Smoked pork short ribs cooked low and slow over oakwood on your backyard smoker. This simple barbecue rib dish is prepared with a sugar dry rub and finished with a BBQ sauce glaze. Get the recipe here.
With their high meat-to-fat ratio, smoked pork short ribs strike the perfect balance of juicy and tender meat.
The best meats to smoke include cuts with high amounts of fat since fat and connective tissues break down over the slow cooking process to reveal new flavors. Pork short ribs are no exception to this rule. Plus, their small size speeds up the smoking process, and their fat absorbs flavors well if you want to use a brine, glaze, or rub.
Making smoked pork short ribs is easier than you think, and you’ll master this delicious melt-in-your-mouth dish in no time. Here’s how to smoke pork short ribs.
What Are Pork Short Ribs?
Pork short ribs are a cut of meat from the lower portion of the rib cage, where the ribs meet the sternum. This cut isn’t far from where bacon meat comes from and has an exceptionally rich flavor.
Short ribs are cut shorter than baby back ribs from higher up on the rib cage. Short ribs are rich in fat and connective tissues, but the meat itself has little marbling.
The small size of these ribs combined with their thick fat makes them ideal for braising and roasting, but smoking allows the fat to oxidize slowly to release carbonyl compounds, making the meat more tender, flavorful, and juicy.
How to Smoke Pork Short Ribs
Follow these steps to obtain juicy melt-in-your-mouth pork short ribs.
- Trim: Remove the membrane and excess fat from the short ribs
- Dry Rub: Prepare the cayenne pepper and sugar dry rub seasoning, and apply liberally to the ribs
- Fire Up: Warm up your smoker to 225°F (107°) and add your chosen wood chips
- Smoke: Place your short ribs on the smoker grates fat-side-up, and leave to smoke to an internal temperature of 195°F (90°C). This can take from four to six hours.
- Rest: Pull the ribs from the smoker, tent in foil, and leave to rest for at least ten minutes
- Enjoy: Slice up and serve right away
What to Look for When Buying Short Ribs
Short ribs come in small sections with three to five bones. Look for a thick cut with at least two inches of meat. You also want a thick layer of fat to add flavor and juiciness to the meat.
Avoid cuts with exposed bones since they can fall apart during the cooking process.
How to Prepare Pork Short Ribs for Smoking
Short ribs require minimal preparation. You’ll want to remove the external membrane which can result in a chewy and unpleasant texture.
Trim the fat if needed, you should have one inch of fat for two inches of meat. Short ribs have three to five bones per section. If you have longer ribs, you can cut them into smaller sections to speed up smoking.
Because pork short ribs are high in fat, a dry rub is an excellent seasoning option. The rub will merge with the fat to create a bark. It’s best to coat the meat ahead of time and let it sit for a couple of hours to allow the tissues to absorb the flavor and let the salt act as a brine.
Best Wood for Smoking Pork Short Ribs
Smoky woods like mesquite and hickory can be overpowering since the fat will absorb a lot of flavor compounds from the wood pellets. Oak is your best bet for a delicate smoky flavor.
You can also opt for a sweet wood like pecan, apple, or cherry. Cherry and oak are a popular combination.
Times & Temperature
Since short ribs are smaller than traditional ribs, it only takes five to seven hours to smoke them. The best temperature is somewhere between 225 and 240°F (107-115°C).
The minimal internal temperature for pork is 145°F. However, that’s not high enough to allow fat and collagen to fully break down. For better results, wait until the internal temperature of the smoked pork short ribs has reached 190 to 200°F (88-93°C).
- If you struggle to get your ribs up to an internal temperature of 195°F (90°C), try wrapping them tightly in aluminum foil and raising the smoker temperature to 250-275°F (121-135°C)
- Don’t forget to rest ribs after smoking. This will help lock in the moisture in your smoked ribs, keeping them juicy and flavorful. After pulling them from your smoker, transfer them to a chopping board and tent in aluminum foil, before leaving to rest for 10-15 minutes.
Smoked Pork Short Ribs
- 3 lbs pork short ribs
- 1 cup BBQ sauce
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp Kosher salt
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- Prepare the meat by removing the membrane and any excess fat
- In a small bowl, combine the dry rub ingredients. Use a fork to crush any lumps that may form.
- Pat the ribs dry with paper towels and apply the rub to the ribs, covering them evenly
- Fire up smoker to 225°F (107°C). Add wood chips to coals or wood tray.
- Once smoker is at target temperature, place ribs on smoker grates. Close lid/door and smoke to an internal temperature of 195-200°F (90-93°C), about 5 hours.
- With about 1 hour remaining, carefully brush the ribs with BBQ sauce. Cover just the top side. Continue to smoke to target internal temperature.
- Once the ribs hit target internal temperature, pull them from the smoker. Lightly tent in aluminum foil and leave to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.