
|Vitamin D 0mcg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
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